I'm not always inclined to agree with him, but former Premier League star Robbie Savage makes some valid points in his latest column for the Mirror. The Welsh pundit reckons that Chelsea have, in Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois, farmed out two of their finest players on loan.
He attributes the club's struggles in part to its decision to let this pair spend yet another season away from Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, it's hardly preposterous to suggest that the Blues would have been better off holding onto this Belgian duo for the 2013-14 season.
This got me thinking.
While Lukaku and Courtois are players Chelsea could really use right now, there are a number of others the Blues are being linked to by the press. With the January transfer window on the horizon, though, this can't be catching anyone by surprise.
Here, I will examine the numerous rumors making the rounds lately and assess the necessity of reinforcements in specific positions.
While Chelsea prepare to browse the transfer market for a forward who can actually put the ball in the back of the net, Romelu Lukaku's form continues to remind us of the peculiarity of Jose Mourinho's decision to let Everton have him for the season.
The prolific Jackson Martinez has enjoyed links with Chelsea in recent times, per John Cross of the Mirror. So has, unsurprisingly, Monaco man Radamel Falcao, according to Barry Glendenning of the Guardian. Even so, is there really a need to splash the cash on expensive short-term solutions when the West Londoners already own a 20-year-old striker who's busy setting the Premier League alight? If it's deemed necessary to buy a striker in January, Mourinho should look for a stopgap signing till Lukaku returns to SW6.
In all honesty, though, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba are center-forwards good enough to hold fort till next term. Especially in light of the fact that defensive frailty is more likely to derail the Blues' title challenge than goal-shy strikers.
As per Savage in the Thursday column mentioned earlier, there's also the small matter of poor set-piece defending. How much of that is really down to the defenders the Blues have? John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic are all towering presences at the back; the aforementioned trio have, incidentally, always been strong in the air.
Part of the blame has to go to the goalkeeper. Petr Cech has come off his line on a number of occasions when he didn't need to, causing confusion in the back line. The Chelsea custodian doesn't seem to be as authoritative and in control as he once was. Maybe he would've benefited from having Courtois as competition.
The manager, meanwhile, should consider deploying the defenders presently at his disposal in their more natural positions instead. Ivanovic is far better a center-back than right-back, while Cesar Azpilicueta can't seem to get involved offensively when played on the left side of defense.
Moreover, the players featuring in the double pivot have a crucial role to play in protecting the back four. For this reason precisely, the Frank Lampard-Ramires experiment needs to end.
In short, the problems with the defense are not as much about the personnel as they are about a lack of organization at the back. Bringing in either one of rumored targets Andrea Ranocchia (h/t Ben Jefferson of the Express) or Eliaquim Mangala (h/t John Cross of the Mirror) isn't going to change that. It is down to Jose Mourinho to once again build a watertight defense at Chelsea by getting his boys to do the basics right.
I would say, though, that a new left-back is the need of the hour in West London. Ashley Cole looks like a shadow of his former self, while Ryan Bertrand hasn't got the faith of the manager. Patrick van Aanholt is away for the full length of the season.
Luke Shaw, a self-professed Chelsea fan, is rumored to be on Chelsea's radar, as per Matt Law of The Telegraph. The figure being quoted is in the region of £20 million. In signing him, however, the Blues would be acquiring a full-back with the potential to be world-class in his position.
Last among the particularly perplexing rumors, I cannot seem to understand why Chelsea would be in need of yet another creative midfielder like Julian Draxler, whom Nick Lustig of the Daily Star reports is also on their radar. The likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schurrle are already having to fight it out for game time.
The immensely talented Draxler would be better served going to a club that would benefit more from his ability on the ball, like Liverpool.
It would appear that the solutions to most of Chelsea's problems lie in making the best of their available resources than in delving into the transfer market. One has got to wonder: How many of their supposed transfer targets do the Blues really need to invest in to keep their title challenge on track?
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