Chelsea fans disappointed to lose crowd favourite Juan Mata – especially to Premier League rivals Manchester United – will be heartened by reports suggesting that this isn’t a knee-jerk decision, reminiscent of other transfer dealings at the club, but part of a coherent plan to overhaul the squad and address some outstanding problems.
A report in the Daily Telegraph, appearing to be well-sourced, indicates that letting Mata leave the club was a necessary generation of funds to be reinvested in two outstanding English prospects. Premier League regulations are stringent on the number of overseas players allowed in a club’s squad, but there is more flexibility for English players, especially young ones. And this appears to be a factor in the club’s considerations. With three of Chelsea’s senior citizens probably approaching the final parts of their careers, spaces for English players will be available. The two targets in mind are Everton’s Ross Barkley and Southampton left-back Luke Shaw.
With Shaw one of the targets, it’s not difficult to discern that Ashley Cole’s race may well now largely be run at Stamford Bridge. The defender has been usurped recently by the excellent form of Cesar Azpilicueta, nominally a right back, and has had to be content with a place on the bench over the past few games when the Spaniard has been available to full that berth. Mourinho is clearly now
Much less enamoured by the performances of Cole than he was when he risked the wrath of Arsene Wenger and the FA by becoming embroiled in a ‘tapping-up’ controversy over the player. With Shaw part of Chelsea’s plans, it seems that this season may be Cole’s swansong.
Frank Lampard, another Mourinho stalwart may be in a similar position. Latterly deployed in the holding role in midfield, the signing of Nemanja Matic has increased the competition in an already overcrowded pool of players. Aside from Lampard and Matic, Mourinho can choose to fill those two spots with Mikel, Ramires – a particular favourite apparently, and even maverick defender David Luiz has been used there.
Should Cole and Lampard not be offered new contracts for next season, as is beginning to look likely, the door will be open for new recruits and Shaw and Barkley would fit in nicely. It is possible, but unlikely that Chelsea may begin the pursuit of their targets during January, but with the clock ticking time away, delivering high level deals may not be possible. The summer however is likely to see a changing of the ‘old guard’ at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho continues to reshape his squad.
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