The Premier League title race took another vital twist at the weekend after Paul Scholes headed a 93rd minute winner in the Manchester derby and in-form Tottenham dealt league leaders Chelsea a blow at White Hart Lane.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues remain top of the table and the favourites for the league, but they have constantly stumbled all season and have failed to maintain a gap. The manager has come under scrutiny for Chelsea’s lack of consistency, but is it really the Italian manager’s fault? Or is it the fault of the playing squad, who many have labelled as being too old and set in their ways from when Jose Mourinho was the manager there?
It certainly is very much Mourinho’s squad and Ancelotti has even had to scrap his preferred diamond formation and revert to his predecessor’s 433 formation as he lacks the personnel to do things his way. Whatever happens in the remainder of the season the Italian has surely earned at least another year and it appears that Roman Abramovich, the owner, has found a manager he likes and can work with. So, the Stamford Bridge faithful can breath a sigh of relief and hope that Ancelotti is allowed to build a team in his own image for next season, but how should he achieve this?
Michael Ballack, Deco and Joe Cole are all playing for their Chelsea futures as they are out of contract this summer and could leave the club for nothing, but it is reported that Chelsea are reluctant to pay the high wages that Ballack and Cole in particular demand because the club wishes to tighten its wage budget. It would be foolish for the club to play either player over £100k-a-week as neither are guaranteed starters, so it should be a pay cut, or leave.
Veterans Juliano Belletti, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho will also find themselves falling down the pecking order due to their age. The Brazilian is certain to leave after announcing his last game for Chelsea could be the FA Cup final and Carvalho is likely to become fourth choice centre-back for next season after John Terry, Alex and Branislav Ivanovic.
To make up for what’s going out of the door Chelsea would obviously need to bring in fresh faces and have been linked with some big name players. 21-year-old Argentinean striker Sergio Aguero has recently expressed his wish to play for Chelsea and could be the perfect foil for hitman Didier Drogba. The Blues have also been linked with the likes of Rafael Van der Vaart, Jack Rodwell, Franck Ribery and Ancelotti’s former protégé at AC Milan, Alexandre Pato.
The Chelsea owner is also desperate for his academy to develop the next star and has reportedly put pressure on Frank Arnesen to help find more wonder kids, so we may see some of the promising young players like Gael Kakuta, Nemaja Matic, Jeffrey Bruma, Miroslav Stoch or Patrick van Aanholt feature more next season.
Ancelotti’s side remain top of the Premier League table and no that four more victories this season will see them win an historic double, which wouldn’t be bad for a team that is allegedly past-it.