2017 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL HOTELS, CARDIFF June 3RD & KIEV 2018 - CLICK HERE to BOOK HOTELS PACKAGES Where Chelsea stand – Part 5B – Attack

Where Chelsea stand – Part 5B – Attack

Part 1 here

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The holy trinity of Mazacar has worked wonders this season, slotting in perfectly with the rest of the squad. Hazard especially has just walked into the first team and played as though he’s been at Chelsea for five years. The through ball for Ramires against United in the League Cup was extraordinary, the back-heel for Torres against Newcastle was exquisite, but only in recent weeks has Eden shown his true powers. He’s scored beauties against Stoke, Man United, Sparta and West Ham. He changed the game completely when he replaced Moses at Old Trafford, and against West Ham at Stamford Bridge, the link-up play between him and Juan Mata was eye-poppingly good. Both of them know exactly where the other is, and where they will be in a few seconds’ time, it’s telepathic. Eden got a goal and an assist that day, and with 12 goals and 21 assists in his first 7 months, it’s becoming clear that £32m was a steal.

He’s even beginning to surpass the mercurial Juan Mata, who has been nothing short of sensational this season. Mata’s consistently excellent displays last season, culminating in 12 goals and 20 assists, won him Player of the Year in his first season at Chelsea. After 7 months of this season, Juan Mata has 18 goals and 26 assists. This is a team in a constant state of transition, with 3 managers in Juan Mata’s 19 months at Chelsea. And amidst the confusion, with players leaving, arriving and being rumoured to be coming and going, Juan Mata has risen above the chaos and shown us the true future of Chelsea. The vision, creativity, flair and skill is breathtaking at times, and never better than when Eden Hazard is in close proximity. They have probably become the world’s best attacking partnership, and the two of them have only known each other for 7 months. Staggering.

The final piece of the holy trinity, Oscar, has also had a season to remember, with some unbelievable moments of individual brilliance. The goals against Sparta, Shakhtar, Juventus spring to mind, as well as the genius he has shown in the Brazil shirt. His crossing ability is out of this world, his eye for a through ball is unrivalled and he never, ever loses possession. Oscar knows exactly when to play the simple pass, when to shoot, when to hit it long and when to dribble. His finishing needs some work, although he has come up with 6 goals in Europe this season. And finishing isn’t his job anyway; Oscar’s game revolves around his ingenuity and ability to control the pace of a game. Predicting what these three will grow up to be is almost impossible, because after only seven months together they’ve racked up a cumulative 39 goals and 58 assists. My guess is that Oscar will be our Xavi, Mata our Iniesta and Hazard our Messi.

Another man with the world at his feet is the magical Belgian Kevin De Bruyne. Signed from Genk for a meagre £6.7m, he’s been farmed out on loan in Belgium and Germany. In a fairly weak Bremen team, Kevin De Bruyne has been phenomenal. The numbers are good, 6 goals and 8 assists from midfield in his first season of top-class football is very impressive. But KDB brings a whole lot more to the table. His ability to pick out his man is incredible; he’s got a crossing accuracy of 31.3% this season, and Bremen are hardly a team of giants. At Genk last season he racked up 8 goals and 15 assists, but that was with the giant Christian Benteke alongside him. At Bremen, KDB has run the show, with reliable passing, dead-eye set-pieces and an eye for goal. He’s been playing all across midfield and attack, and has been Bremen’s star player. And he’s only 21!

Chelsea’s other two summer additions, Victor Moses and Marko Marin, haven’t had quite the same impact, but that’s simply because they’ve got the likes of Mata, Hazard and Oscar ahead of them. Moses and Marin are different types of attackers to Mazacar; very fast and direct, with excellent dribbling ability. Moses has been ahead of Marin in the pecking order this season for his superior defensive contribution, and has been a good replacement for Mata, Hazard and Oscar when he’s been used. Moses was signed because top target Hulk was just too expensive. 26-year-old Hulk has delivered 7 goals and 4 assists for Zenit for £50m. 22-year-old Moses has delivered 6 goals and 4 assists for Chelsea for £9m. Which would you have preferred?

Marin, sadly, just hasn’t had the opportunity to stamp down a place in the team. As fifth choice in his position, and sometimes lower, he’s been restricted to just 336 competitive minutes, and only 85 in the Premier League. Most of his appearances have come as a substitute, and the only game in which he actually played well was Sparta away. He did score our 100th goal of the season at home to Wigan, but that was the last goal in a 4-1 win. What Marin offers is ridiculous dribbling ability at close quarters, but generally he just isn’t as good as Eden Hazard, who plays the same role. With KDB returning next year, Marin isn’t likely to get many more opportunities to showcase his talents, and a return to the Bundesliga where he made his name might be the best outcome for all parties.

Another player who sadly isn’t ever likely to get his chance is Gael Kakuta. The young Frenchman was signed under Ancelotti and the intricacies of the deal put the club under a transfer embargo, which cost around £5m to sort out. He showed brilliant poise and footwork in his cameo appearances in his debut season, but became marginalised and farmed out on loan to Fulham, Bolton, Dijon and now Vitesse. Given the plethora of young attacking midfielders and wingers at Chelsea, Kakuta isn’t likely to ever break into the first team. Nevertheless, his performances for Dijon and Vitesse indicate that he should have a long and prosperous career at the highest level. His recent words about wanting to leave Chelsea because of too much competition for places means that we’re highly unlikely to ever see him in a Chelsea shirt again. We should be able to recoup the money we paid to sign him, though.

A happier story of a young attacking midfielder out on loan is that of 19-year-old Lucas Piazon. Signed from Sao Paulo for an initial £5m, he impressed in the U21s grabbing 2 goals and 2 assists before making his way into the first-team squad in the autumn. He got two starts in the League Cup, and was especially impressive against Man United. He announced himself with an eye-catching 17-minute cameo against Aston Villa, in which time he provided an assist for Ramires and won a penalty. He couldn’t break into the first team though, and was loaned out to Malaga in January. Piazon has taken the departed Diego Buonanotte’s position, and nine competitive appearances later, we can safely say that this loan was a very good idea. Malaga will be playing Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and it will be intriguing to see how Piazon fares.

Beyond these exciting young attackers, there are heaps and heaps of more promising youngsters. Lewis Baker, Jeremie Boga and Alex Kiwomya have excelled in the U21s, the NextGen Series and the FA Youth Cup, helping the baby Blues to the semi-finals of both tournaments. Boga especially looks to have a very bright future at Stamford Bridge with his flair and creativity, playing against 21-year-olds aged 15. Boga was easily the best player on the pitch in the stunning 2-0 away win over Barcelona, while the pace of Kiwomya and Baker’s craft destroyed Juventus 4-1 at Cobham. These results are all the more extraordinary when you take into account that Chelsea started the season with no less than 25 players out loan, almost all of whom are eligible for these competitions. Both Eden Hazard and Oscar are eligible for the U21s, for example.

Cristian Cuevas, Amin Affane and Jesse Starkey are at little behind Boga, Kiwomya and Baker in their development, but certainly have the required talent to make it at Chelsea. Cuevas is a lightning-fast winger that sprang to prominence while representing Chile aged 17 in the U-20 South American Championships, while Affane and Starkey are creative playmakers. Tom Howard, George Cole and Ulises Davila are talented players, but have a lot of work to do if they are ever make the first-team squad.

As for Benayoun and Malouda, well, the less said about them, the better. Both are on very high wages while not contributing to the first team, and thankfully both will be out of contract at the end of the season. Malouda doesn’t deserve the treatment he’s had from the club, be he should have found himself a new club last summer. Benayoun is frankly useless.

I’ve catalogued The Chronicles of Torres, and I think we can all agree unanimously that it’s time for him to leave, despite a respectable-looking 16 goals and 8 assists this season. If the pace or the touch had gone but the instinct and work-rate were still there, I’d consider letting him stay. But there’s no passion in his performances, his movement is akin to that of a tranquilised sloth and Fernando Torres goals are almost as frequent as snowstorms in the Sahara these days. The ideal scenario is for Nando to return to the Vicente Calderon where he started his career; Diego Simeone has been talking up the prospect of an Atleti return for Nando, and I’d be very pleased if it happened. Failing that, Torres can simply be auctioned off to the highest bidder (presuming there are bidders). It’s not unrealistic to hope that PSG, Anzhi, Zenit or Guangzhou Evergrande might go to £20m for Torres as a marquee signing.

Demba Ba was a bargain at £7m, he’s a clear upgrade over Torres and is reasonably clinical. He’s an above average Premier League striker, but nothing more than that, and I can’t help thinking he’s a bit of a misfit at Chelsea. Chelsea are looking to move towards a more exciting, pro-active brand of football, and Demba Ba’s style is more re-active and old-fashioned. Ba represents a throw-back to the days when we could relieve pressure by booting the ball up to King Didier, safe in the knowledge that Didi would retain the ball and bring the rest of the team into play, or draw a foul. Ba isn’t Drogba, and he will never truly replace King Didier. I expect many of you will disagree and say that we should show him some faith, but I would sell Demba Ba. I don’t think he’s ever going to score 20 goals a season, which is the minimum we require from a first-choice striker at Chelsea. I’m sure we could get at least £12m for Ba, and PSG might be a possible destination.

What Chelsea needs is currently trapped in the West Midlands, at The Hawthorns to be precise. Romelu Lukaku has had a magnificent season on loan at West Brom, leading the line for Steve Clarke’s side. He started the season with a bang, coming off the bench against Liverpool, destroying Jamie Carragher and scoring the clincher in a 3-0 win for West Brom. Since then, he’s established himself as the Baggies’s first-choice striker and a firm favourite amongst the Hawthorns faithful. His comments to the press have shown him to be an incredibly humble and modest young man, saying that he is only interested in being a good role model to his younger brother Jordan and not interested in going to nightclubs and womanising.

If he’s close to perfect off the pitch, he’s even closer on it. Basically, Romelu Lukaku is the complete modern-day striker. He’s blessed with immense physical strength, burning pace, a basketball-esque leap and exceptional agility. His dribbling and technique have come on in leaps and bounds, as Liverpool and Sunderland will testify. He’s also become a very clinical finisher, and can be relied upon to take every chance that comes his way.

18 months ago, Chelsea were chasing a prolific young Argentine striker named Sergio Aguero. Torres had flopped, and Aguero was seen as the perfect strike partner for Drogba. Blessed with lightning pace, Messi-esque dribbling ability and clinical finishing, he had everything to perfectly complement Drogba’s strength, pace and hold-up play. It should have been the dream partnership, but alas, Aguero signed instead for £38m for Manchester City. Instead, Chelsea signed an 18-year-old Belgian weapon of mass destruction named Romelu Lukaku for an initial fee of £13m. Sadly, he found himself behind Drogba, Torres, Anelka, Sturridge and Kalou, so we never discovered the truth: Romelu Lukaku is the best of both worlds, and there was no point getting Aguero when Lukaku was available. Lukaku is just as fast as Aguero, just as good at dribbling, and even more agile (remember Lukaku can do backflips and bicycle kicks). He is taller, stronger and faster than Drogba, and even more of a menace in the air. His work-rate is phenomenal (just ask Sunderland). Lukaku has helped himself to 13 goals already, making him the third-highest scoring teenager in Premier League history, and he’s close to catching Michael Owen in second place. Oh, and he has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of anyone with 13 goals or more! Happy days!

Suarez

Van Persie

Bale

Ba

Michu

Benteke

Lambert

Lukaku

Club

Liverpool

Man Utd

Spurs

Newcastle + Chelsea

Swansea

Aston Villa

Soton

West Brom

Age

26

29

23

27

27

22

31

19

Goals

22

19

16

15

15

13

13

13

Minutes Played

2593

2313

2291

2145

2408

2233

2440

1434

Mins/Goal

118

121

143

143

160

172

188

110

So yeah, Lukaku is the best striker in the Premier League. If the Premier League is the “best league in the world”, Romelu Lukaku is the world’s best striker, guys! Take that, Messi!

And Lukaku’s not the only exciting young striker on Chelsea’s books. 17-year-old Islam Feruz has been smashing in the goals in the U21s, NextGen and Youth Cup for the Baby Blues, and he’s bagged 13 goals in 1409 minutes – a minutes-per-goal ratio of 108, better than anyone in the table including Lukaku! Patrick Bamford is another; he bagged four goals and six assists in his 10 games for the U21s, before heading off to MK Dons on loan. Bamford and Feruz have certainly both got the talent to make it at Chelsea, and either of them would make a great partner for Lukaku.

Our two U18 strikers, Reece Mitchell, Dominic Solanke and Chike Kandi have also shown plenty of promise, but the level of competition at U18 isn’t really strong enough to know whether or not a player will make it at the highest level. All the same, don’t be surprised to see Mitchell especially in the Chelsea squad in a few years’ time. They’ll obviously all need a few loans first, and we know just how beneficial that can be.

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