It’s the summer of 2017. Chelsea have just won the Premier League for the 5th time and all is good in the world. Until we start signing players. Morata, Bakayoko, Drinkwater, and Zappacosta all brought into the club in the same window. Mediocrity at its best. A window we’re still recovering from. We still actually own all of those players, yet none are in our squad. Morata will officially be gone in June, but the standards dropping so much for just one window left us farming over £150m worth of talent out to anyone that would take them. We couldn’t even give Drinkwater away, and the man collected his £110,000 a week while partying in nightclubs and turning up for a laugh with his mates every day. That window should serve as a wake-up call to the Chelsea board, and to fans who just want to sign players for the sake of having a fresh picture of Marina Granovskaia.
Two years later and the mood is very different. There’s a youth revolution going on at the Bridge and fans are more connected with the club than ever. Players like Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Reece James have stepped up from the Championship with aplomb and look set feature for the club for years to come.
Now, that’s where buying smart comes in. With unquestionably the best academy in England, Chelsea’s board are very aware of the quality they have at their disposal, not least due to the return of Lampard and Morris along with the promotion of Joe Edwards. There’s finally a legitimate chance for young players, who Chelsea are wary of blocking. Hence, a needed change in transfer tactics, and a focus on buying smart.
There’s always the argument of the level of Liverpool and Manchester City when it comes to fan conversations about transfers. A necessity for every signing to be a world beater, that will come into the side and dominate. It’s not feasible, it’s unrealistic and actually it’s sometimes not helpful for the balance of the squad.
One thing people get confused about when we talk about blocking youth is the idea that people would be against signing a top talent because we have a promising young player. It’s actually about this idea of not blocking deserving youth and academy graduates with mediocre talent. So Chelsea now need to have in their minds when looking at the Drinkwaters of the world, ‘Do we have a young player that Lampard is using or could use, making this signing obsolete?’ The answer to that question should be yes, every time.
So let’s go back to the summer of 2017, and bring that to the modern day. Reece James makes Zappacosta obsolete. Mason Mount makes Drinkwater/Bakayoko obsolete. Tammy Abraham means we don’t need an alleged ‘world class striker’. So we don’t sign any deadwood. The young players don’t see their path blocked by mediocre talent from mid-table clubs and the focus can be on the elite talents and the smart buys.
To give an example of a smart buy, I refer you to Brian’s recent article on Nathan Ake. In a market where top class CBs are hard to come by, a £40m acquisition of a player with Premier League experience and who actually statistically matches up with some very good CBs, is the type of purchase we should be looking at. However, in order to find less obvious targets that are just as effective, we have to remove Scott McLachlan from his role at the club. We need to get the scouting properly sorted so that we can find the Robertsons and Mahrezs that Liverpool and Leicester found so well.
We are then left with money to spend on the elite talents who can seriously improve our starting XI, namely Jadon Sancho. He’s a player that’s good enough to warrant blocking any youth player under the sun and sort us out for a decade.
No more £20-30m stop gaps. No more deadwood. No more players that we can’t get rid of. No more buying players that aren’t for the long term. Trusting in youth, buying smart and buying from the top. That’s how we return to the level we’re used to.
The transfer ban forced a youth revolution on us, which could and should lead to a change in policy when it comes to transfers, letting us compete for the elite players and letting the smart buys and youth fill out the squad. The future can be so bright for Chelsea, and it’s all down to how we use the market.