chelsea bleacher report
We thought Chelsea had cracked the transfer market. Then last January happened.As it turned out, that really was the beginning of the end for Jose Mourinho and this generation of Chelsea players we thought would go on to dominate the Premier League.Chelsea severely weakened themselves with some surprising moves, notably the capture of Juan Cuadrado. Despite some positive transfers in windows leading up to that, things spiraled from there.And on the back of an equally unproductive summer, Chelsea’s squad has suffered.Now they can’t afford to make the same mistakes again this winter.With Mourinho gone, the rebuilding process for another new manager in the summer must start now. It doesn’t require wholesale changes throughout the squad, yet the need to get things moving is vital.That means strengthening key parts of this Chelsea team that are in drastic need of reinforcements and a shake-up.Chelsea have some big questions to consider between now and June.Will Branislav Ivanovic be awarded a new contract’ Has John Terry come to the end of his top-level playing career’ Does Diego Costa’s return to goalscoring form mean he’s the club’s long-term solution up front’ Will Chelsea cash in on a seemingly disinterested Eden Hazard’They’re four massive issues, and Chelsea will do well to address some of them now.Costa and Hazard aside, the future of Terry and Ivanovic is significant. If they both depart Stamford Bridge in the summer, Chelsea will be forced into rebuilding an entire new backline virtually from scratch.Not only that, they’ll be losing two leaders from the dressing room.Without that pair, the only recognised first-team defenders at Stamford Bridge will be Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Baba Rahman.That’s not enough and it can’t be allowed to come to that, which is why signing a new defender must be top of the list this January.Last summer’s pursuit of John Stones was the talking point of the window. Much like they have in the Premier League this term, Chelsea failed miserably in their attempts to sign the Englishman.They moved too late and knowing money over a player wasn’t going to help their cause on the eve of the new season, Everton rightly stood their ground.Chelsea shouldn’t be put off, though. Targeting Stones came with its merits back then and nothing has changed since, other than the man sitting in the dugout at Stamford Bridge.Stones was being tipped as Terry’s long-term replacement at the back. The plan was to build Chelsea’s future with Zouma and Stones at the heart of it, putting an emphasis on experienced, yet young talent.When we consider defenders of Stones’ ability and age in the Premier League, he’s top of the list. Spreading the net wider in Europe, he isn’t outside of the top five.Chelsea will have to pay a premium for Stonescertainly more than they were offering last summerbut they must remain unperturbed or face the risk of losing him to a rival.Only this week Simon Rice ofthe Independent was suggesting Manchester United are ready to join the race in signing him, which is alarming.That gives more power to Everton who will play each club off the other to hike the price further.Bidding wars are never favourable, either. They prolong the process, taking the focus of business that can be done elsewhere, too. And at the end of it there’s no guarantee of signing the player or getting value for money.Chelsea can’t afford another public embarrassment. We can talk about the club’s image taking a beating, but it says much more about their standing in the Premier League. If Chelsea are losing out on their biggest targetsand to rival clubs, no lesstheir power and influence becomes diluted.When they’re already fighting relegation, they can’t afford for that to happen.Stones was top of their list in July and he must remain so now. If Chelsea can get him to west London before the winter window closes, he’ll strengthen them beyond what remains of 2015/16.Chelsea were applauded for the business they conducted this time two years ago when they sold Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne for considerable fees, using that money to bring in Nemanja Matic and Zouma.They followed that up with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas in the summer before the World Cup started.What it all did was put Chelsea ahead of transfer windows. They built foundations gradually, so with each window that came, it was small changes that made a big impact. They knew what they needed and could act fast.They seemed to forget that in the past 12 months.There is a positive in the mess of 2015/16 for Chelsea as it allows them to repeat those past successes. While their rivals are focused on challenging for honours at the top of the table, this season has become a write-off for the Blues.It means they can plan ahead and forget the here and now. They can get ahead of the game in the same way they did in 2014.It would be folly not to make the most of it.Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report’s lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes
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