How Chelsea’s £560m starting line-up could look after January – could this side qualify for Europe?

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How Chelsea's team might look once they've finished their business in the January transfer window.

The January transfer window isn’t always the frenzied hive of activity that we hope for, but one team who will almost certainly be busy this winter is Chelsea. Their free-spending attitude towards squad-building still hasn’t resulted in a coherent, fully-functional side and all the suggestions are that the Blues are keen to add yet more expensive talent to their ranks over the next few weeks.

To see what Mauricio Pochettino’s wildly-expensive side might look like for the second half of the season, we’ve assumed that at least a few of the more plausible rumours circling Stamford Bridge prove to be correct and built a starting eleven based on the new arrivals. The statistics suggest Chelsea aren’t playing that badly at all lately, but would this squad build on the raw numbers and catapult them back into the European reckoning?

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Goalkeeper – Robert Sánchez (£25m)

The Spaniard hasn’t completely convinced everyone since arriving from Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer, but seems likely to continue as Pochettino’s number one once he’s back from injury. There had been some mutterings that Chelsea would try to find a new goalkeeper, but it seems as though other areas have been deemed in more urgent need of investment – and having splashed some pretty extreme amounts of clash over the past couple of years, the club will have to be careful not to fall afoul of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules. They can’t buy everyone, basically, not that it’s stopped them from trying.

Left-back – Levi Colwill (academy graduate)

Chelsea might want to sell one or two home-grown players to help them balance the books, but Colwill has been their best defender this season and is probably one of the few truly unsellable players on the books. Whether his future lies on the left flank or in the middle once Ben Chilwell and Marc Cucurella are available again, he’ll be a regular fixture for some time to come, which is probably a very good thing.

Centre-back – Aitor Paredes (£20m)

Reports suggest that Chelsea are close to agreeing a deal with Athletic Club to bring 23-year-old centre-back to London, with the fee potentially rising to around £20m if the deal gets over the line. A technically-sound centre-half who’s also decent in the air, he’s a solid all-rounder with a solid passing game – and, crucially, he doesn’t make too many mistakes. Chelsea aren’t exactly short on centre-backs, but that clearly isn’t stopping them from planning some additions, and Paredes is one of the two most likely to arrive.

Centre-back – Ousmane Diomande (£69m)

The lavishly-gifted 20-year-old has played a starring role for Sporting this season and the rumour mill has Chelsea throwing everything at his signing despite the fact that his club has said he won’t be sold for a penny less than his €80m (£68.8m) release clause – although Todd Boehly will no doubt test that resolve before betting the house. It might not be a bad bet, mind you, because Diomande looks pretty special. Technically excellent, physically impressive and unflappable under pressure, it’s hard to poke many weaknesses in his game. Whether it’s at Chelsea or somewhere else down the line, he seems like a solid gold star of the future.

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Right-back – Malo Gusto (£31m)

The teenage full-back has been impressive since signing from Lyon on a long-term contract last January and while Pochettino has been playing him on both sides recently, we’ve stuck him down as a right-back for the purposes of crowbarring both of the alleged centre-back signings into this article. Gusto will need to keep his consistent upwards trajectory up for a while if Chelsea are going to get back into Europe, given the unfortunate Reece James’ seemingly endless struggles with injury.

Defensive midfielder – Enzo Fernández (£107m)

Of the blindingly expensive holding midfielders that Chelsea have signed since the takeover, Fernández has probably been the most consistent and impressive, even if he hasn’t quite been as consistently impressive as you might want for the money. Still, he has all the qualities you need in a box-to-box midfielder and at his best can be destructive at both ends of the field. Also one of the most impressive performers for the club from a statistical standpoint so far this season.

Defensive midfielder – Jordan Henderson (£12m)

Word on the grapevine suggests that Henderson is regretting his controversial decision to ship out to Saudi Arabia, and the Al-Ettifaq midfielder has been linked with a move to Chelsea. We have no real idea of how likely this one is, or how much it would cost - £12m is the fee his current club paid to Liverpool, and we’d guess they’d like to break even if they could, even if economics aren’t a massive issue in the Saudi Pro League these days. But even though he may be getting on a bit, his experience and intelligent use of the ball could make him a useful player for Chelsea, especially if they go against the wishes of the fanbase and sell Conor Gallagher to free up some spending room.

Attacking midfielder – Christopher Nkunku (£52m)

Chelsea haven’t really had a chance to figure out how to use the former RB Leipzig forward, given that he’s been injured for the vast majority of the campaign, so we’re slightly arbitrarily sticking him in the number ten slot, largely so we can make room for an expensive striker and make this article a bit more exciting. What’s wrong with a little sensationalism, anyway?

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Left winger – Mykhaylo Mudryk (£89m)

Obviously, Chelsea will continue to rotate their wide forwards pretty freely regardless of who they sign this January – they have too many of them to do anything else. Mudryk has at least started to find his feet, at least to some degree, and while it’s reasonable to say that he hasn’t paid back all of his meaty transfer fee just yet, there are some green shoots showing.

Right winger – Cole Palmer (£43m)

Chelsea’s best attacking player this season and a stone-cold revelation since signing from Manchester City. We recently named him the best young player in the Premier League right now, an accolade he’s absolutely earned. Whether he plays as a number ten or on the right, his creativity and confidence have made him indispensable to Pochettino’s side, and he’ll be playing somewhere in the starting eleven whatever happens.

Centre-forward – Victor Osimhen (£112m)

One thing that is clear is that Chelsea really, really want a new striker. Nicolas Jackson has struggled in front of goal, Nkunku is only just back from injury and arguably more of a support man anyway, and someone needs to pick up the slack when it comes to the scoring. It’s also pretty clear that Chelsea’s dream signing would be Nigeria international Osimhen, who seems to want out of Napoli but would cost an eye-gouging sum, with a release clause set at £112m. Can Chelsea’s accountants find a way to afford him? Would it really happen this winter? Or will they settle for second best in the hope of salvaging their season? We’ll find out soon enough, but one thing that’s not debatable is that Chelsea would be a completely different animal if they could buy Osimhen.

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