Chelsea enter the summer transfer window manager-less and with a jaded looking squad; nothing that a little injection of Roman Abramovich's cash won't sort out, mind.
Whoever is brought in as Carlo Ancelotti's replacement will need to clear out a team that sparkled in its opening months of the last campaign but slumped alarmingly over Christmas. The likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba are all the wrong side of 30 and Michael Essien, Petr Cech and Nicolas Anelka aren't the players they were even two seasons ago.
For Anelka and Drogba, this summer could mark the end of their Stamford Bridge careers. Expect Jose Bosingwa, Yury Zhirkov and possibly Yossi Benayoun to also leave, with a number of youth players heading for the exit too, either permanently or out on loan.
Last summer's recruitment policy, focused on promoting bright talent from within the club'sWho youth set-up, yielded mixed results. Both Josh McEachran and Gael Kakuta broke into the First XI but failed to hold down permanent places. Similarly, Daniel Sturridge flattered to deceive before he was farmed out to Bolton in January.
Whoever takes charge at Stamford Bridge must hope that the potential can be coaxed out of these emerging talents. Likewise, Fernando Torres, with a full pre-season behind him, should start to look comfortable in Chelsea blue. It's a cliché, but he will look like a new signing come August.
These factors, aligned with three or four quality signings should see the Stamford Bridge outfit there or thereabouts, once again, next season.
In and Out
The entire squad is in need of rejuvenation after two summers of tinkering. With January's £74m outlay fresh in everyone's mind it's safe to assume that Roman Abramovich is in a spending mood again.
At the back, the club needs a quality right-back capable of complementing Ashley Cole on the opposite flank. Ajax's Gregory van der Wiel is a possibility, and would cost around £12m.
In the centre of the park, Michael Essien and Jon Obi Mikel both had mediocre campaigns -- one surprisingly, the other less so -- and a renewed energy is needed there. Rumours have linked Wesley Sneijder or Luka Modric to West London but Chelsea lack the glamour these days to attract a player like Sneijder and Modric is likely to view Old Trafford as a more promising destination given the history of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge. Kevin de Bruyn is a more realistic, cheaper target and would cost around £13m.
The emphasis placed on relative youth combined with experience -- as demonstrated by the January signings of David Luiz and Torres -- suggests a similar approach will be adopted in the summer.
With Didier Drogba linked with a move to Italy or France and Nicolas Anelka a shadow of his former self, the Blues are in need of a moody, domineering centre-forward. Romelu Lukaku, the 18-year-old Anderlecht striker, dubbed the new Drogba, would be the perfect replacement. The Belgium will cost the club in the region of £20m and is significantly cheaper than the Santos striker Neymar who looks to be Madrid-bound, judging by reports in today's papers.
As with the Torres transfer in January, there is always the possibility of an Abramovich-inspired box-office signing to please the Stamford Bridge faithful. Kaka looks an unlikely bet, the perpetually injured Real Madrid midfielder would be a risky investment even by Roman's standards and the Brazilian is said to favour a move back to Italy. Across town, however, perenial transfer gossip fodder Sergio "Kun" Aguero has dropped a series of unsubtle hints that he is after a move away from Athletico.
"Chelsea are a great club. They have become one of the most feared in Europe over recent years. London would be a really amazing city to live in as well - myself and my wife could be really happy there," he said.
The Argentine would cost anywhere upwards of £40m; still only 22, he would be an attractive proposition for Abramovich and his Chelsea toy.