In recent years, Chelsea’s involvement in the transfer window has been characterised by massive expenditure, controversy and unexplainable surprises with the extraordinary wealth and unrelenting ambition of Roman Abramovich, synonymous with all the above, behind it all. Therefore it is no surprise that this summer has seen them spend £66 million, whilst two singings in particular sparked mass debate throughout the footballing world. Also, it is not just new players who have arrived to Chelsea this summer, but perhaps the most significant ‘new’ face at Stamford Bridge this season is that of The Special One himself, Jose Mourinho. There is no doubt that the new managerial appointment caused widespread jubilation amongst the Chelsea fans yet whether this ecstasy was still present by the end of the window becomes a much more complex matter when focussing solely on the changes to the playing staff.
I’d like to frame this article around Chelsea’s perpetual pursuit for a striker, the one position which many people believe is preventing them from becoming an all conquering force in the Premier League once again. The likes of Torres and Ba have arrived, and although for remarkably different prices, have both have failed to restore Chelsea’s domestic dominance, which saw them lift their last Premier League trophy 3 years ago.
Now, bearing this argument in mind, deciding whether Chelsea had a successful transfer window is conducive to deciding whether Samuel Eto’o can spearhead a dormant Chelsea frontline, or if in fact his arrival from Anzi is a piecemeal solution after their very public failure to land Wayne Rooney from title rivals Manchester United. Samuel Eto’o was a world class striker, and there is no doubt that when he was playing for Inter Milan and Barcelona before them, he was amongst the best in the world. However, time has passed and whether Eto’o, at the delicate age of 32, is the world beater he once was remains to be seen, especially when casting your mind back to his performances against Liverpool in the Europa League not too long ago, in which he looked disinterested and well off of the pace.
In his prime, Eto’o’s game was characterised by blistering pace and clinical finishing, and whilst perhaps his technical attributes may still be of the highest level, my concern lies with his physical state and if he will be able to compete at the level Chelsea want him to in one of the most challenging and physically demanding leagues in the world. Yet, there is a saying that class is permanent and when considering this in conjunction with the rekindling of his amicable relationship with Mourinho, although not being the first name of Chelsea’s shopping list this summer, Samuel Eto’o could well be a pleasant surprise for Chelsea fans this season.
Chelsea’s wealth too has always ensured they are considered to have one of, if not the strongest squad in the Premier League, and again even when seeming to have fierce competition for places already, they have managed to bring in players of the highest calibre. Andre Schurrle and Willian are the only other signings I can see playing a prominent role in Chelsea’s first team this season, however despite their immense qualities, Chelsea’s decision to add to an already well populated area of the team may in fact have a detrimental effect on their team. We have already seen the potential disaster this abundance of names could have as the best player in their team last season has been unable to cement a place in the starting lineup.
The omission of Juan Mata is a puzzling conundrum for any footballing fan and whether he is to reassert himself as the first name on the team sheet remains to be seen. Yet, I believe the signings of Willian and Schurrle, in conjunction with the return of Kevin de Bruyne, poses the question whether Chelsea are guilty of singing players for the sake of signing them (especially when considering the bizarre and somewhat unexpected transfer of Willian from under the noses of Spurs and Liverpool), rather than focussing on improving the areas in most need of reinforcement and whether this overpopulation of certain areas will hinder their pursuit of silverware this season.
All in all, I think due to the money Chelsea spent, as well as the high profile of some of the players brought in, many would be quick to say Chelsea have done well in this summer’s transfer window. I would agree that Schurrle and Willian are good players, I also think Chelsea have signed some exciting young talent in van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem) and Atsu (Porto) who has been sent out on loan. However, I think there are a number of factors which suggest that this window wasn’t all rainbows and ponies for the Blues. Firstly, yes, Chelsea have seen the return of possibly their most popular ever manager, yet they have also witnessed a failure to secure the signature of Wayne Rooney. Not only does this have negative effects in terms of not finding the world class centre forward they were looking for, it means that Manchester United have retained a prize asset, one which will surely have an indirect impact on Chelsea’s quest for another league title. Secondly, they have not strengthened areas of the pitch that needed strengthening. They sent Lukaku back on loan, who despite his age was more impressive than both Torres and Demba Ba last season, thus casting more doubt over the potency of their options upfront. Also, many people have neglected their lack of defensive options, as even though Mourinho has been extolled for his ability to keep clean sheets, John Terry is not the player he was 4 years ago and with the unpredictability of David Luiz, as well as the lack of depth in these positions, a few injuries means their lack of recruitment in this area of the pitch may have a grave impact on Cheslea’s ability to close out games this season.
There is no doubt Chelsea have a strong squad and they have indeed added quality players to it. However, whether these are the right players, or even the players Chelsea originally wanted will very much be reflected by where the finish this season, especially considering the huge amount of expectation piled on them already.
The Special One? Shame you don’t play upfront.