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

With a crash, a bang and an explosion of Jim White’s head, the summer transfer window has officially closed.

And once again, it’s been a summer of unprecedented spending from the Premier League, splashing out a record-breaking £870million on new arrivals; in no small part due to Manchester City smashing their club record transfer fee twice on former Liverpool and Wolfsburg stars Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne.

In comparison, it was a rather frustrating transfer window for reigning champions Chelsea, further exacerbating the worrying start to their Premier League title defence after picking up just one win in their first four games.

Indeed, after failing to get a few last-minute blockbuster deals over the line, the Blues spent just £67million this summer whilst making only one genuine addition to their starting XI in the form of Barcelona star Pedro.

So could the west London outfit have done a little better in the market this summer? Football Fancast combines their top performers from last term with realistic summer targets to create the starting Xi they could’ve had.

GOALKEEPER – THIBAUT COURTOIS


No cause for complaint here. Thibaut Courtois is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers not only in the Premier League but also world football, combining prodigious shot-stopping ability with a monolithic 6 foot 6 frame.

In fact, Chelsea boasted so much quality between the sticks last season that they were forced to offload one of their goalkeepers this summer – former No.1 Petr Cech, who joined Arsenal in a £10million deal.

The Stamford Bridge icon’s replacement, ex-Stoke City star Asmir Begovic, isn’t half bad either.

RIGHT BACK – NATHANIEL CLYNE


The last thing Chelsea thought they needed this summer was another right-back following an emphatic 2014/15 campaign from Branislav Ivanovic, who earned a spot in the PFA Team of the Year for his four goals and four assists in 38 appearances.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however, and considering the Serbian international’s harrowing start to the season, an injection of youth at No.2 could have prevented the many defensive problems the Premier League champions are now enduring.

Enter England international Nathaniel Clyne, probably the best right-back in the Premier League last term after Ivanovic, having averaged the fifth-most tackles per match, 3.3, of any player in the division and proved instrumental in Southampton’s efforts going forward.

Chelsea were linked, along with Manchester United, consistently from January onwards as the defender’s St. Mary’s contract entered its final 18 months. But he eventually joined Liverpool in a £10.5million deal.

CENTRE-BACK – JOHN STONES


The jewel signing of Chelsea’s summer that never got the chance to be added to their transfer crown.

The Premier League champions made no secret of their interest in Everton’s John Stones; Mourinho openly discussed it, as did John Terry and Gary Cahill; but the Toffees rejected all three of their bids, the latest being worth around £30million.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21 year-old is no great surprise. He’s easily the most exciting home-grown defender around at the minute, boasting an exceptional reading of the game and unique agility, ball control and pace for an English centre-half.

Many have compared him to a young Rio Ferdinand but it’s John Terry the west Londoners are hoping Stones will go onto emulate at Stamford Bridge. They may have failed to whisk him away this summer but something tells me Chelsea’s pursuit of the 6 foot 2 centre-half is by no means over.

CENTRE-BACK – JOHN TERRY


It’s been a dreadful start to the season for John Terry, who has managed to complete the full 90 minutes just once from his opening three Premier League appearances.

Indeed, the Chelsea skipper was hauled off at half time against Manchester City – the first time Jose Mourinho has substituted him in 177 starts – and saw red against West Bromwich Albion for a last man challenge on Salomon Rondon.

But the 34 year-old might be faring a little better this term had Chelsea made the aforementioned additions to their defence, providing a much-needed element of pace currently absent throughout their back six.

LEFT-BACK – CESAR AZPILICUETA


If Cesar Azpilicueta isn’t the best left-back in the Premier League, he’s at the very least the best defensive left-back in the Premier League.

Indeed, the inverted right-footer was watertight for the entirety of last season and although competition is hardly fierce, he’s probably been Chelsea’s best defender so far this year too.

The Spain international verges upon world-class when it comes to the technical and positional aspects of defending. So regardless of Abdul Rahman Baba’s £18million arrival, Azpilicueta’s slot in the starting Xi always seemed set in stone for this season.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD – NEMANJA MATIC


A slightly deeper role for Nemanja Matic in order to create room for new additions to the engine room. More on that in a moment.

The Serbian international has also endured a taxing start to the campaign compared to the impeccably high standards of his first 18 months at Stamford Bridge.

But by far the most formidable enforcer in the Premier League last term, combining a 6 foot 5 frame with style on the ball and 5.6 ball-winning actions per match, it would be unrealistic to suggest Chelsea were considering potential upgrades on the 27 year-old during the summer.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – PAUL POGBA


He’s the dream signing that Chelsea pushed for until the close of the summer transfer window but they inevitably couldn’t get a deal over the line for Juventus star Paul Pogba.

The former Manchester United youngster has emerged as one of the most complete and sought-after central midfielders in world football since swapping the Old Trafford for the Old Lady in 2012, going on to claim 23 caps for France, three consecutive Serie A titles, the 2013 Golden Boy award and a runner-up medal from last season’s Champions League final.

That’s seen the 22 year-old linked with virtually every major European club but in terms of his imperious physicality, Pogba seemed like a particularly good fit for the Premier League champions.

There was talk of a £70million deal as deadline day loomed but discussions made little progress and the France international remains Juve’s greatest asset – both on the pitch and financially – for at least another season.

Logic suggests Chelsea will try again next summer – but Barcelona, fresh from their transfer embargo, represent almost insurmountable competition for Pogba’s signature.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – CESC FABREGAS


Another Chelsea star worryingly off the pace. Some would argue Cesc Fabregas has spent the majority of 2015 struggling for form yet the former Arsenal and Barcelona star’s world-class playmaking abilities remain without doubt.

The Spain international’s defensive frailties are well known and have already caused the Blues problems this season – particularly in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City – but Pogba’s physical presence alongside would give him more license to roam.

RIGHT WING – PEDRO


Pedro is not only Chelsea’s but also arguably the Premier League’s best signing of the summer, arriving at Stamford Bridge for a ludicrously reasonable £22million.

Indeed, the 5 foot 6 attacker has done it and won it all throughout his tenures with Barcelona and the Spanish national team, namely winning three Champions League titles, five La Liga titles, a World Cup and a European Championship, and at 28 still has a good few years left in him.

Many speculated that Pedro would acclimatise to the Premier League with immaculate ease through his netting prowess, speed, trickery and industriousness and that has already been validated by an impressive start of one goal and two assists in his first two league appearances for the west Londoners.

In short, he’s a world-class player without a world-class price-tag; which makes you wonder why Manchester United felt the need to try and haggle with Barcelona for a better deal.

LEFT WING – EDEN HAZARD


If there’s one Chelsea player whose status in the starting Xi was never in doubt during the summer, it’s Eden Hazard by a country mile.

He’s not only the Blues’ talisman but also the flagship talent of the Premier League, epitomised by him claiming the PFA Player of the Year award for 2015.

Like many in this select Xi, the Belgium international hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts to the campaign, bagging a solitary assist in four appearances. But if he can replicate the world-class level of form from the end of last season, Chelsea have a fantastic chance of retaining the Premier League title.

STRIKER – CHRISTIAN BENTEKE


Fear not Chelsea fans; we aren’t suggesting star striker and last season’s top scorer Diego Costa should have been ousted over the summer. Rather, this is a discussion of the Blues’ back-up options at centre-forward, particularly Radamel Falcao.

The Colombian international is by no means a bad signing – just two years ago he was widely revered as the best finisher in world football. But following his rather tepid loan spell at Old Trafford last season, managing just four goals in the Premier League, his summer arrival was a slightly underwhelming one.

Could Chelsea have done better? Well, Christian Benteke’s name certainly comes to mind. He fits the template of Jose Mourinho’s preferred centre-forward perfectly, as a 6 foot 3 battering ram with the physicality to take on whole defences single-handed.

Far more reminiscent of a young Didier Drogba than countryman and former Blues youngster Romelu Lukaku and also boasting a superlative return of 49 goals in 100 appearances from his three years with Aston Villa, the 24 year-old is quickly emerging as one of the most formidable target men in Europe.

He was available this summer through a £32.5million release clause that Liverpool eventually activated. Whether the Belgium international would have been willing to operate as understudy to Diego Costa, however, is certainly debatable.

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

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