January transfer windows can prove somewhat frustrating for football clubs.
We’re only halfway through the season, but they often have a make-or-break sense about them. Do you stick or twist? Push the panic button or remain composed?
Manchester United’s inactivity in the transfer market last summer now sees David Moyes' side linked with players from across the globe as he attempts to turn the champions’ season around. Even Premier League leaders Arsenal are likely to make a move for at least one player before the month is out.
At Stamford Bridge, it’s no different. This week we have seen Chelsea The Express' Tony Banks link Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso with a move to West London (he since re-signed with Real for two more years, per Reuters' Iain Rogers via the Daily Mail), while rumors surrounding the future of Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne refuse to go away, as per The Independent's Samuel Stevens and Daily Mail's Matt Barlow respectively.
Chelsea may have enjoyed a positive start to yet another new era under Jose Mourinho, but for all the pleasure victories have brought, it’s the defeats that continue to highlight where his team is right now.
As strong as they are in attacking midfield, deficiencies with Chelsea's strikers have been a major talking point.
The notable absence of a defensive midfielder of world-class capabilities is also a concern, so calls from the terraces for reinforcements now the transfer window is open are more common than they have been throughout the campaign.
Should Mourinho’s concern be to act now, though? Not really.
Chelsea have been made all too aware in the past of what a major signing in January can bring in the long term—Fernando Torres being a fine case in point.
With just a few days to settle in and meet his new teammates before making his debut against Liverpool, his former club, the weight of expectation surrounding Torres' £50 million transfer in 2011 proved significant.
Breaking the British transfer record, goals were expected immediately regardless, and the Spaniard’s impact was meant to ensure Chelsea remained competitive in their defence of their Premier League title that year.
It never quite worked out that way. Torres himself is only beginning to recover from it all, with his form on the up this past year or so despite not being as prolific as he would hope.
That transfer fee remains a significant stick with which to beat him, though, and beat him the media and opposing fans do at every opportunity.
The point is, Chelsea paid over the odds for Torres. Caught up in the drama and excitement of it all, few suggested it at the time.
Hindsight allows us to see otherwise, and it’s a lesson the Blues will hopefully have learned—if not for their sake, but for the players they target, who open themselves up to a whole different level of scrutiny than they may have experienced elsewhere.
Where Chelsea are at right now doesn’t require a winter spending spree. Yes, Mourinho is back, and the expectation that comes with it all is significant. Let’s not kid ourselves, however: This isn’t a championship-winning team—yet.
A top-four finish and continued progress in Europe will mark a successful campaign for the Blues. And to achieve that, panicking in the winter transfer window isn’t going to help.
Chelsea’s transfer needs in January are not drastic enough to warrant scouring the market for players—unless of course the opportunity is too good to turn down.
Pre-seasons are vital for a reason, giving managers the chance to bring their players together and build a team in their vision.
“Do you know how many tactical sessions I have done since pre-season?” Mourinho asked recently. “Not many, and that makes it difficult sometimes.”
Adding players to his squad will make things even more difficult.
No, Mourinho’s transfer needs in January are to sit tight, ride it out and plan for the summer. That’s when the real success will come.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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