Not 48 hours had gone by since Chelsea FC suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Manchester City that the Blues were contacting FC Barcelona with a single-minded determination to secure the services of Spanish international Pedro.
On the face of it, Pedro Rodr guez seems little more than a panic buy – a desperate attempt to get the club’s season back on track following their worst start since 1998. Whilst there had been rumours of Chelsea FC interest in the Spanish international earlier in the summer, it is pretty clear that the Blues did not – until this week – make a serious attempt to sign the FC Barcelona winger.
The protracted transfer saga involving Pedro has finally come to an end: one that very few – Chelsea FC fans included – saw coming. Although it is entirely possible that it was only the Blues’ conspicuous lack of attacking verve against Manchester City that prompted manager Jos Mourinho to push for a deal for the Spaniard, the lack of depth in the three attacking midfield positions behind the striker in the Blues’ 4-2-3-1 has been of concern for a while now.
As such, although Pedro might seem – or even actually be – a ‘panic buy’, a multiple Champions League winner and World Cup winner signed for a very reasonable a 30 million will do little to harm Chelsea FC. The question is, of course, whether the 28-year-old can actually improve the side in any way. There are three key reasons why that might well be the case.
Pedro offers Chelsea FC something different to what they have
A closer look at the senior attacking midfielders Chelsea FC have – including Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Cuadrado and Victor Moses – reveals a key similarity between the players. Each of them is more comfortable with the ball at his feet rather than making runs off it.
When Andre SchA?rrle departed for Wolfsburg earlier this year, Mourinho lost someone with the ability to make intelligent runs off the ball, a player with the innate ability to arrive in the right place at the right time to score goals. The Blues, however, will not be missing this quality for much longer. Pedro is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet, but is also the type of player whose intelligent movement off the ball can really make a difference in the final third.
Thinking back to some of SchA?rrle’s goals – including his hat-trick against Fulham, his goals against Manchester City in 2013-2014 as well as 2014-2015 at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad respectively , and his first-time finish to round off a sumptuous team move against Burnley last season – there is an obvious similarity between the efforts. Each involved clever movement off the ball and the ability to anticipate where a pass or cross might be played by a team-mate.
Pedro’s time in the first team at FC Barcelona – right until his very last game – has shown that he too has the ability to do just that. An extremely under-rated quality in modern-day football, the innate ability to arrive in goalscoring positions at the right time has been something Chelsea have lacked since the departure of a certain Frank Lampard. Pedro is an opportunist in the penalty area, and his ability to score opportunistic goals will be a great asset to the Blues.
The Spaniard’s partnership with compatriot Cesc F bregas will also be intriguing to watch. It is not a mere co-incidence that it was F bregas’ exquisite pass that SchA?rrle latched on to, to score against Burnley in the opening game of last season. The former Arsenal captain will be delighted with the Blues’ signature of Pedro, given he absolutely thrives when playing passes from the edge of the area to players making runs ahead of him.
In this aspect, Pedro will now stand out amongst colleagues competing for the same spot.
Creativity in the Blues’ attack should improve with Pedro’s arrival
The past two seasons in particular have highlighted how dependent Chelsea are on Belgium international Eden Hazard for creativity. Unfortunately, on the evidence of past seasons, Oscar’s loss of form in the second half of a season seems little more than a fait accompli, as does that of Spaniard Cesc F bregas .
Willian is a major asset to Mourinho, but even the Portuguese has demanded more end product from the Brazilian, who has thus far failed to deliver. This is where Pedro comes in. The former Barcelona winger will not only help in terms of adding goals and assists to the team, but his directness, intelligence and passing ability should provide an attacking balance that the Blues have been sorely missing for a while now.
With Eden Hazard on the left and Pedro potentially on the right, Chelsea could finally strike a balance that would give opposition defenders pause for thought before making a decision to attempt to man-mark the Belgian out of the game.
As touched on before, the intelligence of Pedro’s movement off the ball will also be a major asset for the Blues, particularly for the likes of Hazard and F bregas, who have the passing ability to find the player making the run. In that sense, not only does Pedro add his own creativity to the attack, his presence in the team could also help the rest of the Blues’ attack in terms of creating goalscoring opportunities.
The versatility of the former Barcelona man also means that he can play anywhere across the attacking three, and even as the man up front in a ‘false 9’ position. Although Mourinho is unlikely to ever use him in that role, it can only help the Blues that their latest signing is able to plug several holes if required.
Good defensive work-rate a huge plus for Mourinho
Oscar and Willian have retained their places in the side over the likes of SchA?rrle, Salah and Cuadrado in no small part due to their defensive contribution and high work-rate. Pedro is a player who fits into that mould, even though his slight frame might deceive some.
The Spaniard is equally relentless when closing down the opposition, something that he was more than used to doing at Barcelona, particularly under Pep Guardiola. Whilst compatriot Cesc F bregas had to essentially re-learn how and when to press to play in the midfield pivot, Pedro potentially being drawn to his man and consequently being taken out of position will have a comparatively smaller impact on the defensive structure of the team as a whole.
Either way, Pedro’s defensive contribution will play a huge role in him establishing his spot in Mourinho’s starting XI, and retaining it over the course of the season. Willian might well be pushed inside, to the no.10 position, where he will have to compete with Oscar for a place in the side.
In Hazard, Willian and Pedro, Chelsea have pace aplenty and now a more balanced mix of attacking players behind the striker, who should help improve the Blues’ attack as a whole.
A reminder of the career trajectories of recent purchases in the right winger’s position might temper the excitement of the Stamford Bridge faithful somewhat, but the signing of Pedro – panic buy or otherwise – is a step in the right direction for the club.