It was a rather symbolic gesture when Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech dispersed away from the rest of the Chelsea squad to applaud the Stamford Bridge crowd on Saturday evening, following Chelsea’s goalless draw against Norwich. It was a dividing of the past and the future of Chelsea’s squad, and questions arose of whether this really was the end for Chelsea’s old guard.
Cole, Terry and Lampard are all out of contract at the end of the season, and it remains to be seen whether their contracts will be renewed. When Mourinho was asked about whether they would be renewing their contracts, he responded by saying, “Again, they are talking to the club on their future. I think so. I think so. But now it’s time to wait a little bit.” Not exactly clear then.
The question we should ask ourselves is this: Will the aforementioned players be missed by Chelsea should they leave?
Ashley Cole is a vastly experienced left-back, and at one time, he was amongst the very best in world football. But, in the past couple of seasons, he has struggled. His defending has been shaky, and his bombing runs down the left are a thing of the past. Cesar Azpilicueta has kept him out of the team for the majority of this season, and he has looked more than capable of replacing Cole. Cole would not be sorely missed by Chelsea.
Frank Lampard has not really looked good enough this season. He has often looked out of sorts, and unable to keep up with the pace of the game. He has only managed eight goals in forty appearances for Chelsea this season. He is not the player he was. With Ramires, David Luiz, Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel Chelsea certainly have the players to replace Lampard.
It looks as if John Terry may well stay at Stamford Bridge, with both Chelsea and the Terry camp in negotiations over a new contract. Chelsea do have the likes of Gary Cahil, Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz to play at centre-back should talks break down. Still, it would be a great loss to Chelsea if their talismanic captain leaves. His performances this season have shown that he can still play at the highest level, and lead Chelsea through another season.
Petr Cech’s future will very much depend on the situation with Thibaut Courtouis. If the giant Belgian returns to Chelsea, Cech may well be replaced as Chelsea’s number one. However, even if Courtouis does return to Chelsea, it is unlikely that Jose Mourinho would want to show Cech the door. Cech’s experience and consistency are second to none.
If there is one conclusion to draw, it is that the main benefit these four veterans bring to Chelsea is their experience. Chelsea, however, are a club rebuilding, restructuring and evolving. Mourinho has said this much.
If Chelsea want to look to the future and really build a new squad, they must make tough decisions. Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard have been brilliant servants to Chelsea, but they cannot be kept at the club purely on a sentimental level. Considering what they can actually bring to Chelsea in the long run, and their performances this season, they do not really warrant new contracts. It looks as if John Terry and Petr Cech will remain at the club which is good news. But, in the not too distant future, the time will come when they too must leave if Chelsea are going to truly evolve and move forward.