With several of Chelsea’s key players leaving for the African Cup of Nations, it is not surprising that there has been a lot of media speculation about the moves Carlo Ancelotti might make in the upcoming January transfer window.
Most of the rumors that have been circulating suggest that the West London club will try to add offensive talent, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Franck Ribery often linked with a move to Stamford Bridge.
Having additional offensive options never hurts, but it is not at the front end of the pitch where Chelsea need reinforcement. While scoring an astonishing 34 times in their 35 matches this season, they have also conceded 28 goals and have had only one clean sheet in their last eight matches (figures including friendly matches). Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s squad would often give up goals to much weaker opponents and then would find themselves fighting back, trying to win points.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech has had several blunders on what should’ve been easy saves throughout the first half of the season, costing his team some valuable points. Understandably he has shouldered a lot of blame from fans for these mistakes.
The Czech international’s most devastating slip-up occurred during Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat against Manchester city a couple of weeks ago, when due to Cech’s terrible positioning, Carlos Tevez managed to score on a free-kick, winning City the game and forcing the Blues to return home with no points.
Even Ancelotti said during the postgame press conference that the goalkeeper could have done a better job on the Argentinean’s free kick.
In September, Cech’s howler allowed Stoke City’s Abdoulaye Faye to give his team the lead. Luckily for Chelsea, Florent Malouda’s last-minute strike saved the Blues from giving up points to a side they should have easily defeated.
The Chelsea supporters demonstrated that they are getting tired of Cech’s feeble performances when they booed the goalkeeper at their own stadium, after Everton tied Chelsea 3-3 at Stamford Bridge. Cech’s decision making was not only suspect on the first goal, where Louis Saha’s shot rebounded of the post and then off the goalkeepers back, but also on the third and final Everton goal, when the ball bounced of Saha’s back and flew over Cech into the net.
Even the most die-hard Petr Cech fans would have to admit that the keeper’s form has been quite inconsistent this season. While his shot-stopping abilities are still sensational, his positioning and command of the penalty-area have declined significantly. His incapability to decide whether or not to come for high balls has caused much grief for Chelsea supporters.
The majority of Cech’s critics would agree that his dip in performance is linked to the injury he suffered in October of 2006. The Chelsea goalkeeper smashed into Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt’s knee, suffering a depressed skull fracture, which almost cost him his life. This sure offers a reasonable explanation for why he would be indecisive when it comes to high balls in the penalty-area. Quite frankly it is hard to blame him for it. Who wouldn’t be scared of another collision after already experiencing a life-threatening injury?
The problem is that when playing for a club of Chelsea’s caliber, the expectations are exceptionally high. Results are the sole factor the ownership and fans care about and if there is a sense that a player might endanger the club’s chances of success, he quickly might find himself sitting on the bench.
Petr Cech seems to be in this position right now. Although Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has stated that he will not be making any acquisitions in the January transfer window, he also enlightened the media that he likes to “joke in the press conference."
With Chelsea loosing several of their key players to the African Cup of Nations for the month of January and constant rumors about the talks the club has been leading with several high profile players, it is becoming more and more evident that Ancelotti must have been kidding and that we should expect some changes at Stamford Bridge in the new year.
The goalkeepers being linked with a possible move to Chelsea are CSKA Moscow’s Igor Akinfeev, Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon, West Ham’s Robert Green, and Lyon’s Hugo Lloris.
Since these goalkeepers are cup-tied to their respective teams for the rest of the season, they would most likely remain on loan for the rest of the season and would only join the team for the next campaign.
Some might argue that replacing Cech is just as big of a gamble as keeping him. After all, he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world and whoever comes to replace him might not necessarily out perform him.
While all this is true, the fact that the FIFA ruling is still up in the air, and that Chelsea might be locked out of the following two transfer windows, poses a big risk for the club. If Cech does not return to his previous form and Chelsea are unable to sign anyone to replace him, they will be in a tight situation. They would have to pick between seasoned Henrique Hilario and young Ross Turnbull, who has tons of potential but has yet to perform consistently at the top level.
Whether or not Petr Cech will remain Chelsea’s number one goalkeeper for the long run is something we will all soon discover. But no matter what happens in the upcoming transfer window, Chelsea fans should never forget that his performances were pivotal in helping the Blues achieve all the success they have had in the past years.