Grading Chelsea's Transfer Window Activity

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea shouts from the sideline during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on August 27, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

The summer transfer window closed on Thursday for Premier League sides, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it's over, including the Chelsea powerbrokers.

The Blues ran the gauntlet this summer, waiting until deadline day to make some key signings. And even as the clock ticked down, we weren't sure they would get some deals over the line.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte may not have signed all of his targets, but Chelsea have emerged with a squad that looks fresher than it did this time last season. Regardless of whether it's only marginally, the Premier League champions have been able to regenerate a dressing room that's needed change for some time.

But how well have Chelsea performed in the transfer market? Did they do a good enough job with the players they bought and sold? Join us as we grade the Blues' transfer window activity.

             

Grading Chelsea's most significant signings

Chelsea signed six players this summer, with two coming on deadline day. We've graded them below based on squad requirements and the overall business decision.

              

Willy Caballero

Fee: Free

Grade: A+

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Wilfredo Caballero of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

To grade Caballero so highly will undoubtedly raise eyebrows. He arguably has the lowest profile of all Chelsea's summer signings, and Blues fans aren't expecting to see much from him in the club's colours as the back-up to Thibaut Courtois.

Here's the thing, though: Caballero was brought in as the replacement for Asmir Begovic, who was sold to Bournemouth for £10 million. In so doing, Chelsea got a like-for-like replacement and made a significant profit.

It wasn't a move to get overly excited about, but in terms of the whole package, it was excellent business. Uncharacteristically for the Blues, the deal for Caballero was announced in early July, too.

                

Tiemoue Bakayoko

Fee: £40 million

Grade: B

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Tiemoue Bakayoko of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on August 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea have signed potential with Bakayoko. His exploits in a Monaco shirt last season suggested he has a fine career ahead of him, but it was just one standout season from the 22-year-old. He still has a lot to achieve if his transfer is to be regarded as shrewd business.

Still, £40 million in this summer's market for a player we're expecting to be a regular does outline some transfer acumen from the Chelsea board. At a time when fees are escalating beyond all sense of logic, Chelsea signing an up-and-coming talent gives them a strong possibility to make a dividend on their investment either in future transfer windows or on the pitch, where it's hoped Bakayoko will excel.

The early signs are promising after his debut against Tottenham Hotspur.

           

Alvaro Morata

Fee: £58 million

Grade: A

Chelsea's Spanish striker Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge in London on August 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORI
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Two games at Stamford Bridge have brought two goals and two assists for Morata. From a personal perspective, it's been a great start for the Spaniard.

Morata has done exactly what all strikers must when they arrive at a new club—he's made a big impact, and with that, he already has the momentum to suggest he can replace Diego Costa's goal threat.

The 24-year-old is now Chelsea's record signing, with the £58 million paid to Real Madrid surpassing the £50 million Liverpool raked in on the sale of Fernando Torres to the Blues in 2011.

It took Torres 14 games to open his Chelsea account and a full 19 for him to tally the two goals Morata already has to his name. Those early days came to define Torres' Chelsea career, and Morata seems to have overcome any hoodoo immediately.

                

Antonio Rudiger

Fee: £29 million

Grade: B

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

By the same token that we've applauded Chelsea for the fee paid to Monaco for Bakayoko, the £29 million invested in Rudiger represents good business in this transfer window.

Transfer fees have spiralled out of control, with the huge figures we're seeing for the most talented players hiking up prices for those below them. Rudiger may not arrive with the same hype as a Virgil van Dijk, for instance, but he cost Chelsea a fraction of the price they would've been expected to pay for the Dutchman.

Rudiger is already showing himself to be a good squad player, and over the course of the season, his attributes will benefit the Blues. He fits into the system Conte likes to play, meaning that, regardless of names and profile, he's an ideal signing.

                    

Danny Drinkwater

Fee: £35 million

Grade: B

Talk about leaving things late—Chelsea had to wait until a couple of hours after the transfer window had closed before they announced the capture of Drinkwater. They left fans waiting until the early hours to confirm a deal that had been rolling on for weeks.

It all seemed to be about the price, with the Blues hierarchy haggling with Leicester City, as reported by the Telegraph's John Percy in the days leading up to deadline day. By hook or by crook, they got their man, though, and Conte's midfield looks stronger for it.

Drinkwater adds Premier League and Champions League experience and bolsters the homegrown quota in the Stamford Bridge dressing room. He's not a marquee signing, but he's certainly one of substance.

The only negative here is the fee, with the Blues paying much more than their initial valuation of the former Manchester United man.

                    

Davide Zappacosta

Fee: £23 million

Grade: C

There will be a Costa in the Chelsea squad this season after all. Well, sort of, with Italian Zappacosta's surname giving us a hint of rock'n'roll royalty blended with Chelsea's bad boy frontman who remains in exile.

Zappacosta's signing was a big surprise, with his name only being linked with the Blues on transfer deadline day following their failure to land Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who signed for Liverpool. Chelsea fans won't be feeling too confident with his signing as he plans to compete at wing-back, but remember last season's deadline-day business?

Marcos Alonso came in under the radar, seemingly a move from left field that stunned many. And now look at him; the Spaniard has become an essential part of Conte's side, adding something to defence and attack.

Zappacosta has a reputation for being strong in attack and is a fine crosser of the ball. With Morata getting on the end of his crosses, he may well prove a fine asset himself.

We've given Zappacosta's signing a C grade, as it comes with a sense of the unknown and being knee-jerk. With nothing linking him to Chelsea until all else failed, he smacks of being a last resort.

But let's hope he can have an impact in the same way Alonso did.

          

Grading Chelsea's most significant departures

More players left Chelsea than came in this summer, but that isn't necessarily a negative thing. The Blues were able to offload some ageing stars and made good money from them in the process. We're only grading the most significant permanent transfers here, so this does not include the ever-growing loan army.

         

John Terry

Fee: Free

Grade: A+

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 29: John Terry of Aston Villa during the pre season friendly match between Aston Villa and Watford  at Villa Park on July 29, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
Mark Robinson/Getty Images

All good things come to an end, and this summer Chelsea fans discovered that when Terry departed for Aston Villa on a free transfer. It's a sad moment when legends eventually have to leave, but Terry's departure should've come much earlier than it did.

There isn't a bigger hero in west London than the former Blues captain, yet his presence at Stamford Bridge held Chelsea back at times in recent seasons. It meant managers could only play one way with him at the back, so when he was injured in the early part of 2016/17, it was the ideal time for Conte to change things around.

The manager did, and it revolutionised the way his team performed. It made Chelsea Premier League champions and ended Terry's Blues career in the process.

                   

Nemanja Matic

Fee: £40 million

Grade: A

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 19: Nemanja Matic of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Forget that Matic has joined Manchester United, a direct rival of Chelsea. The point with this transfer and why we've given it an A grade is simple economics. Chelsea sold a 29-year-old for £40 million; they made a £19 million profit on a player in decline.

Matic moving to United is a short-term answer to the club's midfield problems. But with the overall fee Chelsea were paid for him effectively bringing in Bakayoko from Monaco, it has provided a long-term solution to theirs.

We don't buy the notion that Matic will win United the title this season, either. Before he was sold, Matic was among the most criticised players at Chelsea for good reason; the Serb was seen as a weak link, with his presence in midfield overshadowed by team-mate N'Golo Kante in a defensive sense, while he failed to match Cesc Fabregas' effectiveness going forward.

The Matic Chelsea signed in January 2014 was a different player to the one United paid £40 million for. In the long term, Chelsea will be happy with the business they did here.

        

Nathan Ake

Fee: £20 million

Grade: B

/Getty Images

It's a shame Ake has been sold, as he has more than hinted at having a bright future in the Premier League. But like an old gun-slinging western town from a Sergio Leone movie, Stamford Bridge isn't big enough for two outlaws or, in this case, a pair of up-and-coming defenders.

Ake's sale to Bournemouth for a healthy £20 million has meant Andreas Christensen has taken his spot in the Chelsea squad after returning from loan. So, with the addition of Rudiger, the Blues now have a solid-looking setup at the back that also includes David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.

Without Christensen, it would have been disappointing for Ake to have been sold. But Chelsea seem to be putting their faith in the Dane, and that meant Ake was pushed out. And that's football—Chelsea can't hoard every talented young player.

        

Bertrand Traore

Fee: £8.8 million

Grade: D

Lyon's Burkinabe forward Bertrand Traore (L) celebrates with Lyon's French forward Nabil Fekir after scoring a goal during the L1 football match Olympique Lyonnais (OL) vs FC Girondins de Bordeaux (FCGB), on August 19, 2017 at the Groupama stadium in Déci
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/Getty Images

With Diego Costa's problems this summer and Chelsea also needing reinforcements in their attacking-midfield options, losing Traore was a disappointment.

Is he talented enough to be starting every week at Stamford Bridge? No. But that's not the point with Traore. His season on loan with Ajax proved he could play a supporting role for the Blues, earning more experience with the view to eventually becoming a regular.

He is just 21, and his age alone tells us he has so much more time to develop his game. Allowing him to join Lyon for an initial £8.8 million, regardless of buy-back clauses, is short-sighted from Chelsea at a time when they don't boast hordes of attacking stars.

          

Nathaniel Chalobah

Fee: £5 million

Grade: D

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Nathaniel Chalobah of Watford during the pre season friendly match between Aston Villa and Watford  at Villa Park on July 29, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
Mark Robinson/Getty Images

While Traore still has some developing to do, Chalobah was arguably ready for first-team football at Chelsea. Clearly, the player himself believed that and forced through his move to Watford.

Had the Blues signed a world-class player to take his place in the squad, Chalobah's sale wouldn't grate so much. The fact is they haven't—although Drinkwater's capture was astute enough to hint at the Blues being a strong midfield unit.

Chalobah left at the wrong time—the time when Chelsea needed him most, as they faced the beginning stages of 2017/18 with just three central midfielders, and one of them was Cesc Fabregas, who is far from adept when it comes to competing physically.

Chelsea should've done more to keep Chalobah, as he has everything that hints at him being a star of the future. He's still young and has his career ahead of him.

      

Dominic Solanke

Fee: TBC by tribunal

Grade: B

Liverpool's midfielder Dominic Solanke reacts during the final Audi Cup football match between Atletico Madrid and FC Liverpool in the stadium in Munich, southern Germany, on August 2, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE        (Photo credit should read
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

How do you grade Solanke's move to Liverpool this summer? Do we applaud Chelsea for making a stand in refusing to give a young player a bumper contract when he'd made just one senior appearance? Or do we side with Solanke and suggest the Blues should've shown more faith in one of England's best prospects?

We're siding with the former here. Solanke had been nurtured at Chelsea since he was eight years old, and as much as Chelsea needed to realise that, so, too, should he have done. Instead, Solanke demanded a contract extension that would have meant he was paid more than some senior Premier League players, which isn't right.

For all his potential, the striker has achieved zero in the senior game. He may well go on to, but right now, not even he is certain that he will. He was never in a position to make those sorts of demands, which meant Chelsea have lost him to Liverpool.

Regardless of what Solanke achieves in his career, Chelsea were right to hold firm. They set a precedent at the club for how they will deal with young players moving forward, and the hope is they stand by that.

         

Grading Chelsea's transfer window overall

Grade: C

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea gestures from the sideline during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on August 27, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

Transfer deadline day was looking catastrophic for Chelsea, but with the late, late signings of Zappacosta and Drinkwater, they were able to salvage something in their attempts to strengthen Conte's squad.

Overall, it means Chelsea's transfer business this summer was able to claw back some credibility.

The Blues look strong defensively and in central midfield, where they can boast two players for every position. But the fact remains there are gaps they failed to fill, notably at wing-back, with three players to cover two positions over the course of a long season. That doesn't feel like enough.

They are also light in attack, and the feeling is that had the Blues not procrastinated, they would've put themselves in a healthier position than we find them now.

Chelsea missed out on some major targets this summer, with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Oxlade-Chamberlain going elsewhere. They chased the latter for much of pre-season, only to discover on the eve of deadline day that Oxlade-Chamberlain had no interest in joining them due to his preference to play in central midfield and not out wide, per BBC Sport's David Ornstein.

Why did it take so long for them to work that out? It left Chelsea exposed at the most crucial moment.

Even Fernando Llorente, who Chelsea were being linked with as far back as January, joined Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day, per The Independent's Miguel Delaney.

Rubbing salt in the wound, Everton's Ross Barkley reportedly pulled out of a move to Chelsea in the last minute, too, per Simon Stone of BBC Sport.

The fact remains that Chelsea bought well on the whole and moved on some players for healthy fees. But it all felt so disjointed and does smack of the club's policy not being as fine-tuned as it has been in the past.

Things were left horribly late in some cases, meaning it all feels unsettled, overshadowing the good work that was done at stages.

Chelsea's transfer report card reads: "Can do better." And with their rivals upping the ante, they can't afford to have another window like the one they've just experienced.

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