For most Chelsea fans, the January transfer window has been a window of disappointment and frustration. This is a feeling that has become all too familiar for Chelsea fans in recent years, particularly following UEFA’s introduction of Financial Fair Play, of which Chelsea have approached with significant caution.
Chelsea’s contesting of the initial two-window transfer ban (eventually reduced to 1 window) gave suggestion to many that they were ready to splash the cash in January, much like the early days of the Roman Abramovich era. (Especially after reportedly having a “£150m transfer war chest” available following the sales of Eden Hazard & Alvaro Morata.) This understandably had much of the fan base revelling in the prospect of signing the likes of Jadon Sancho (£120m), Timo Werner (£60m), Nathan Ake (£40m), Wilfried Zaha (£80m), Moussa Dembele (£50m) and Ben Chilwell (£80m).
Fast forward 1 month and the above players-whilst there is legitimate interest-are seemingly no closer to playing in Chelsea blue than any of the other 250 players we’ve been linked with throughout the window (including reported £50m Brighton 28 year old centre back Lewis Dunk….).
On the surface, Chelsea have seemingly slipped straight back into old habits. Most familiar being accused of wasting time securing targeted players due to penny pinching, with Marina Granovskaia the scapegoat for any criticism. The same Marina Granovskaia who somehow extracted up to £130m for Eden Hazard who had one year left on his contract, and £60m for Alvaro Morata, who I personally value at around £60 (sixty POUNDS). But Marina can be a discussed another day. The fact is that; while things frustratingly seem the same on the outside, under the hood there have been some notable changes.
The truth is that Chelsea are no longer the transfer power-houses that they once were. Many clubs can now match (and even outweigh) any financial outlays proposed by Chelsea. Recent financial reports highlight how heavily Chelsea rely on Champions League football to remain financially competitive. Abramovich had to pump an additional £247m into Chelsea’s books last year to fund transfers like Kepa, Pulisic and Jorginho. It seems this may be a continued trend until Chelsea’s commercial ventures expand monumentally, along with the eventual redevelopment of Stamford Bridge (which does not look any time soon as Chelsea must reapply for planning permission as of March 2020).
Financial loss next year could result in Chelsea not complying with Financial Fair Play regulations, and running the risk of fines, points deductions, transfer bans or even a ban from European Competition. This makes a bad situation a whole lot worse, especially when you consider the likely decline in commercial sponsorship that comes with lack of European football.
It’s painfully apparent that Chelsea are precariously balancing their financial situation, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. As a direct consequence of the above, there is a much more considered approach to player investment (despite media outlet links). Chelsea have refused to entertain such ridiculously inflated fees for slightly above average players such as Zaha and Chilwell (good players, but massively over-valued). The funds available for transfers, whilst fairly high, are limited. Over-paying for slightly above-average players in January is likely to hamper Chelsea’s ability to enter into a bidding war for the likes of Sancho & Werner when they are available in the summer. With that in mind, and the very real possibility that Chelsea don’t secure Champions League football, how do you think Roman will be advising Marina & co. to manage this January Window?
I’d personally be focusing on securing top talent at the correct price rather than gambling on “decent” talent at a premium price. (History illustrates that many fans will undoubtedly discard and label these players as “deadwood” in a couple of years anyway.). Would Chelsea fans still be advocating the signing of Zaha or Nathan Ake if it meant that funds aren’t available to secure Sancho in summer?
This is not to deter from the fact that Chelsea do need to make signings. But they should be the correct signings at the correct prices. Quick fixes, such as Cavani or Mertens, should be pursued as long as there is thorough consideration of how they affect any potential business in the summer. It’s easy to see why Chelsea are pushing for this to be a loan deal for now.
Despite this window’s frustrations, positives can be taken. In fact, it appears Chelsea have learned their lesson. The players linked to Chelsea indicate that there is a mutual understanding of the players required to match stylistically to what Frank Lampard is trying to bring to Stamford Bridge. This is most recently exhibited by Chelsea’s reluctance to follow up on the availability of players such as Thomas Lemar & Luca Jovic. Both top players, but stylistically not an exact match for Lampard’s blue print. Gone are the days for over-priced panic buys such as Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Zappacosta etc. who are either simply not good enough or do not fit the required system. This should be celebrated. And although there are a few more days for Chelsea to prove us wrong yet, let’s see what happens.