Chelsea Signing Samuel Eto'o: Which Striker Might Leave to Make Space for Him?
Samuel Eto'o was officially declared a Chelsea player on Thursday evening, having put pen to paper on a one-year contract. The veteran goal-poacher's arrival isn't exactly good news for the Blues' existing front-men, as it is likely that one of the trio will be offloaded to make space for the 32-year-old.
The announcement came just a couple of days after the Blues played out a dull draw with Manchester United, a game they started without a natural striker.
What transpired on that Monday night was probably not what the majority present inside the stadium had hoped for. The stalemate at Old Trafford certainly wasn't the best exhibition for English football.
Jose Mourinho's decision to field four attacking midfielders and no target man was perceived by some as a lack of ambition on the part of the Portuguese gaffer. It could, alternatively, also be indicative of the manager's dissatisfaction with the striking options at his disposal.
If we were to take an investigative look at Mourinho's selection over three Premier League games, we'd be excused for thinking he doesn't have much faith in any of the strikers he had available before the arrival of Eto'o. Be it Torres or Ba leading the line, the man lining up as striker always seems to cut a forlorn figure by the time he leaves the pitch.
Then there's Lukaku, who did ever so well at West Brom on loan, and also made an impression in preseason. For him, especially, chances in the team have come at a premium thus far. Has he not been able to impress Mourinho sufficiently in training?
It is clear that Mourinho believed bringing in Eto'o was imperative. What we may also conclude is that, with just over 48 hours to go before the close of the summer transfer window, the Chelsea manager could be exploring the possibility of letting one of Torres, Ba and Lukaku leave.
That would free up some space for Eto'o and also ensure that the Chelsea squad has three options for the centre-forward slot, which I reckon is the optimum figure.
Here I examine the case of each of the three strikers who could be offloaded to accommodate Eto'o.
3. Romelu Lukaku
Soon after completing a sensational return to Chelsea, Mourinho stated in explicit terms that Lukaku, along with Kevin De Bruyne and Tomas Kalas, was ready to be a part of the first team. As per Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail, Jose said:
After the development of the players on loan it is the right moment for them to be back. They are very young with space to develop, they will be better year after year and I can imagine in five years they are much better than today - but what they have today is more than enough to belong to this squad.
He spent the better part of last year honing his skills at the Hawthorns, under the tutelage of Steve Clarke, and finished an impressive sixth in the Premier League goalscoring charts with a tally of 17. It's highly unlikely that the Belgian striker will be farmed out on loan again. Mind you, there wouldn't be a shortage of interested parties.
The 20-year-old is as ready as can be for the big stage. Although both his Premier League appearances this term have seen him come off the bench, there isn't enough evidence to suggest that the manager won't eventually make Lukaku first-choice centre-forward. He poses an altogether different kind of threat compared to the other strikers on Chelsea's books.
His missed penalty in the Super Cup last night means nothing. If anything, I'd expect him to come back stronger from this difficult experience. Lukaku most certainly won't be the one making space in the squad for Eto'o.
2. Fernando Torres
Such has been his slump since moving to West London, Torres now doesn't get credit even when it's due. Truth be told, his output of 23 goals and seven assists in blue colors last season doesn't look too shabby.
Then again, statistics alone aren't sufficient grounds for defending the 29-year-old. Torres is no longer at the level of the league's finest marksmen. The likes of Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez are, simply put, a whole lot better than the Spaniard.
His reluctance to shoot regularly is rather perplexing, and consequently he doesn't force goalkeepers into saves often enough. In 36 league appearances last term, he mustered just 29 attempts on target.
While Darren Lewis of The Mirror reports that Chelsea are ready to listen to offers for their Spanish centre-forward, it is unlikely they'll manage to recoup a significant portion of the £50 million they signed him for. It will all boil down to what Mourinho has in mind.
His industrious display against Bayern Munich, which included a fine finish to put the Blues ahead early in the game, bodes well for "El Nino" going forward. He may still be sold off while the transfer market is open, but Torres definitely isn't the prime candidate for departure.
1. Demba Ba
For the second game running, Ba failed to even make it to the Chelsea bench. A start in the game against Aston Villa remains his only appearance. On that occasion, he struggled to take advantage of the opposition's high defensive line, time and again being flagged for offside. If there is a favorite to be guided to the exit door here, it is Ba.
Since signing for the club in January, he has chipped in with just six goals. Only two of those came in the Premier League. His output has been something of a disappointment, especially as he was in the running for the Premier League Golden Boot accolade midway through the 2012-13 season.
Ba has hardly been a quality alternative to Torres in his brief time at Chelsea. While it's fair to say that the Senegal international hasn't blown nearly as many opportunities as his Spanish colleague, he remains the likelier of the two to be offloaded. It appears that the manager just doesn't rate him.
With Sky Sports reporting that Ba's former club Newcastle United are an interested party, a year on loan with the Magpies appears likely. As per Adrian Kajumba of the Daily Star, West Ham are also keen on acquiring Ba, so Upton Park could just as easily be his next port of call. I personally wouldn't rule out a permanent move in either case.