Welcoming a new manager in Antonio Conte and famed for building success from Roman Abramovich’s oil billions, the vast majority expect Chelsea to spend big in the transfer market this summer.
Especially considering the Blues have just come to the end of the worst Premier League title defence of all time and the English top flight’s new television deal, that will see collective revenue reach an unprecedented £8billion, is about to come into effect.
But as Leicester City proved last season with their miraculous title bid, spending big doesn’t necessarily guarantee success – no matter how much you’ve got in the bank or who you bring in via the transfer market.
And in truth, Chelsea really don’t need to decimate their transfer records this summer. They boast a squad that lifted the Premier League title just twelve months ago, as well as a loan army containing some of the most exciting youngsters in Europe.
So Antonio Conte’s first job as Chelsea manager shouldn’t be to splash out untold sums on the latest vogue talent. It should be to source quality and potential from within – and here’s an Xi composed completely of the Blues’ prodigious loan brigade to prove it!
Marco Amelia currently performs third-choice duties for the Blues but a youngster would surely benefit more than the 34-year-old from training with two top-class goalkeepers in Asmir Begovic and Thibaut Courtois on a daily basis. The 6 foot 3 starlet has a decent amount of football under his belt for a 23-year-old goalkeeper, boasting 126 appearances at club level alongside 35 youth caps for Croatia. Admittedly, however, a season-long spell as Sarajevo’s No.1 is hardly adequate preparation for the Premier League.
Nathaniel Chalobah hasn’t quite progressed as expected since making a name for himself on loan at Watford during the 2012/13 campaign – netting five times from midfield as the Hornets reached the Championship playoffs. But the midfielder-come-defender is still just 21 years of age and boasts a phenomenal amount of experience for a player so young, registering 105 outings across all competitions and even spending a brief loan spell at Napoli. Likewise, he’s clearly rated within the England fold, boasting a whopping 86 caps for the Three Lions at youth level, and was a key part of the squad that won the Toulon title last weekend.
Chelsea recalled Michael Hector from his loan spell at Reading early last season to give him the chance to train with the first-team squad and the 23-year-old does have a chance of breaking through. The youngster measures in at a whopping 6 foot 4, can operate in defence or midfield and has already claimed eleven caps at senior level for Jamaica. That makes Hector stand out compared to many of the other youngsters in this select Xi and following countless loan spells in the Football League, deserves an opportunity in the top flight.
Nathan Ake was nothing short of sublime on loan at Watford last season and in my opinion, unlucky to miss out on a place in the PFA Team of the Year. Indeed, the 21-year-old averaged an impressive 3.3 tackles and 3.1 interceptions per match, aiding a Hornets side that finished just five points short of a top half finish. The Netherlands U21 has already registered a few cameo outings for Chelsea and capable of playing across the backline or in defensive midfield, he’d add huge depth to Antonio Conte’s squad for next season.
Juan Cuadrado emphatically flopped after arriving at Stamford Bridge for a whopping £23.3million in January 2015, managing just 14 incredibly underwhelming performances before being loaned out to Juventus last summer. But the Colombian international has rediscovered his prior form for Fiorentina since joining the Old Lady, notching up four goals and five assists whilst averaging 2.5 successful dribbles per match. The 28-year-old is clearly a talented player and if Antonio Conte wishes to implement a 3-5-2 formation next season, Cuaradro is an ideal candidate for the right wing-back role.
Lewis Baker appeared to be on the verge of the Chelsea first team a few years ago after making an appearance in the FA Cup and claiming the club’s Young Player of the Year award, but has spent the intermittent period out on loan. He’s just come to the end of a fruitful spell with Vitesse Arnhem, grabbing five goals in 31 Eredivisie outings, and was part of the England side that claimed the Toulon Tournament title on Sunday. At 21 years of age, the timing feels right for a Chelsea boss to take a punt on the goalscoring midfielder.
Mario Pasalic is already capped for Croatia at senior level and spent last season with Monaco over in Ligue 1, contributing an impressive three goals in 16 league appearances to their third-place finish. The loan spell also saw the 21-year-old score twice in Champions League qualifying and the Coup de France, whilst making an extra five outings in the Europa League. That’s an abundance of experience for the former Hadjuk Split prodigy and having enjoyed a similarly affluent loan stint with Elche during 2014/15, he appears ready to make the step up at Chelsea.
John Swift was a key part of the Brentford side that finished a respectable ninth in the Championship last season, notching up seven goals and four assists in 27 appearances from left midfield. It remains to be seen if that will become the 20-year-old’s ultimate position – in truth, he’s an industrious box-to-boxer with great energy and an eye for goal – but nonetheless, Dele Alli has proved that youngsters performing well in the Football League are capable of making the jump to the top flight. Another regular for England at junior level, Swift has a bright future ahead of him.
Charly Musonda has been compared to compatriot Eden Hazard and already etched his name into Real Betis folklaw, playing a pivotal role in their rise from 15th upon arriving in January to 10th at the end of the season. The offensive midfielder averaged an impressive two tackles and 3.6 successful dribbles per match and still just 19 years of age, is one of the most exciting youngsters within Chelsea’s youth ranks. He could flourish if given the chance of first-team football and a number of top European clubs are already eyeing the Belgium U21 – including Juventus.
Patrick Bamford’s season was split into two incredibly underwhelming loan stints with Norwich City and Crystal Palace, managing just eight Premier League appearances for both clubs combined and failing to find the net. But the 22-year-old proved his poacher instincts in the Football League, claiming the Championship Player of the Year award for 2014/15 after almost firing Middlesbrough to the top flight with 17 goals, and Chelsea’s strike force is in need of a shakeup this summer. Perhaps it’s a little too soon for the England U21 to be starting regularly, but he’s capable of doing a job as Chelsea’s third-choice striker.
Chelsea genuinely face the prospect of losing youngster Dominic Solanke unless they issue him a few chances at first team level, with his contract due to expire at the end of next season. The 18-year-old forward has just come to the end of a decent campaign on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, netting seven times in the Eredivisie, and is well-established for England at junior level with 16 goals and 35 caps to his name. Powerful and versatile, Solanke would give Antonio Conte new options in the final third and he’s the kind of player the Blues could seriously regret not giving opportunities in a few years time.