Chelsea FC have had a solid – if unspectacular – transfer window with some much-needed strengthening in the attacking midfield department, but failure to strengthen in other areas of the squad might spell trouble
A sleepy, idyllic SW6 that was reflective of the Blues’ torpor in the transfer market early in the summer was never quite going to remain that after the first four rounds of the new English Premier League season highlighted some key shortcomings in the Chelsea FC squad.
In stark contrast to last summer, when Jos Mourinho was able to secure his main transfer targets early, the transfer window this time around seemed decidedly less strategic and more reactionary. Indeed, at least three of the Blues’ signings were like-for-like replacements for departing players, whilst the signings of certain defenders raised some eyebrows and much scorn.
While Marina Gransovskaia and co were able to pull off the excellent signing of former FC Barcelona winger Pedro, the lack of additions deeper in midfield are a cause for concern given the current form of the central midfield pairing of Nemanja Mati and Cesc F bregas.
Here is a look at how the Chelsea FC squad looks for the 2015-2016 season after the closure of the summer transfer window on the 1st of September:
The inevitable departure of Chelsea FC legend Petr A?ech made for a sobering start to the transfer window for Blues fans, particularly as he signed for city rivals Arsenal FC, strengthening a position that had been something of a problem area for the Gunners for a while.
However, those claiming the Blues’ munificence would cost them dearly had clearly not accounted for a certain Asmir Begovi . Quite simply, Mourinho could not have found himself a better second-choice goalkeeper than the former Stoke City stopper, who had made a name for himself as one of the more consistent keepers in the English top-flight in the past few seasons.
After selling 33-year-old A?ech to Arsenal FC for a little over A?10 million pounds, the signing of 28-year-old Begovi for A?8 million was excellent business from the Blues. The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has already showcased his ability, saving Mourinho’s men from an even more embarrassing scoreline against Manchester City at the Etihad with his first-half heroics.
Goalkeepers in the squad: Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begovi , Jamal Blackman.
Verdict: A- . Nearly flawless business as far as the goalkeepers are concerned, with the only slight negative being the transfer of A?ech to a potential title rival.
The Blues’ transfer dealings as far as defenders are concerned left a little to be desired. The pursuit of Everton youngster John Stones was ultimately unsuccessful – a major blow for Chelsea FC – although it is difficult to blame the club given their last offer for the centre-half was reportedly as high as A?38 million. It would seem the Toffees quite simply refused to sell at any price, despite the ‘accidental’ transfer request submitted by the 21-year-old Englishman.
The deadline day signing of Nantes centre-back Papy Djilobodji was understandably underwhelming for a majority of Blues’ fans, but given the success of the club’s Ligue 1 recruits over the years, perhaps it would be wiser to keep counsel until the Senegal international has played his first few games for Chelsea FC.
a Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 1, 2015
Mourinho also signed Ghanaian Abdul Baba Rahman from Bundesliga outfit Augsburg as a direct replacement for departing Brazilian international Filipe Lu s. The transfer of the Atl tico Madrid man was not the wisest move in retrospect, and Mourinho’s slightly unorthodox strategy of revealing that the 30-year-old would be returning to the Spanish capital days before the move was official was also confusing.
Chelsea FC were effectively announcing to the world that they were on the lookout for a left-back, something Augsburg seemingly took advantage of, squeezing an extra couple of million from the Londoners for 21-year-old Baba Rahman.
The Blues made another eyebrow-raising deadline day signing in the form of Reading centre-back Michael Hector. The 23-year-old Jamaican signed a five-year deal with the Stamford Bridge outfit before being loaned back to Reading for the season. The centre-half joins the ever-growing army of Chelsea FC loanees – 32 strong at last count – and will not be involved in Mourinho’s first-team squad this season.
Defenders in the squad: John Terry, Gary Cahilll, Kurt Zouma, C sar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovi , Papy Djilobodji, Abdul Baba Rahman.
Verdict: B- . Failure to secure Stones was a major blow, and the jury is still out on whether Djilobodji will be good enough to do a job for Mourinho. Although pricey, the signing of an attacking, naturally left-sided full-back in Abdul Baba Rahman is something Chelsea FC very much needed. The Hector signing was surprising, but certainly not damaging, and even though Filipe Lu s is one of the better left-backs in Europe, his limited game time for the Blues during his time at the club means that the Londoners are unlikely to miss him all that much.
The revolving door of Chelsea FC attacking midfielders saw the departures of Victor Moses on loan, as well as the likes of Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado, both of whom are on loan at AS Roma and Juventus respectively, but will likely make their moves permanent at the conclusion of their loan deals.
Importantly, however, these departing players were replaced with real quality in the form of Spanish international and World Cup winner Pedro, who joined from FC Barcelona after being heavily linked with the likes of Manchester United and to a lesser extent, Manchester City.
The 28-year-old has made a promising start to his career with the Blues, scoring a goal and assisting two in his first two games with the club. Along with Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian, it seems Mourinho finally has another attacking midfielder he can rely on, after the likes of Andre SchA?rrle, Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata failed to match his exacting standards.
Another signing that might just prove to be a bargain for Chelsea FC was that of Brazilian teenager Kenedy from Fluminense for a fee of around A?6 million. The 19-year-old impressed in his d but against Crystal Palace last Saturday and was singled out for praise by his manager after the game. The Brazilian U20 international looks to be every bit a ‘Mourinho’ player with his pace, strength and raw determination on the pitch pleasing to see.
It is the lack of signings deeper in midfield, however, that is cause for concern. The current first-choice pairing of Nemanja Mati and Cesc F bregas have evidently not been in their best form, and even otherwise, the addition of a quality box-to-box midfielder to add that extra bit of steel to the Blues’ midfield, particularly for the bigger games, could have been a big help to Mourinho.
The likes of Ramires and John Obi Mikel look like they have already seen the best days of their Chelsea FC career, and a quality signing for central midfield would have been the ideal way to freshen up the squad further. The one big positive from this, however, is that academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek should now find it that much easier, in theory, to get more playing time – something that would have been more difficult to come by with the signing of a Paul Pogba or even an Axel Witsel.
The Blues also signed another Brazilian attacking midfielder in Nathan, who was promptly loaned to Dutch feeder club Vitesse along with 18-year-old midfielder Danilo Panti , who signed from Partizan Belgrade.
Midfielders in the squad: Nemanja Mati , John Obi Mikel, Ramires, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Cesc F bregas, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Pedro, Willian, Kenedy, Bertrand TraorA?.
Verdict: B- . The addition of Pedro will finally bring some real incisiveness to the Blues’ attack as well as increase the depth, whilst Kenedy has been a revelation so far. A strong, box-to-box midfielder would have made it a perfect window for Chelsea FC, but unless Mourinho can find a fix to that problem against the better sides in Europe, his side will likely struggle to control the midfield.
Mourinho’s job as far as his strikers are concerned was pretty straight-forward. Didier Drogba departed Stamford Bridge as a legend once again after playing his part in the Chelsea FC title win, and with Diego Costa and LoA?c R my already part of the squad, the Portuguese merely had to find a replacement for the Ivorian.
Radamel Falcao was seen as the best fit for that role, with a loan deal being agreed with AS Monaco for the Colombian international early in the summer. Although Chelsea FC fans understandably greeted the signing with some trepidation, the former Porto striker has been fairly decent so far, scoring his first goal for the club last weekend against Crystal Palace with an excellent diving header.
There were some calls for Championship Player of the Year Patrick Bamford to get the nod as the Blues’ third-choice striker, but the club saw it fit to loan him out to Crystal Palace, where he faces an uphill battle to establish himself in the starting line-up.
Strikers in the squad: Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao, LoA?c R my
Verdict . : A- . Although many will have written off Falcao after his poor spell at Manchester United in 2014-2015, the Colombian makes for a decent back-up choice and an excellent substitute to bring on when the team is chasing a result, as was proven against Crystal Palace. His predatory instincts and intelligent movement in the penalty area will be crucial against defences that are sitting deep to preserve a scoreline against Mourinho’s men.
OVERALL VERDICT: B.
All in all, Chelsea FC have made some promising signings for the future in the form of Kenedy and Abdul Baba Rahman, as well as top signings that can contribute straight away in Pedro, Falcao and Begovi . It is very difficult to predict how much of an impact Djilobodji will have, although one gets the feeling that if he is unsuccessful, the Blues’ failure to sign Stones could once again become the main talking point.
That, along with the failure to sign a central midfielder are the two biggest negatives from the window, although very few Chelsea FC fans will be complaining if Djilobodji impresses and Ruben Loftus-Cheek sees more minutes on the pitch.
It promises to be an intriguing season for the Stamford Bridge outfit and their new recruits, who will be hoping to get more starts and time on the pitch with the return of domestic and European cup football after the current international break.
Despite the anticlimactic end to the Blues’ transfer window – with fans dreaming of Paul Pogba and John Stones in the last week – it has been a decent summer of business for the incumbent champions, who will be hoping to get their season back on track as soon as possible with the aid of their new recruits.