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Goal.com's transfer special series studies the options for Chelsea...

Chelsea's recent dealings in the transfer market have been the subject of external scrutiny as the alleged "inducement" of French teenager Gael Kakuta was punished with a FIFA-enforced transfer embargo. However, the European Court of Arbitration of Sport suspended the Stamford Bridge outfit's transfer ban, and the appeal is not expected to be heard until well into the New Year.

Like the forgetful city-workers and procrastinating students who flock to London's Oxford Street shops on Christmas eve to gobble up gifts, a frenzied assault on the winter window is expected to be a tactic adopted by the Blues in order to reduce the damage that an imminent transfer ban could bring.

Carlo Ancelotti, though, has alluded to the possibility of an inactive January when it comes to acquisitions: "I'm very happy with the squad, these players, and it's not necessary at the moment to take new players," and claimed that his squad, injuries permitting, even cope with the respective absences of John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou. "I know we will lose four in January but if we maintain the players' fitness we can do a good period also without the African players."

Chelsea stormed to the top of the Premier League table in a convincing manner under the fresh tutelage of Ancelotti, the sixth full time boss during the Roman Abramovich-led era, after collecting maximum points from their opening six Premier League games.

Three losses in the division, however, are perhaps an indication that there are flaws in the west Londoners' approach that Ancelotti is yet to remedy. Recent criticism has been levelled at the midfield diamond, something that was initially believed to have shone, but is beginning to appear "fugazi" due to the narrowness that the four play to.

Frank Lampard - one of the league's most consistent goal-scorers - is yet to consistently dazzle in the new formation, and only Florent Malouda provides width from midfield. At first, Frank was accommodated at the tip of the diamond, but has since been shifted deeper. When he is fielded on the right, he neglects to hug the touchline and elects to position himself more centrally.

Should Ancelotti persist with his variant of the 4-4-2 formation then he may need to act in the winter window in order to find a player already schooled in the art of wing-play on the right, rather than forcing one of his greater assets out of position.

Chelsea have also developed a trend of dropping points due to a failure to sufficiently defend set-pieces, with Ancelotti even making public his own dissatisfaction of this deficiency after the 3-3 draw with Everton.

Goalkeepers

Minimal transfer rumours have been inked over the goalkeeping position despite head-guarded shot-stopper Petr Cech feeling the ire of supporters and pundits due to continued struggle for form.

Carlo Ancelotti, though, remains unfazed, and said: "Everyone at the club thinks we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

"I certainly do," he added: "He is a very professional player and maintains a good control when he does the right things or bad things."

Due to the link between owner Abramovich and his homeland, Russia, a move for CSKA Moscow captain Igor Akinfeev, may not be surprising. The 23-year-old has built up a solid reputation since breaking into the Armeytsy first team at the age of 17, but his capture would surely signal the sale of Cech.

Cech is low on confidence, can be tested under dead-ball situations when put under pressure, but can be nurtured back to a strong run of form. Akinfeev, though, may not be on the market forever as Manchester United look to replace veteran glovesman Edwin van der Sar.

Defence

Everton's rising star Jack Rodwell and Bolton Wanderers defender Gary Cahill have been sounded out as viable transfer options for Carlo Ancelotti should the Italian tactician decide to bolster his backline.

While Portugal international Ricardo Carvalho, bought from Porto for almost £20 million, has been linked with a move to Real Madrid to join compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo.

The likeliest to occur in January could be Rodwell who, despite being utilised as a midfielder in David Moyes' Toffee line-up, has been hailed as a potential successor to Rio Ferdinand in Manchester United's rear-guard.

What Chelsea may admire in the player is his versatility, especially as the two players who are best deployed at the base of Ancelotti's diamond - Obi Mikel and Essien - will both be absent for three weeks in January due to their involvements in the African Cup.

A luxury buy on an anchoring midfielder would be blind-sighted as it would be near impossible to accommodate the acquisition into the team when Obi Mikel and Essien return to the Bridge, however, due to the perceived ease of Chelsea's January fixture list, Rodwell could be a smart buy.

He is one for the future, would up the club's home-coached quotas in the Champions League competition, and can also provide cover in defence.

Paulo Ferreira, meanwhile, should be deemed surplus to requirements and duly offloaded.

Midfield

Continuing the theme of young blood, two of the many midfielders who could make an impact in SW6 would be Le Mans' versatile right-sider Sebastien Corchia and Napoli's talented Slovak Marek Hamsik.

Corchia can provide competition for Jose Bosingwa's right-back role, as well as adding depth to the midfield.

The narrowness of Chelsea's diamond could be expanded with wing-play, and Corchia can add to that. Corchia penned a new deal with his Ligue 1 employers, but his rising status as a future star, his defensive nous and versatility, could render a swoop well-founded.

Hamsik, meanwhile, has been oft tagged in the past as a "Frank Lampard" type player, and the burgeoning box to box midfielder, 22, is of the right age to begin to challenge Lampard should he elect to choose the Blues over apparent interest from Manchester United.

Hamsik, though, may warrant a bountiful cheque in order to release him from the grasp of Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis; a man who fully intends on keeping the player on the west coast of Italy.

Chelsea have also been linked with moves for Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson, Inter outcast Patrick Vieira, Bayern Munich attacker Franck Ribery, Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure, and Roma battler Daniele De Rossi.

Attack

Atletico Madrid magician Sergio Aguero, a prolific goalscorer and goal creater in the Spanish capital, is alleged to have come agonisingly close to sealing a switch to Stamford Bridge in the summer, and the Argentine starlet continues to attract interest.

The speculation was further escalated when the two sides met in the Champions League group game, with Blue fans witness to what Aguero could do for them as he fired in a well-struck free kick.

Valencia's David Villa has also been mooted as a viable option as the Spanish hotshot is not cup-tied in the Champions League and Los Che's ambiguous finances could guarantee speedy negotiations.

The plight of Mario Balotelli, though, has reportedly piqued the interest of Premier League managers, with Arsene Wenger a known admirer of the fiery forward. Balotelli, like Aguero, is a good age for Chelsea.

Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka are both enjoying rich veins of form yet they are the wrong side of 30. Balotelli, 19, can still be developed, and even a player-plus-cash transfer for the Inter prodigy could persuade Jose Mourinho to do business with his former club should Chelsea throw Salomon Kalou into the deal.

IN (4): Jack Rodwell (Everton), Sebastien Corchia (Le Mans), Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Mario Balotelli (Inter).

OUT (2): Salomon Kalou, Paulo Ferreira.


Preferred Line-Up (4-4-2)

Cech

Bosingwa   Alex   Terry   A.Cole

Essien Lampard
       J.Cole                           Malouda  

Drogba    Anelka

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