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Chelsea’s depth chart: what is their succession plan for each position?

Another week, another teenager signing for Chelsea.

This time it’s Marc Guiu, an 18-year-old Barcelona forward who moves to Stamford Bridge on a six-year contract after the €6 million buyout clause (£5.1 million/$6.4 million at current exchange rates) in his previous deal was activated. The intention is to immediately include Guiu in the squad of new head coach Enzo Maresca, instead of letting him play youth football.

Don’t expect Chelsea to deviate from their youth-focused recruitment strategy anytime soon.

Co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley have been tasked by owners Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly to target the best young talent in world football, mapping out as many as four transfer windows in advance and planning the succession years in advance.

Chelsea’s aim is to reach a point where their team is never again short of elite talent in any area, regardless of which individual player is sold or leaves. Sounds amazing. So, where do things stand on that front?

In the full knowledge that further transfers, this summer and beyond, are likely to change the picture, The Athletics will take a closer look…


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Goalkeeper

Chelsea have quantity here rather than obvious elite quality. Robert Sánchez (26 years old) is an unconvincing number 1, which even loses him his place in the team Djordje Petrovic (24) for the second half of last season. It looks like Sanchez will now get another chance to establish himself under Maresca, but Winstanley and Stewart will have to look for a long-term answer.

Gabriel Slonina (20) needs more than his one season of European football experience with ultimately relegated Belgian top team Eupen in 2023-2024 before he can be considered a first-team option, and Lucas Bergström (21) also requires a lot more professional taste after spending most of the last two years on loan.

Left back/left wing defender

Most clubs would be happy with a fit Ben Chilwell (27) as their first choice on the left of defence, although that version of the 21-cap England international has become increasingly theoretical over the past two injury-hit seasons. A renaissance of Marc Cucurella (25) has raised hopes he can be a capable alternative, even if he never fully justifies the £63m fee paid for him in 2022.

The sale of 19-year-old Lewis Hall and the expected departure of 22-year-old Ian Maatsen have taken away the most obvious succession plans, but Chelsea have at least two academy graduates who they hope will join them in the next two to three years can develop into serious alternatives. . Ishe Samuels-Smith (18) is closer than that Somto Bonifatius (18) and has more clarity about his contract situation (see contract duration in the graph above).

Left central defender

Chelsea believe they have the two best players aged 23 or younger for this position, not Manchester City’s Josko Gvardiol. Levi Colwill (21) is considered untouchable and a possible future captain of the club, but Benoit Badiashile (23) will push him hard for starting minutes under Maresca and has plenty of fans around their Cobham training center despite relatively erratic form since joining from Monaco in January last year.

Behind them on the depth chart, Bashir Humphreys (21) is talented but has a less clear path to a first-team role after a difficult year on loan at Swansea City in the 2023/24 Championship, the second tier of English football. Samuels-Smith is also a strong future option here, while being positionally versatile Harrison Murray Campbell (17) wants to build on his positive progress in Chelsea’s development squad.


Levi Colwill (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Right central defender

The hierarchy is in flux here.

Chelsea would love it Wesley Fofana (23) to return to the level of form and fitness that convinced them to pay £70 million for him in the summer of 2022. If he does, this place could be his for a long time. If he can’t, Axel Disasi (26) provides a useful physical presence, while the new free-agent acquisition Tosin Adarabioyo (26) will have the advantage of being familiar with Maresca and his stylistic demands, as both have previously been at Manchester City.

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Proving people wrong is a recurring theme for Trevoh Chalobah (24) during his career at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea do not intend for him to become a key figure.

If a deal is completed for Argentine club Boca Juniors prospect Aaron Anselmino, the 19-year-old will become the obvious hope for the future of Chelsea’s defense.

Right back/right wing back

How much stronger can you be? Club captain Ree James (24) is one of the best full-backs in the world when fit, but even his lengthy absence last season wasn’t the disaster it might have been before, as Malo Gusto (21) grew into an above-average Premier League starter. Keeping them both happy could be the biggest challenge.

Josh Acheampong (18), who made his Premier League debut from the bench against Tottenham in early May, is highly rated internally at Chelsea as a third option behind James and Gusto. He is a key reason why parent company BlueCo chose to pursue Sport Recife right-back Pedro Lima as a signing for Chelsea’s French sister club Strasbourg, rather than with a view to an immediate signing at Stamford Bridge.

Defensive midfield

There are a whopping 115 million reasons why Moises Caicedo (22) He can be expected to operate in Chelsea’s midfield for years to come, following his big move from Brighton & Hove Albion last summer.

How the pecking order develops after him will partly depend on who Maresca prefers as No. 6 or No. 8, but the Italian’s technical focus is one factor in why Andrej Santos (20) is seen as a more likely first-team fixture than Lesley Ugochukwu (20)despite the Frenchman being signed for the significantly higher fee of the two in 2023.

Chelsea also has high expectations Ollie Harrison (16)who made the bench for the 1-1 Premier League draw against Manchester City in February, can continue to make progress in the development squad.

MOISES-CAICEDO-CHELSEA-


Moises Caicedo (Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Right midfielder/right winger

Perhaps it’s a good thing Chelsea haven’t signed Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise.

Cole Palmer (22) is the best player at Stamford Bridge after a stellar debut season, and while he can function as a number 10 or even a false nine, he has usually thrived from the right wing for then coach Mauricio Pochettino. Noni Madueke (22) improved over the course of 2023-2024, producing his most consistently impactful football in recent months.

The competition in this area of ​​the field will become even fiercer in 2025 with the arrival of two exceptional South American teenagers: Estevao Willian (17) And Kendry Paez (17) – although the former is mainly seen as number 10 (see below).

Omari Hutchinson (20) is an excellent candidate to be sold during this period to offset further recruitment Angelo Gabriel (19) And Diego Moreira (19) are talented enough to change the plan in a timely manner, both are most likely development projects undertaken with future sales in mind.

Central midfield

similar to Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez (23) will be a key part of this Chelsea project for as long as he wants.

If he can stay fit after a debut year almost entirely lost to injuries, Romeo Lavia (20) is expected to finally show why such a big investment was made in him last summer. Lavia’s health and success will become even more important if Conor Gallagher (24) will be sold in the coming weeks and months.

Chelsea’s most promising development team options are here Kianoverver (17) And Michael Gouding (18)but both are in the final two years of their contracts.

Left midfielder/left winger

Raheem Sterling (29) is the elder statesman of this team and also by far the highest paid player.

Chelsea would like to see him replaced in the starting XI before his contract expires in June 2027 and would be the dream scenario for Mychailo Mudryk (23) to be the man to do this, even if The Ukrainian remains a frighteningly flawed project.

It’s easy to understand why Tyrique George (18), the outstanding talent in the development squad, recently extended his contract until the end of the 2026-2027 season. Nothing here should scare him.


It is hoped that Mudryk will step up this season (Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Central attacking midfield

Christopher Nkunku (26) can be placed in almost any position in Chelsea’s attacking depth, but the Frenchman is best deployed as a forward. Carney Chukwuemeka (20) is more of a natural number 10 and hopes are high he can build on the quality he showed during an injury hit in 2023/24.

Estevao is the long-term plan here, though. Chelsea believe they have potentially signed the best Brazilian talent since Neymar emerged over a decade ago, and they want to give him the space to show his dazzling gifts once he arrives at Stamford Bridge next year.

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That specter on the horizon makes the prospects for others considerably bleaker. Cesar Casadei (21) could be sold if the right offer came along and it was difficult to see a path forward Leo Castledine (19)who was overlooked by Pochettino last season despite shining for the development squad.

All this is without thinking Omari Kellyman (18)who arrives from Aston Villa with a price tag of £19 million amid a swirl of PSR controversy.

Attacker

Nicolas Jackson (23) is a clear first choice after a mixed but ultimately promising debut season. Chelsea wants to push him to improve rather than upgrade him. It’s too early to know if teenager Guiu is the player who can do that, but Armando Broja (22) That won’t be the case as sales are likely to accelerate now that his Euro 2024 commitments with Albania are over.

David Datro Fofana (21) is another player who could be sold for a profit, after a relatively productive loan spell at Burnley in the second half of last season.

Divided Washington (19) looks set for more first-team opportunities after finding his feet in the development squad, but a prolific goalscorer in the academy Donnell McNeilly (18) could benefit even more in the long term if Chelsea can secure his future beyond next summer. Dujuan Richards (18) remains something of a development wildcard.

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(Top photos: Getty Images)