So what’s to become of Chelsea? In my mind, their situation is to an extend unprecedented and will make for exceptional theatre over the next couple of seasons. The rumors are flying of a “clear out” over the summer which for me would be a huge mistake. I recognize that such headlines are generally written to entice people to buy at the newsstand or click on a link. That said, you can never really tell with an owner who operates his real life club about the same way the average fantasy manager runs their fantasy team – with little real understanding of what makes a winning team in the real world.
You may recall that I wrote a few weeks back about how Arsenal’s big mistake in transitioning from “The Invincibles” to “The Next Generation” was that they cut ties to the previous generation with little overlap and even less shared experience with what it takes to succeed. By contrast each generation of Manchester United’s teams have had significant overlaps with only a portion of the team turning over at any given time. The younger guys win together with the older ones and as they enter their prime they can pass it along to the younger ones.
So what will Chelsea do? They have only really had one “core” of winning players. That core, made up of Cech, Terry, Cole, Essien, Lampard, and Drogba, has won a Premier League title as recently as last season but the question is whether you think that enough of that “next generation” is in place for them to have overlapped with.
Let’s evaluate how they stand by unit as they look to transition to their next wave of potential title winners.
There really is no back-up plan here. Not sure why that is but while United have overlapped a number of candidates – Kusczcak, Foster, etc. – to be prepared once EvdS leaves, Chelsea do not seem ready for Cech to depart or decline in any way shape or form.
The defense is in very solid shape with Alex, Luiz, and Ivanovic ready to take over from Terry and Carvalho. Terry probably has a couple more seasons in a role that becomes more and more limited by injury and ineffectiveness. They would certainly do well to improve on their wing options but they are certainly no worse than average with Zhirkov and Bosingwa/Ivanovic/Ferreira as their main options in the wide spots.
This has been a big issue for a number of years. As the Mourinho teams fade from glory Essien is really the only player who seems young enough to bridge the gap at a high level. Lampard is fading quickly. Mikel never really got started. Ramires looks like Nani did two or three seasons ago (in other words, he’s got a lot of developing to do). The big question is around Malouda. He seems to be the definition of a streaky player – he’ll be exceptional for month-long stretches but then disappear for similar stretches. That’s OK for a second tier player (think Ljungberg from the old Arsenal teams) but a player like that can’t be your best attacking midfield player. This position has been a worry for Chelsea for a while now and it needs attention quickly before the chance to pass along a winning tradition goes away.
Hard to tell what to make of things here. Drogba and Anelka are clearly fading and on their way out – how quickly is hard to tell, especially with Drogba. Torres, the man who was supposed to be the answer as the star man, needs to show something quickly or risk losing the confidence of the fans and his teammates. Sturridge is lighting it up at Bolton but you can never tell how a player will react to expectations growing. The road is littered with players who could score for mid-table teams but couldn’t get it done at the pressure increased (see Bent, Darren; Saha, Louis; Duff, Damien, Wright-Philips, Shawn, etc.).
With three of their four position groups potentially at risk – it seems like time for Chelsea to start making some decisions around who will make up the core of their next championship winning generation. Time is running out to ensure that those who know how to win pass along their knowledge and attitude.
We now take you to your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis:
Where this week we break down who plays twice and who doesn’t play at all to help you make some decisions as the season starts to wind down.
- Chelsea – Not only do they play twice but they play fairly weak opponents in West Brom (away) and Birmingham (home). If you have a limited number of slots for Chelsea players, I have to say I like their defenders/goalkeeper more in this situation than the attackers.
- Arsenal – Arsenal also have one home match and one away but theirs are a bit more difficult with Liverpool (home) seeming to be exactly the sort of team that will hurt the Gunners with a dominant aerial presence in Carroll and a crafty partners in Suarez and Meireles. The second match is the North London Derby with Spurs desperate for a win. Certainly not a walk in the park for Arsenal and I’d favor their attackers over their defenders.
- Birmingham – Their first match – home to Sunderland – looks pretty enticing as Sunderland limps toward the finish line. The problem is the second match where a trip to the Bridge looks daunting for attack-challenged Brum. I’d consider this to be more like 1.5 matches as opposed to 2.
Bolton, Fulham, Stoke, Wolves, and City. We’re at the time of year when I’d be looking to get rid of as many of these guys as you can. The time to hold player that you have at discounts has gone – live for the moment and make sure you’re getting the most out of your line-up.
Of the one-gamers, Everton and Blackpool are the most interesting to me as they are both home and facing bad teams (Rovers and Wigan respectively).
- Drogba – the best of a bad lot for Chelsea recently but the match-ups are good ones.
- RvP – He’s been playing better than Drogba and seems likely to get his points regardless of how things turn out for Arsenal across these two matches.
- Carroll – If you’re going for a one-gamer, he’s my bet against an Arsenal defense that is rotten at defending big forwards.
- Beckford – My back-up option from among the one-gamers
- Lampard – Watching last weekend, Malouda looked the MUCH more likely to make an impact but over two matches against lousy teams, I want Chelsea’s PK-taker in my team. I see at least one, if not two PK goals plus whatever else he produces from the run of play.
- Walcott – I see Wenger trying to speed things up and Walcott is the man to do it. This is even more important with Cesc and Nasri fading from fantasy relevance in the second half of the season.
- Wilshere – Inexpensive in most leagues, he’s on the verge of a breakout (I know, I’ve been saying it all season but this is the time to pick him up with two matches worth of opportunity)
- Gardner – Birmingham is a slow and (occasionally) steady type of team and Gardner is the personification of that – with doubt all around him with Zigic, Martins, and Bentley all in various stages of coming back from injuries Gardner has quietly been an effective fantasy player and my bet for value from Birmingham’s two matches.
- Adam – If you’re going for a one-gamer I assume you already have him but I’d keep him or get him if you’ve run out of slots for two-gamers.
- Luiz – Best combination of potential and price – his tendency to dive in and get one bad YC per match is a worry though.
- ACole – The best producer on the team whose defense has the highest potential this match week. He’s expensive but worth it this time around.
- Smalling – Very likely to continue starting in the league with Rio held out for Champions League engagements.
- Johnson – Another quiet point-producer from Birmingham – price is great and you have two cracks at points and one of them is a very solid chance for a clean sheet.
- Cech – really a no-brainer of a choice. I’d take him over Drogba to be honest if I were choosing premium-priced players from Chelsea. I like Chelsea’s chances of two clean sheets more than I like their forwards’ chances of really breaking out.
- Foster – All he does is put up great fantasy numbers while toiling for a poor team.
- Howard – Everton are pushing farther and farther up the table and Howard’s fantasy performances have been looking up – solid bet that he’ll get the clean sheet points at home against goal-shy Rovers.
- Cech – I generally don’t like captaining a keeper but he’s a great bet for a lot of points
- RvP – The best bet among attackers to do well over the course of two matches.
- Lamps – Did I mention I’m expecting some goals from the spot from Lamps?