Despite their reputation as big spenders Chelsea have been relatively quiet on the transfer front for three seasons now. Just this summer the likes of Michael Ballack and Joe Cole have been ushered out whilst Deco appears to be leaving too. Only Yossi Benayoun has been brought in. It appears the team that won the Premiership in the last campaign, and was so close in the previous three seasons to that, is going to be trusted again.
There is no rejuvenation, no modest improvement. Chelsea are sticking to the old trusted guard. Didier Drogba to lead the front line, Nicolas Anelka to offer goalscoring support, Frank Lampard to arrive late from midfield, Michael Essien to control the midfield, Florent Malouda to run on the wings, Ashley Cole to bring extra width, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho to monitor opposing attackers and Petr Cech to be the guardian in goal. These nine players are all, to an extent, guaranteed a first team place, supposing form and fitness being well. Terry is 29, soon to be 30, Cech 28, Cole 29, Carvalho 32, Lampard 32, Drogba 32, Malouda 30, Anelka 29. Only Michael Essien, a guaranteed starter, is 27. To put it simply, this is as experienced a team as is possible. The odd suggestions of youth finding a place in the first team manifest through Salomon Kalou, Jon Obi-Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic and occasionally Gael Kakuta. Through injury to Essien Obi-Mikel often found himself starting last season but should Essien be fit then Obi-Mikel understands he is likely to feature intermittently. Ivanovic, too, featured prominently last season but only thanks to injuries to both Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa. Salomon Kalou usually features from the bench and Kakuta has been restricted to odd appearances.
After spending millions on youth development Chelsea will begin the season relying on their old trusted guard. Through sheer lack of numbers Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea coach, will be required to afford the odd chance to other youngsters on the fringes but Chelsea might well rue the lack of investment. The squad, from the outside, appears stale. Instead of improving the squad it appears the club is happy to stagnate on that front and just ask the current players to try a little harder.
The lack of youth is bound to catch up with Chelsea at one stage or another and the lack of an active market for elder players suggests Chelsea are not going to receive large transfer fees once they do decide to move the players on. Chelsea will have to cut their losses on a number of them. A large number of the Chelsea vintage from 2009-2010 might well find themselves looking for a club, on nominal or free transfers, in a couple of seasons. If the youth players don’t start to come through to the first team and make an impact soon Chelsea will need major re-investment. It appears Chelsea are not willing to change things gradually, to slowly change the squad. They are sticking to what they have for the moment and seeing where it takes them. After all, Chelsea did just win the league with this team. Why change it?