Date: 15th May 2006 at 12:12pm
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Part Two of my Close Season Review. Up front is a massive conundrum…

It would appear that Crespo is indeed back off to Italy, and it seems likely that Carlton Cole will also be sold, as he has failed to take advantage of the chances he has had this season. Drogba will stay, having redeemed himself for his extremely unpopular antics earlier in the season. There is a huge questionmark over the future of Gudjohnsen, as the majority of appearances he has made in the last two years have come from attacking midfield. Towards the end of the season, Jose took to playing Robben in this role, as a withdrawn striker, and with Michael Ballack added to the mix, the prospects for Eidur do not look good. He would like to stay, and seems to be content to fight for his place with everyone else, but I just has this funny feeling that if a big offer came in for ‘The White Maradona’, then we will let him leave. Whoever we sign must be able to play on his own up front. This was something that, for all his subtleties and undoubted skill, Crespo never really got to grips with. Conversely, this is the main reason Drogba commanded the fee he did when he arrived. He can and does lead the line as a targetman very well. He offers a different alternative and this makes us difficult to play against. I’ve seen a number of rumours over strikers, and these are most puzzling. What are we to make of these much-vaunted gunslingers?

Ibrahimovich can play on his own up front, doesnt score enough goals, can be lazy and petulent sometimes, and is increbibly skillful, but often has a poor first touch. He is very big, very strong, very powerful, and goes to ground laughably easily. He is pretty much Drogba’s white, Swedish twin. Yes, he is suited to the Premiership, and he is probably all-round better player than Drogba, but do we need him? I think yes. I think he is a better finisher than Drogba and has more of a natural way of ghosting away from his marker, much more like Crespo in this regard. I think his natural ability with the ball at his feet would make him extremely popular with the Stamford Bridge faithful. He is capable of the truly, Zola-esque sublime, in the way that Drogba isnt really. I think with our formation, we need someone like this, and he would be about as good as we are likely to find. His laziness and often wildly inaccurate shooting is nothing new, and if Jose can improve him on either count, then we’ve got a player on our hands. It should be borne in mind he is only 24. He can only improve. He would be my first choice.

Shevchenko is, in my opinion, the best striker in the world. He is an awesome finisher, and thats why we are being heavily linked. How many times have we heard someone sat behind us at the Bridge mutter something about how if we had someone who could actually stick them away we’d be out of sight by now… The fact is, Shevchenko used to be the best. He is 30 now, and although the electrifying burst of pace and immaculate first touch is still there, he is still injury prone, and possibly a little lightweight for the rigours of Premiership life. He has done well everywhere he has played for being cool and lethal with either foot, but will he find that in England, having less time on the ball will create problems? Crespo found this, and he was as good as Shevchenko not so very long ago. Shevchenko does not play on his own up front as effectively, and traditionally has done much better for Milan when Inzaghi, Amoruso, Gilardino, or Thomsson have played alongside him. How will he fare at Chelsea, where it is extremely unlikely he will have someone playing off his shoulder? It is difficult to say. He will cost silly money, and his best years are probably now, or in the recent past. Will this deter Roman Abramovich; a known fan and personal friend of Shevchenko, from buying him? Unlikely. On the plus side, he is probably the type of striker Jose wants – he works hard, and does as he is told. He doesnt disrupt things, and he can tackle back. He is also the most lethal finisher on the planet, and it is difficult not to get all warm and fuzzy over the thought of him revelling in the supply from Cole, Lampard, Ballack, Essien, Duffer, and Robben etc.

Carlos Tevez is, like Fernando Torres at Atletico, a fine prospect. Both are capable of being the best in the World. Tevez is the smaller and quicker, whilst Torres is bigger and more powerful. They are hungry, driven, and dynamic. They are good all-round players, with games based on raw agression, allied to pace, lethal finishing, and the skill to do the unexpected. Neither have a strike rate that reflect their impact on games, and their influence on their respective teams, but both are very young, and this will likely come with more experience, although both are well-established in the Argentina and Spanish national squads respectively. Neither nationality has a very good record in the Premiership, and this will be uppermost in Chelsea’s mind when they study both players.

What of home-bred strikers then? None immediately spring out. I would like Defoe as someone to come on and run at players and add urgency up front, and there is no doubt he is technically a top class player. I have always rated Defoe, and i think he would be an excellent option to have in the squad, particularly if we are faced with a less-mobile back line that requires raw pace and aggressive, dynamic running to unlock. I also think Dean Ashton has the class to make the step up, and he is an instinctive, powerful finisher. He would score a lot of goals for us as he is Premiership-wise and when the chances come, he is likely to stick them away. Has he got the international class to do the business in the Champions League? Not sure, but i’d be inclined to play Drogba in those games anyway, and the Premiership and domestic Cups account for many more games. Definately worth a look, although will cost daft money.

Last but not least, I really think Scott Sinclair, our own Theo Walcott-a-like, is ready to step up and do the business. The kid has it all, and with the chance, I am sure he will shine. Phil Younghusband will probably also get a squad number, and it would be nice if Jose gave one or both a chance to shine.