Chelsea has done a very nice job stockpiling a number of young and talented midfielders so far during this summer transfer window in Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar, but does the club still need to go out and get another striker?
With Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka now long gone and both playing for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Premier League, the Blues' pecking order at the position now is Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku, which begs the critical question: Is that good enough?
All three players have their good points and their bad points.
Torres has repeatedly said he’s ready to take over the spot for Drogba, and if manager Roberto Di Matteo decides to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, then El Niño is undoubtedly the starter in that spot.
Chelsea have pretty much built their attacking unit around the reality that Torres will be the go-to guy upfront, but after a choppy start so far at Stamford Bridge, the jury is still out on whether or not the 28-year-old will be what management thought he could be when they signed the former Liverpool star to a five-and-a-half year deal worth £50m in January of 2011.
The Spaniard says he is up for the challenge this season.
"I am looking forward to it," Torres told the club's official website. "I like the responsibility and it's a thing I've been doing all my life.
Torres struggled through much of last season, scoring only 11 goals in all competitions in primarily a backup role to Drogba.
For the European champion Blues to shine, Torres will need to get off to a good start, get into the offensive flow better and score at least 15 goals this time around to regain both his and management’s confidence.
Sturridge, who scored a wonderful goal in Great Britain’s 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, has always been full of promise and tied with Frank Lampard for the club lead in goals (11) last season in English Premier League play.
But anyone who watched closely could see that Sturridge, like Torres, often had trouble putting quality shots on target—often missing by yards—and also failed to find wide-open teammates with passes near the goal, which eventually resulted in the 22-year-old being bumped from the Blues' starting XI on a permanent basis.
Lukaku, deemed by some as the next Didier Drogba, has still really failed to live up to that lofty billing. Although the 19-year-old played a good game against the Seattle Sounders (two goals) in Chelsea’s opener on the preseason American tour, he looked very average, at best, in the next three matches.
The Belgian international, who started just one EPL game last season for the club, has reportedly said that he wants to go out on loan if he is not selected to the first team this season, and rumors of a season-long loan to Fulham have now emerged.
The two teams have agreed on the basic terms of the proposed deal, with both said to be willing to share Lukaku’s wages, much like they did with Gaël Kakuta in the second half of the 2010-11 season.
So Lukaku could quite possibly be headed to Craven Cottage for the season, and Di Matteo has said he would reveal his decision on that matter after the American tour, meaning an announcement could be coming in the not-too-distant future.
Time will soon tell.
As far as potential candidates to come to west London, there have been many offers and much speculation but no results as of yet.
Forward/winger Hulk, coveted as the biggest target this summer, could fit the bill, but the Brazilian’s release clause from Porto is unbelievably high. Although he has said he wants to play for Chelsea, it looks as if he will stay put at Porto and has said his future rests "in God's hands."
The 25-year-old sensation scored 57 goals and had 36 assists over the last two seasons for Porto in the Portuguese Liga and is now playing for Brazil in the Olympics, so it seems that ship has pretty much sailed. Past reports indicate that the two clubs haven’t even held talks.
The guy I think would be the best fit and be the most productive for the Blues is Robert Lewandowski, but the club’s £17 million offer for the Borussia Dortmund star was recently rejected, according to ESPN. Recent reports have indicated Chelsea needs to double that amount if they really want him.
The 23-year-old Polish striker, who is under contract until 2014, scored 22 goals in the Bundesliga last season and has told the media in Poland (via above ESPN link), "The Premier League is a league that I would like to play in, and I hope it happens sometime. Although I am happy at Dortmund, I always like to aspire to greater heights."
So, like with Hulk, money and leaving a quality team are the issues. With other quality EPL clubs also rumored to be seeking his services, I would simply pay the piper for Lewandowski and get him in the fold as soon as possible.
Although he has said that English soccer may be in his future, Napoli’s Edinson Cavani recently ruled out a move to Stamford Bridge and will be staying put in the Serie A. Meanwhile, Wigan Athletic have rejected a £6.5m (plus add-ons) offer for Victor Moses, with Latics owner Dave Whelan saying Chelsea needs to pay £10m to land the 21-year-old Nigerian.
Maybe the best striker in the EPL, Arsenal’s Robin van Persie (30 goals last season)—who said no to a three-year, £130,000-a-week contract offer from the Gunners earlier this summer—is on the market. But it seems Manchester United may be fairly close to signing the Dutchman, who reportedly wants the same £220,000-a-week wages as Wayne Rooney.
So, with Hulk and Cavani seemingly pretty much out of the picture at this point in time and Chelsea not even on van Persie’s radar, it seems the only thing management can do if it wants another quality striker right now is to offer more money to Borussia Dortmund for Lewandowski or to Wigan for Moses.
With Torres, Sturridge and Lukaku all fairly big variables at the position, if I were owner Roman Abramovich I would go out of my way right now to pay the reported £35 million for the 23-year-old Lewandowski, who has also been linked with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.
Better to get a guy of his caliber during this summer spending spree than let an opponent who finished above you in the table last season, like the Gunners, Red Devils or Spurs, grab him and then come to regret it should Torres and Sturridge flounder.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11
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