I was initially writing a response to a fanpost about what transfers we should be making this winter, but I decided to do more of a comparison with the other top teams, to see where we are lacking. For the purposes of this post, I will be comparing our squad to the 7 squads that I would consider to be superior to ours: Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dormund and Juventus. It is perfect to compare with most of these teams as they are almost all playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation. I will compare the spines of these squads, CB, CDM, CM and ST.
When we look at the defenses of those 7 teams, we are found very lacking. With regards to CB, this is what the other squads have.
Man United: Vidic, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evans, Jones.
Man City: Kompany, Lescott, Toure, Nastasic.
Real Madrid: Pepe, Ramos, Varane, Albiol, Carvalho.
Barcelona: Pique, Puyol, Montoya (Barcelona have been struggling defensively for the last 2 seasons because of a lack of CB and have had to resort to playing CDM as CB).
Bayern: Dante, Boateng, Badstuber, Van Buyten.
Dortmund: Hummels, Subotic, Santana.
Juventus: Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres.
Chelsea: Terry, Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic.
Aside from Dortmund, with only 3 and Barcelona who have enough CDM to play them at CB, all of the rest of these teams have at least 4 quality CBs. These are the teams that are currently better than Chelsea in my opinion. The depth of these squads is what sets them higher than us. Terry is only getting older and injuries will hit him more frequently and for longer these days. If Terry is out injured then we only have 2 CBs and they have both had times of inconsistency this season. Cahill and Luiz are both very promising, but need to have the stability of someone world class, like Terry use to be, to partner with. Ivanovic is less of a CB these days and more of a RB so I would argue that he cannot be included in our CB rotation as against stronger attacking teams, it is necessary for him to play at RB (till Azpilicueta's defense improves).
Hummels is steadily establishing himself as the world's best CB (in my opinion) and we should be happy to pay up to 25 million for him. He would come in and establish himself as the #1 choice at CB and is exactly the type of player that Benitez likes too. Not that Benitez will be around forever but he does like ball playing CBs that are strong and quick (Skrtel - Agger). If we can bring in Hummels while Benitez is here, I will consider his tenure a massive success.
The purchase of Hummels in January, followed by Yanga-Mbiwa in the summer, would set us up with a defense that does not require any improvement for the next 3/4 years. Luiz has the ability to play at LB if necessary, as he did at Benfica frequently, to provide the cover for Bertrand if PvA is not ready to step up to first team.
Chelsea: Hummels, Terry, Luiz, Cahill, Yanga-Mbiwa. That would be a CB rotation that could challenge for 3/4 trophies a season. Terry will player fewer and fewer games and Luiz is there to provide cover to LB as well. It would also be a very young group with the ages being 24, 32, 26, 27 and 24.
When we look at the depth in the centre of the field, we are found very lacking when compared to the other clubs.
Manchester United: Scholes, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Fletcher and Powell.
Manchester City: Milner, Barry, Toure, Rodwell and Garcia.
Real Madrid: Khadira, Xabi Alonso, Essien and Modric.
Barcelona: Fabregas, Xavi, Busquets, Mascherano, Song and Thiago.
Bayern Munich: Kroos, Schweinstager, Luis Gustavo, Martinez and Tymoshchuk.
Borussia Dortmund: Kehl, Bender, Gundogan and Leitner.
Juventus: Pirlo, Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba, and Asamoah.
Chelsea: Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Romeu and Oscar.
We do not fare too poorly in the comparison with the rest of these teams. The one major difference is that we only have 2 CDM where as all the rest of these teams have at least 3 players than can hold their own in that position. With Lampard likely gone at the end of this season and McEachran likely to spend the season on loan in the premier league next season, we will be very lacking at the start of next season. Couple that with Mikel going away to AFCON every 2 years, we are in need of serious reinforcements here.
The outstanding candidate for me here would be either of the Benders. The twin brothers, along with Luis Gustavo, are the top defensive midfielders in the Bundesliga at the moment. They are establishing themselves as key players in the national team too with Schweinstager saying after the 4-4 draw with Sweden, that Germany would not have conceded the 4 goals had one of the Benders been playing. Either would probably cost between 15 and 20 million euros as they are both seen as key players for Leverkusen and Dortmund. He would provide competition with Mikel and Romeu while he would not be likely to stifle Romeu's development as Bender is more of a ball winner, than a great ball passer, like Romeu makes me believe he has the potential to be. Both Benders are only 23 and would add the more physical presence that has been lacking from our midfield as of late.
Many people would like to see Fellaini join the club to fill this role, but I have reservations about how well he will play further back in the midfield. This season has seen the big belgian's stock rise considerably, but it has also seen him play the vast majority of games as a supporting striker, rather than a CM or CDM. There is no doubting that he would add strength to our smaller midfield and that afro seems to win every single header, but I feel like he may not be the perfect fit that so many people seem to think. He is also likely to cost around 30 million pounds, having cost Everton over 20 when the purchased him.
The single purchase of Bender would give us the depth that we lack to fight on all fronts, and again would not require us to invest much in our midfield for the next few years.
Chelsea: Mikel, Romeu, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar and Bender. Bender and Mikel would provide the strength in midfield with Romeu and eventually McEachran filling the Xabi Alonso role. Ramires and Oscar add the attacking strength and also give us the versatility to play other formations such as a straight 4-3-3.
Lastly but most importantly is our lack of depth in the striker department.
Manchester United: Van Persie, Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez.
Manchester CIty: Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko.
Real Madrid: Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema and Callejon.
Barcelona: Messi, Pedro, Sanchez and Villa.
Bayern Munich: Gomez, Mandzukic, Muller and Pizarro.
Borussia Dortmund: Lewandowski and Reus.
Juventus: Vucinic, Bendtner, Matri and Quagliarella.
Chelsea: Torres and Sturridge.
While Dortmund only have 2 players that can play up front, all the rest have at least 4 players that can lead the line. While Juventus may not have the same quality of finishers that the others do, they still have enough players to push competition and all of their strikers (except Bendtner) have chipped in with important goals.
There are plenty of quality strikers out there at the moment but most also carry a price tag worthy of that quality. I think that there are very few bargain's when it comes to strikers at the moment. It is unlikely that we will be able to unload Torres (its irrelivent if people want him to go or not) due to his high wage demands, if the club was even wanting to get rid of him. Therefore we should be looking at someone who can not only provide competition for Torres, but can also play in tandem with him when required. The impending departure of Sturridge means that we should be looking at bring in at least 2 strikers.
Gonzalo Higuain would be the best fit in my books. There is the chance that he might be available a bit cheaper due to the emergence of Callejon and Higuain falling down the pecking order. He is currently out with an injury, just his 3rd injury since he joined the club 6 years ago, but is expected back on the 7th of January. He is a proven goal scorer that is versatile and definitely has the quality to play up front for a side like Chelsea. He would probably set us back between 25 and 30 million euros but at the age of 25, still has many good years ahead of him. Huntelaar would be one of the few bargain's out there at the small fee of around 7 million euros. He is one of the most in form strikers in the world at the moment and would add squad depth without requiring to be the number one man. Llorente would be the other notable bargain but I think that his purchase would hinder the prospects of Lukaku over the next few years.
Falcao is the biggest name going around but I think that he is simply going to cost too much. 50 million euros and a contract that would cost us 250k per week.
Chelsea: Torres, Higuain, Huntelaar. Lukaku coming back from loan next season would see us with 4 strikers competing to start. We would be able to play with 2 strikers for many games, taking the pressure off our attacking band of 3, and would mean that we could field a full strength side for all competitions: CL, C1C, FACup and EPL. Huntelaar and Torres. We would have a youngish line up with ages of 28, 25, 29 and 19.
I am suggesting that the club spends quite a bit of money, probably close to another 100 million pounds. It would set us up for 3/4 years, enable us to compete for all major competitions and then would give us the ability to spend focus more on our youth academy and develop our young players better.
Terry, McEachran, van Aanholt, Bertrand, Lukaku and Romeu(maybe) would all qualify as Chelsea players after having spent enough time on the club's books. Cahill, Turnbull would count as home grown players to make up sufficient numbers (not including younger and other not mentioned fringe players).