Chelsea may have scraped four points out of six from their opening Premier League games, but new boss Andre Villas-Boas will be far from enthralled by his team’s performances thus far.
The Blues look a shadow of the team that won the 2009-2010 campaign and that started last season by scoring 12 goals in their opening two games.
Fernando Torres has looked sharp up front, but the striker has found himself having to collect the ball from deep before running into a congested penalty box. All too often, the Spaniard has found himself deprived of opportunities. When he creates one, there is no attacking support.
Despite the dreary start, Chelsea does have a good squad.
The problem is that their midfield seems to have lost the willingness to come forward and attack.
Frank Lampard in particular has found himself guilty of playing behind the ball too often, rather than running forward and making himself an attacking target.
If Chelsea wants to be considered a title contender this season, the club needs to bring in at least two new additions to their midfield within the next seven days. Failure to do so will leave them lingering behind the two Manchester clubs.
Both midfields in Manchester have to be regarded as two of the finest in world football.
Of course, even a club such as Chelsea cannot sign every player that they cast their gaze upon.
The Stamford Bridge outfit has already lost out on the services of Javier Pastore, and it seems more likely than not that they will miss out on Tottenham’s Luka Modric.
This is a list of seven players whom Chelsea have been linked with this summer, and whose services they have a realistic chance of gaining.
Fee: £23.5 million
A fee has been reached; personal terms seem a mere formality. Juan Mata has been linked with a move away from Valencia all summer, but it is Liverpool and Arsenal that have seemed his most likely destination.
BBC Sport has reported that a fee of £23.5 million has been agreed upon for the 2010 World Cup winner, who could make his debut this weekend if the transfer goes through on time.
Juan Mata has earned the reputation for being one of the best attacking midfielders in European football.
He is a quick, wide player who should link up well with Ashley Cole.
He likes to drift more to the left and rely upon his pace and excellent ball control to create attacks, as opposed to the tank-like tactics that Chelsea currently deploys.
He is capable of scoring goals from all areas of the pitch, which is highlighted by a return of 33 from 129 league matches for Valencia.
The biggest asset that he will bring to Chelsea is his creativity and the ability to consistently create goal-scoring opportunities.
When he has the ball at his feet, the only thing on his mind is to attack. He is always looking forward, in much the same way that David Silva does.
The width he offers, too, makes him one of the best players Chelsea could hope to sign.
The squad has looked desperately short of width and creativity in the past year. Mata provides a solution to both issues.
He is also a very capable crosser, meaning he has the potential to link up well with Didier Drogba, should the Ivorian muscle his way into the team.
Furthermore, Torres is a striker who sometimes likes to drift to the left side of the pitch. If their partnership is nurtured properly, they could link up in a similar way to how it is hoped Sergio Aguero and Silva will combine at Manchester City.
One problem he will have to overcome is his small stature.
At 5’7", Premier League defences will try and overpower Mata. It will be interesting to see how he copes against teams such as Stoke and Wolves.
That being said, his pace and ball control may be enough to avoid any major hiccups.
Fee: £17.7 million to £22 million
When Andre Villas-Boas arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans were licking their lips about a possible mass exodus from Porto’s new golden generation.
So far, Chelsea’s taste buds have not had their hunger appeased, but the Telegraph reports that it could just be a matter of time before defender Alvaro Pereira is added to Chelsea’s squad.
It is suggested that a fee between £17.7 and £22 million will be enough to pry the wingback away from FC Porto.
Alvaro Pereira is a highly-regarded wingback, who earlier this season attracted interest from Kenny Dalglish’s free-spending Liverpool team.
The urgency surrounding Chelsea’s width situation means that this would be an excellent signing for the Blues, especially when there are question marks surrounding Jose Bosingwa’s ability to stay fit for the entirety of the Premier League season.
Fee: £30 million?
Chelsea’s interest in the Croatian play-maker has been one of the worst kept secrets during this transfer window.
Villas-Boas has already failed to enter personal times with the 25-year-old, despite launching two bids.
The need for a player of Modric’s ability, however, remains a top priority for the Portuguese manager.
Luka Modric has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League since his £16.5 million arrival at White Hart Lane in 2008.
Reports in the media are ripe with suggestions that Chelsea have offered Spurs a revamped offer of £30 million for the play-maker.
The Metro, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail all believe that Modric’s omission from the Tottenham squad to face Manchester United is a big hint that the Croatian will not be a player at White Hart Lane come September 1.
They also suggest that Tottenham may be willing to do business for £30 million, despite their claims that they would not be prepared to sell their best player for any price.
Harry Redknapp has since taken measures to squash such rumours.
In an interview with Sky Sports he said, "I can well see them looking to chase Luka, but we really want to keep him here and add one or two players to our squad to make us stronger."
If Chelsea were to sign the play-maker, it would be a major coup for the club, but not a total solution to their attacking woes.
Chelsea’s biggest problem is a lack of width, not creativity in the centre of midfield.
In their opening Premier League encounters, it is clear that Chelsea’s style of play is very one-dimensional—it always comes through the middle and peters out in the final third due to a lack of options out wide.
All teams need to do is congest the centre of their penalty box and Torres, for all his talent, will find it difficult to breach the barricade.
Modric is capable of playing wide, but he is by no means a natural winger.
What he could offer the club, however, is a quick break from defence to attack.
He is comfortable with the ball on his feet and able to play a solid long ball game. Chelsea’s lacklustre counter attack would certainly be rejuvenated if Modric were in the team.
Fee: £26 million
Joao Moutinho made the treacherous transfer from Sporting CP to Porto last season, signing a five-year contract in an €11 million deal.
Despite only being at Estádio do Dragão for one season, the Portuguese international may be interested in a link-up with former boss Andre Villas-Boas.
If Chelsea were to make a bid for the player, the Telegraph reports that it may cost the Blues as much as €30 million to secure his services.
It is generally accepted that Luka Modric is Chelsea’s preferred midfield target, but if the deal was to break down, Moutinho is their second choice (or third, if you were to include their failure to sign Javier Pastore).
Moutinho has a lot of experience, despite only being 24 years of age.
He has been capped for Portugal 33 times, and a Europa League and Portuguese Primera Division title are among his nine club honours.
The Portugal international is primarily a central midfielder. However, his ability to play on either flank would add a new dimension to Chelsea’s attack, which is in desperate need for an injection of life.
It is difficult to describe Moutinho as a player. He treads a fine line between being a match-winner and a player who is there for the ride. Last season, he achieved zero goals and zero assists in 27 league matches, suggesting that he cannot provide the creative spark that Chelsea need.
That being said, as a youth his style of play drew stark similarities to Deco.
Despite his lack of height, Moutinho likes to keep busy—if he does not have the ball at his feet, he will work hard to pick it up.
He is an accomplished tackler who is capable of getting forward, but his tendency to play deep means that he would perhaps not be an ideal candidate to bridge the gap between the midfield and attack.
Fee: exchange for Daniel Sturridge
It is strange that Liverpool have done little to play down rumours that last year’s PFA Fans Player of the Season could be linked with a move away from Anfield.
In recent weeks, the football rumour mill has been riddled with stories reporting Andre Villas-Boas’ interest in the Portuguese international.
Perhaps, as with Moutinho, Villas-Boas has a soft spot for Portuguese players.
One week ago, the Metro, the Guardian and the Daily Mail all reported that Chelsea were considering launching a £12-million bid for Meireles, who scored the decisive goal against them in Liverpool’s Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge last season.
Yesterday, Caught Offside reported a story that is much more likely to catch the interest of both Chelsea and Liverpool fans alike.
The website claims that Villas-Boas is keen to reunite with his former Porto player, and Liverpool are equally as keen to secure more attacking talent.
Chelsea desperately needs more creative talent in their midfield, which at the moment is over powered by brawn and lacks a goal-scoring threat.
With the exception of Josh McEachran, there are no youngsters in the Chelsea squad that suggest the situation could change in the future.
Raul Meireles possesses excellent ball control and has proven himself to be a goal scorer in the Premier League.
If he was to play for Chelsea, he would slot in nicely behind Fernando Torres.
Torres, through no fault of his own, has been dropping far too deep to try and get the ball at his feet in the first two games of the season.
Meireles is a player capable of picking the ball up on the halfway line and running with it into the penalty area. It is from this area that Torres is much more deadly, and the two players from the Iberian Peninsula could form a good understanding in little-to-no time.
Kenny Dalglish has done little to thwart rumours, suggesting that the Reds could be open to negotiation. Perhaps the Reds need the money to offset their exuberant summer spending?
Fee: £10 million
The name Stevan Jovetic is likely to trigger a few unpleasant memories, for Liverpool fans.
The Montenegro striker gained worldwide acclaim for his brace against Liverpool, aged 18, in 2009.
Since his brace, Jovetic has shown flashes of potential, but his development was thwarted by a cruciate ligament injury in his right knee that ruled him out for much of the 2010-11 Serie A campaign.
Football website Fanafix claims that, given his injury record, Chelsea could whittle the fee as low as £10 million, despite his initial £20 million valuation.
Andre Villas-Boas gained recognition as a scout because of his ability to produce and analyse graphs. For such a nominal fee, the Portuguese coach may feel that Jovetic is worth the risk.
During his short career, comparisons have been drawn between Jovetic and Roberto Baggio. Such comparisons go far beyond the dodgy hairstyles.
Despite his young age, the striker has shown himself to possess excellent ball control and dribbling prowess.
His goal-scoring record, however, is not as impressive. In 58 Serie A appearances, he has only managed to score eight goals. On the international scene, he has scored a more credible six goals in 13 appearances.
If the rumours have some substance behind them, Jovetic could turn into a promising player. The problem is that the capture of Romelu Lukaku, the presence of Daniel Sturridge in the squad and the £50-million arrival of Fernando Torres means that opportunities may be limited for the 21-year-old.
Chelsea needs a player who is able to make an impact now, not in five years.
They already have two promising young strikers—signing a third when you need more first-team options would be short-sighted.
Club: Shaktar Donetsk
The Brazilian striker has talked up his chances of playing for Chelsea, although the Stamford Bridge club have made no indication that they are interested in him.
In a recent article, the Metro reports that Willian believes he would make a good Chelsea player.
“I like Chelsea's and Arsenal’s styles a lot. I’d be very happy to play for Tottenham, too, and help get them back into the Champions League. They’re a very big club,” he said
“I think my style of play would suit the Premier League,” he added.
Willian is known for having a fluent playing style, with his passing as his best asset. Unfortunately, he is not a prolific goal scorer. In 99 Ukrainian Premier appearances, he has only found the back of the net 13 times.
Such a lowly return is not likely to impress Chelsea, who need someone to share the goal-scoring load with Torres.
On the positive side, he is only 23, and his game will improve in the future. He is a hard worker and his passing could see him create as many assists as Torres will goals.
What’s more, he is a capable winger, and width is something that the Blues desperately need.
He has put in a string of positive Champion’s League performances for Shaktar, which has generated interest from Portuguese giants Benfica.
He signed for the Ukrainian side for £9.75 million in 2007, and it is expected that Shaktar will want to make a hefty profit if they were to lose the services of one of their best players.
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