The January transfer window is expected to bring lots of business across the board and Chelsea are one of the sides that will be the most active. Not only is Graham Potter looking to salvage his side’s season with so much left to play for there is also the small task of overhauling the squad.
Todd Boehly stamped his authority as co-owner last summer but now there will be key signs of development in everything the Blues do with efficient long-term planning just as important as beating Bournemouth on December 27 when football returns for Premier League sides.
Potter is looking to shape the squad but also mend it. The Blues have gaps across the field with rightback, central defence, central midfield and centre forward all looking bare and only set to worsen. To sort this out in January alone is impossible, but by the end of next summer the aim is to truly start moving forward.
Although this is too long for many and judgements on Potter have been made already, the end of the season is a better scale but still far too small to decipher his value in the wider scheme and the ‘project’, Chelsea will be in position to lose players not in the plans, develop younger players through the club and implement new signings as well.
With this in mind, here’s how Potter could have his side looking in the not too distant future.
Potter’s new No. 1 appears firmly above Edouard Mendy after his resurrection into the side before the domestic break. Although there are plans for a new shot-stopper to come in, given the attention needed elsewhere this could be kicked down the street a little bit longer. If either of them come into form then short-term worries can be eluded.
Maybe the easiest pick of them all. The 23-year-old is a major miss when he’s out and balances the side from full-back. He’s in at right-back in a 4-3-3.
Having been in and out of the side since joining, Fofana is one of the ‘like a new signing’ players that Potter will have in the New Year. With the age of Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva, getting the 22-year-old minutes and experience will be key to the defence moving forward.
The first new signing in this team, Gvardiol slots in at centre-back next to Fofana on the left. As a left footed, athletic and progressive defender he looks suited to the Premier League, Chelsea fans just need to hope Manchester City don’t get him first.
Another major miss as the equilibrium of the squad gets thrown off, Chilwell is a big blow for Potter right now. When he’s back he’ll be straight into the action on the left of the defence.
Perhaps the most important player in the side, if he joins. Rice offers a midfield shield to whoever he plays for and has been a long-term target for Chelsea. If Potter can get his hands on the West Ham captain over the summer for less than £75million, then Chelsea are in business.
Rice’s best friend and England teammate, Mount slots back into his favoured midfield role as an orthodox No. 8. Although form has been down this season, Mount offers so much off the ball and can do a role between midfield and attack that very few can for the Blues.
This could easily have been Jude Bellingham, but we’ll limit the dream scenario a little bit, especially considering Rice is in there.
Kovacic, if fit, is one of the best players in a midfield three and can dictate matches, drive forward and evade spaces others simply can’t. Potter will be keen to get the most out of the Croatian in a well balanced midfield that perhaps only lacks goals.
To make up for the lack of goals, Nkunku has been purchased. He’s now all but signed for the Blues but won’t be playing until next season, with the agreement for June 2023.
With versatility across the frontline, Nkunku can float about and be a creative spark from either side of the attack or in behind. We’ve got him on the left, for now.
Coming in on the right in his favoured spot is a surprise. Ziyech may well be on the way out of Stamford Bridge but if Potter can harness any of the World Cup magic and dynamism that Morocco got out of him then Chelsea could be set for some entertaining times.
This is risky, especially given the Molde man is just 19 and will take time to adapt. But in a slightly futuristic Chelsea side, their expected £10million Ivorian striker is leading the line here. As a well balanced forward he can offer a focal point but also finishes on either foot.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misses out due to his age, Kai Havertz doesn’t have a defined role and Christian Pulisic frankly had a worse World Cup than Ziyech, that’s about it. Armando Broja is a shoe in but his injury offers a more immediate chance for David Fofana in this side.
Chelsea dream XI (4-3-3): Kepa; James, W. Fofana, Gvardiol, Chilwell; Rice, Mount, Kovacic; Nkunku, D. Fofana, Ziyech