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Chelsea… Here’s the starting XI you could’ve had

Chelsea’s winger dealings, signing Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado, sending Mohamed Salah the other way as his loaned replacement and funding the move by selling Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg, produced some much-needed excitement for an otherwise unspectacular deadline day.

The £23million spend was still rather slight when compared to the Blues’ dealings in the summer however, at a cost of around £90million. So should the west Londoners be praised for not falling into the many traps of the winter market, or was it a window of missed opportunities?

Perhaps this select XI, combining Chelsea’s key players with rumoured January targets, will shed some slight on the issue.

GOALKEEPER – THIBAUT COURTOIS

Boasting arguably the strongest goalkeeping department in world football, Chelsea had no need to search for another goalie last month.

Not only has Thibaut Courtois lived up to all the hype since returning from a three-term loan with Atletico Madrid during the summer, keeping seven clean sheets from 20 league appearances, but he’s also understudied by Petr Cech, one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, boasting three titles, three Goalkeeper of the Year awards and 330 top flight outings for the Blues.

Rather, the west Londoners sought to reduce between the sticks last month, allowing veteran ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer to leave for Leicester City.

RIGHT BACK – BRANISLAV IVANOVIC

With Chelsea’s more advanced entities enjoying equally productive form, the incredible performances of Branislav Ivanovic have gone slightly unnoticed this season.

It’s the attacking side of the right-back’s game that deserves the most praise this term, averaging an impressive 1.1 shots, 1 chance created and 1 successful dribble per game with a pass completion rate of 81% – despite being often considered as one of the few remaining out-and-out defensive full-backs in the modern game.

The epitome of a Jose Mourinho player through his height, strength and consistency, no matter who Chelsea signed last month, the 30 year-old’s slot in the starting xi would never have come under threat. Rather tellingly, he’s featured in every minute of the Blues’ league campaign thus far.

CENTRE-BACK – RAPHAEL VARANE

Once describing him as ‘the best young defender in the world‘, we could have seen Jose Mourinho make good on his long-term interest in Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane last month amid a disturbing slump in form from Gary Cahill.

The England international produced poor performances against Tottenham, Liverpool and Bradford City, developing a bizarre tendency to back off defenders running with the ball, and has resultantly lost his habitual place to the first team to Kurt Zouma in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, despite Varane’s undoubted potential, he’s struggled for game-time at the Bernabeu this season, managing just nine starts in La Liga, with Carlo Ancelotti preferring experienced duo Sergio Ramos and Pepe.

The Express alleged a £20million bid in the pipeline, and had Chelsea made it official, it would have provoked a few awkward conversations between the 21 year-old and the Los Blancos management.

It inevitably failed to materialise – perhaps due to Zouma putting in a string of decent displays as Cahill’s replacement – but Varane remains on the west London outfit’s radar.

CENTRE-BACK – JOHN TERRY

A battle-hardened warrior that’s featured in every minute of Premier League’s Chelsea campaign thus far, centre-back John Terry is still going strong at the age of 34.

The club captain and a firm favourite of Jose Mourinho’s, only retirement or serious injury will be dislodging the former England international from Chelsea’s starting Xi any time soon.

LEFT BACK – TYRONE MINGS

Following his Championship Player of the Month award in September, Chelsea were one of the Premier League sides linked with Ipswich Town’s Tyrone Mings.

The 21 year-old has certainly been in impressive form this season, grabbing three assists in 23 second tier outings whilst averaging 2.3 tackles, 2.6 interceptions, one successful dribble and 1.2 chances created per match.

Chelsea are already relatively well-endowed at No.3 through Cesar Azpilicueta and Felipe Luis. But the former Southampton trainee’s enormous potential is undoubted, blending his maruading, attacking and pacey full-back style with the 6 foot 5 frame of a Premier League centre-half. He could be moulded into virtually anything by Chelsea’s coaching staff.

Although the tabloids quoted an £8million fee, Tractor Boys manager Mick McCarthy made it clear that Mings wasn’t for sale.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – NEMANJA MATIC

Another Chelsea star that epitomises the Jose Mourinho ethos, Nemanja Matic’s subliminal importance to the Blues is verging upon Claude Makelele territory.

He’s the lynchpin that allows Chelsea to operate with a far more open attack than last season, averaging an incredible 3.9 tackles per match. In the Champions League, it jumps up to an outrageous 6.5. Rather tellingly, the Blues have lost just one Premier League fixture with the Serbian monolith in the side this term.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – SAMI KHEDIRA

Having now entered the final six months of his Real Madrid contract, I find it incredibly surprising that none of Europe’s major clubs attempted to prize Sami Khedira away from the Bernabeu on transfer deadline day.

Another talent Jose Mourinho knows well from his time in the Spanish capital, the German World Cup winner, who also picked up a Champions League title during the summer, would have added even more solidity to Chelsea’s engine room, as a dynamic box-to-box with ruthless energy, fantastic defensive awareness and imperious ability in the air.

The Blues were one of the clubs linked with the 27 year-old, alongside Arsenal, Manchester United and PSG.

Despite a rumoured price-tag of just €18million however, no offers came in for the former Stuttgart star.

Reports since the end of the window claim he’s now signed a pre-contract deal with Bayern Munich.

RIGHT WING – MARCO REUS

Chelsea secured a £23million deal for Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado on deadline day, but was he the best option available to the west Londoners last month?

Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus, for example, is one of the top attacking talents in world football, boasting 33 goals and 24 assists in his last 69 Bundesliga appearances.

With the German international’s £20million release clause well-known, set to come into effect during the summer, there’s logic to suggest he could have been prized away from Westfalen last month for a slightly more lucrative fee – especially now that the Black-Yellows are rock bottom of the Bundesliga table.

Perhaps due to injury that will rule him out until the end of February, none of Reus’ many rumoured suitors – including the Blues, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid – launched a bid for him.

With his buy-out fee representing such fantastic value for money however, they’ll unquestionably return for him in the summer.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD – CESC FABREGAS

Although Brazil international Oscar has enjoyed some strong form this term as Chelsea’s habitual No.10, it’s firmly surpassed by summer signing Cesc Fabregas, albeit from a slightly deeper capacity.

The former Barcelona star has conjured up an incredible 15 assists – in addition to two goals – in 21 Premier League appearances, whilst his 3.2 chances created per match is an unrivalled statistic throughout the division.

He may not be the same type of midfielder as Frank Lampard, but the 27 year-old’s level of influence from the middle of the park equals that of the Chelsea icon’s.

LEFT WING – EDEN HAZARD

Another Chelsea star whose starting Xi status remains without doubt, Eden Hazard is an integral cog of the Blues’ attack through his world-class dribbling ability, averaging 4.7 successful dribbles per match this term – the most of any Premier League player. Accordingly, he’s the most fouled Premier League player, drawing 3 fouls per match.

That’s hardly the whole story however; the Belgium international has also contributed an impressive eight goals and five assists to Chelsea’s cause this term, whilst creating 2.6 chances per match.

Outside of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, he’s undoubtedly one of the top wingers in world football.

STRIKER – ANDERSON TALISCA

This inclusion is no diss to Premier League top scorer Diego Costa, but Jose Mourinho’s interest in Benfica star Anderson Talisca is well-known, having claimed in September that the Brazilian would be a Premier League player right now if it hadn’t been for some work permit issues during the summer.

The 21 year-old, who boasts daunting pace, power and netting prowess, has lived up to such hype, grabbing nine goals in 18 league appearances for Benfica this term and opening his account in the Champions League.

The Daily Star alleged an audacious £37million move for the striker in December, having eradicated his work permit problems after making it onto a Selecao seniors bench a month earlier.

Such a bid never materialised however, being a rather unjustifiable figure at this moment in time. With Didier Drogba slowing edging towards retirement however, the South American prodigy is a name for Chelsea fans to keep in mind.

Article title: Chelsea… Here’s the starting XI you could’ve had

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