Chelsea Transfer Rumors: 3 Positions Chelsea Need to Shore Up in January
Some look at Chelsea’s summer spending and claim it was quite light, especially given a history of bank-busting contracts and transfer fees.
But this would not only be an absurd way of looking at how a team handled the transfer window, but would be inaccurate as well.
Besides the suddenly oil-rich Sky Blue’s to the North, no one spent more money than Chelsea this summer, and no one has approached their expenditure on players over the past few windows.
So then, why is there this belief that tepidness has suddenly befallen Stamford Bridge?
It has become quite apparent that Andre Villas-Boas is building a team for the future. Of his seven signings, only one of them is over the age of 23, and only one of the youngsters gets regular playing time.
What this all amounts to is an interesting situation, where the future looks brighter than ever for the West London club, but the present is walking a razor's edge between potential triumph and catastrophic disaster.
Luckily, injuries have been infrequent and not long lasting (barring poor Essien), but, should they occur, the bench looks rather thin on reliable backups.
This is not to say that the likes of Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku and Josh McEachran are not ready to play, but when doing so in the most difficult of competitions it would be foolish to expect the same out of them as we do the club veterans.
Here are three positions that Villas-Boas should look to bolster come the January transfer window.
For as long as I have followed Chelsea, Ashley Cole has been the left back. In fact, the transgressions that took place between him and Arsenal when he moved to Chelsea was my introduction to how entertaining the transfer rumor mill can be.
Watching him return to the Emirates, as the boos rained down from the rafters every time he touched the ball, reminded me of when I was lucky enough to get to attend a Red Sox/Yankees game.
But all of this was a long, long time ago. Now, the player who was the only one that got any praise in a Three Lion’s jersey in South Africa is approaching 31, slowing down and becoming more testy on every play.
He played in a remarkable 48 games last season and is on pace to play as many this year. But how long can he keep up this amount of minutes?
The main reason that he gets so much playing time is because of the sheer fact that they do not have any competant replacements. Luckily, he has never been injury prone and consistently plays at a high level, but I think the people in charge at the club need to begin to assess how much longer they can ride this.
So far, he has featured in every Chelsea match except the Carling Cup game against Fulham. Ryan Bertrand played and did so adequately, but adequate is not enough against better opposition. He has long been touted as the eventual replacement for Cole, but is still far from being able to do so in the immediate future.
With the sale of Yuri Zhirkov and the loaning out of Patrick van Aanholt, an injury to Cole would not only be tough for the club to recover from, but would mean a crisis due to not only a lack of good replacements, but any replacements at all.
Rumors spread that Chelsea were supposedly in for Villas-Boas's old Porto star Alvaro Pereira, who has come to be one of the best in the world at the position. He recently signed a new deal with the Portuguese club, but should Chelsea get desperate they may be willing to take it on.
On the opposite side of the pitch, things don’t look all that much better.
Chelsea have had issues in the right back spot for a few years now. There have been three managers who have all experimented with the position, but none have really found a player capable of both playing the spot and fitting into the system.
Michael Essien controlled it for a while and did well. Then he gave up that header the Christiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final and his weakness was exposed.
Center back convert Branislav Ivanovic was brought in next. He was arguably the most consistent player week in week out for Chelsea. However, he always lacked the dynamism you would want out of player in that role.
With Villas-Boas’s approach to the game being primarily focused on attack, it was questionable whether he would return to the Serbian to fit the role. A dozen games into the season and it is obvious that he rather have someone who adds to the attack rather than a confident defender, as Ivanovic is yet to start on the right and Jose Bosingwa has played the majority of the games there.
However, if there is one thing that fans can agree on in their criticism of Villas-Boas's approach, it has been over the choice of Bosingwa at right back. He has provided to the attack as intended, with a goal and two assists, but his liability as a defensive player raises concerns about how to approach bigger games. Should the pace of the Portuguese be sacrificed for a little more in the way of goal prevention?
The interesting thing about this position is Bosingwa’s backup, Paulo Ferreira, is not much of a drop off or change in style. Both play very similar roles, and both have the same faults. So, should Bosingwa dip in form, there is not much Villas-Boas can really do to change things up.
Though depth is an issue, it is not too much, as Ivanovic can cover in a pinch. However, the fact remains that Chelsea really need to find someone who can be of help in both ends of the field.
Gregory van der Wiel was the big name touted this summer, but some contend that the 23-year-old is not mentality ready yet to take on a role at a high pressure club.
Other than that there have not been any rumors that link another true right back to the club, but Villas-Boas would be smart to look for the future now.
So much was made of Villas-Boas’s 4-3-3 formation upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge that fans thought that the methodology he employed at Porto, which led them to one of their greatest seasons in club history, would translate into instantaneous gratification for the boys in blue.
However, three games in Chelsea were a stagnant bunch that looked much more the way they did last season, as their dreams fell apart in early winter, than the high flying attacking force we were promised.
But the lackluster performances in the beginning made sense, given the fact that Villas-Boas’s attack relies wholly on the use of effective wingers. Chelsea had none. For all the quality they had up front, none of those players were wingers in the true sense of the role.
The arrival of Juan Mata in late August marked the turning point in the season, as his natural play out left gave them a new dynamic and opened the field for everyone else. But the right side was still a question mark.
Nicolas Anelka started on the right initially and did a decent job, but he still looked out of tune with the role and was too slow for the development of the playing style. Upon his return from suspension, Daniel Sturridge became the choice right wing and excelled as many had expected.
He was great in the preseason and picked up where he left off, becoming as much of a threat on goal as he was speedy and good with the ball.
Most would contend that Sturridge is all they need and with Anelka backing him up they should be fine. However, in the game against United, Sturridge was exposed for what he is: a very young and inexperienced converted forward.
He did little against the much better Patrice Evra and, as Chelsea go deeper into better competition, you can expect more experienced left backs to not fall for his somewhat predictable style of push and run.
Furthermore, Anelka has been linked to a move away from the Bridge for some time now. He has even gone as far as to say that he does not really see himself at Chelsea past the summer.
With Kalou, who has seemingly become an inconsequential player overnight, Chelsea could really find themselves in a hole for a right winger.
The rumors have been swirling that Chelsea are in for young Montenegrin Stevan Jovetic. He has been called in the likeness of Roberto Baggio in style, which is always a huge compliment. He is a modern player who is comfortable all over the field, and could fill in nicely as a right wing or attacking midfielder for quite some time.
What Do You Think?
Odds are Chelsea will not be doing too much movement this January. It seems that UEFA is really being serious about these financial fair play rules, and with the British government stating today that they will monitor more closely the spending of Premier League clubs and foreign ownership, there is little reward in taking massive financial risks.
The three positions mentioned are by no means the end all be all of Chelsea’s season. They are simply spots that, should money be spent, it should be spent there. In my humble opinion the club is fine where they stand now. No reason to buy and no reason to sell. Of course should the right offer come along then you must take it, but should it not, then things should stay quiet. Sometimes calmness is a good thing.
Where do you think Chelsea should bolster as they head into the second half of the season?