Disclaimer: The entirety of this article is fiction, hyperbole and guesswork. Although predictions on signings and managerial decisions are based on educated decisions, you are welcome to agree or disagree with as much of it as possible.
In the first article of our new series, we’re looking back at key moments from Chelsea’s history and asking the question – what if? Our first entry – what if Chelsea signed a certain famous Argentine striker…
January 31st 2011. Chelsea are mired in 4th place, struggling to defend their title under Carlo Ancelotti. Defensive fragilities, and a lack of a regular goal-scorer are taking the toll. Didier Drogba seems to have peaked after the Double, and Nicholas Anelka is no longer able to provide the capable support of the previous years.
Having spent the window chasing Liverpool’s Fernando Torres, and having made a number of unsuccessful bids, Roman Abramovich changes course at the last second.Instead of signing Torres, Chelsea turn to his replacement at Atletico Madrid. With a mammoth bid of £45 million pounds, Sergio Leonel ‘Kun’ Agüero del Castillo joins Chelsea on deadline day on a five-year deal. The footballing world is shocked by this development. Can Agüero re-light Chelsea’s flagging hopes in the title race?
New No. 9 Agüero makes his Chelsea debut a week later, deployed in a fearsome front three alongside Drogba and Anelka against Liverpool. It becomes apparent quickly that Agüero’s pace is going to trouble the Liverpool back-line, especially against the three centre-backs, Dan Agger, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel. Agüero bursts through after a lovely through-ball from Frank Lampard and opens his Chelsea account to thunderous acclaim. Chelsea eventually succumb to a draw, however, as Raul Meireles equalises after Fernando Torres’s low drive is parried back into his path for a tap in.
However, it becomes clear quickly that Agüero and Drogba cannot play together up front. They occupy the same spaces, with Drogba preferring to play with his back to goal, and Agüero relying on his pace to exploit gaps in the backline. A run of form from the Argentinian relegates the fan-favourite to appearances off the bench and fans begin to question how much longer Drogba has left in the tank at the top level. Ancelotti shifts his starting line-up to use Ramires as a wide option on the right, and Malouda on the left in 4-5-1 system, to maximise the space for Agüero up front. Agüero performs admirably, scoring frequently and ending his debut half-season with 11 goals in 16 Premier League appearances. However, Chelsea do not manage to chase down Manchester United, finishing six points behind the Mancunians, so Ancelotti loses his job as a result.
2011 – A Year of Transition
In 2011, Chelsea decide to go for a rising star in management, Andre Villas-Boas and back him, allowing him to make wholesale changes to the squad. Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba both depart, the former leaving on a free transfer to rejoin Bolton Wanderers and the latter becoming the latest Galactico at Real Madrid, under Jose Mourinho. Villas-Boas uses Agüero as his first-choice striker, with Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku in reserve. AVB plumps for a 4-3-3 with Malouda and Juan Mata on the wings and Agüero up top. Chelsea, in a transition season finish outside the top four for the first time since Roman Abramovich has taken over the club, but the creative force of Mata and Malouda ensures Agüero easily hits double figures again, scoring a respectable 19 times and picking up 7 assists in 35 appearances. Manchester City storm to the title, however, with the beauty and beast strike partnership of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Torres, acquired the previous summer from Liverpool for a British record £50 million.
2012 – Inspiration, Injury and Impact
The 2012 season is marked by more big departures, as John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard all depart, in favour of AVB bringing in his preferred talents. Joao Moutinho arrives to anchor the midfield, Alvaro Pereira replaces Cole and Terry is displaced by another young Argentine, Diego Godin. AVB’s methodology begins to bare fruit as Chelsea start the season well, winning their opening five matches and Agüero is in sparkling form with seven goals. That is, until they face Champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. The fiery Pablo Zabaleta snaps his Argentinian team-mate in two and Agüero is out for several months. Although Lukaku and Sturridge chip in with some goals, Chelsea go from title contenders to being dragged into a fearsome top four battle, with Eden Hazard’s Tottenham Hotspur their main contender. Agüero returns for the crunch trip to White Hart Lane in January and his love affair against the Lilywhites begins as he bags a brace. Chelsea finish in the top four and Agüero finishes second in the golden boot race with an impressive 24 goals in 27 games, behind Robin Van Persie. Pundits speculate he’d have won without his injury. Chelsea also secure the FA Cup, with Agüero scoring in every single round.
Agüero continues to impress the Stamford Bridge faithful, but there is discussion amongst the fans of an overreliance on him. The system has shifted from being compact and relying on counter-attacking football, to a possession-based system aimed at making space for the Argentine to do damage in. No one expects Agüero to drop back into the midfield and meld the attacks together – he is regarded as a pure penalty box striker. To bolster the squad, Chelsea sign Hulk from Porto, and switch formation again, to play him upfront alongside Agüero. This doesn’t work. Hulk drifts wide far too often, leaving Agüero to be kicked constantly by the two defenders. Although he can hold his own, his temper does begin to show and Agüero collects petulant yellow cards for fouling. In some games, he is absolutely anonymous, besides the single chance he gets to stick it in the net, which he does do with regularity. He notches 23 goals in 31 league appearances, but AVB pays the price for his tactical blunders with his job, and Chelsea surprise everyone by appointing recently sacked Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to replace him in June 2013.
2013 – Superstardom
Rodgers commitment to continuing to preserve with attacking football surprises everyone. Brazilian Lucas Piazon seizes a chance and cements himself in the starting line-up thanks to his flair and trickery, alongside the world class force of Juan Mata and Agüero. The Argentine is now considered the top striker in the league and seen as being essential to any chance of Chelsea’s success this season.
The focus on fluidity in Rodgers’s system benefits Agüero hugely as the team create plenty of chances for him, and he continues to gobble them up. Lukaku and Sturridge are used in cup matches and to give Kun a breather when the team are winning well. There are concerns – Jose Bosingwa and Alvaro Pereira bomb forward leaving defensive frailties, but Chelsea try and outscore opponents. With Sturridge and Lukaku supporting, and Agüero spearheading a fearsome attacking outlet, Chelsea stun everyone, and win the Premier League and the Champions League, with Agüero scoring 37 times in 47 appearances. Chelsea become the first team from London to win the Champions League, almost eleven years to the day after Roman took over. beat Real Madrid in the final, with Agüero scoring the decisive winner to jeers due to his Los Cochoneros connection. Juan Mata ties a Spanish flag around him in the celebrations to taunt Real fans. In 142 Premier League matches, Agüero has scored 107 times for Chelsea. In all competitions, he has 180 appearances and 132 goals.
2014 – Farewell and the Future
However, Agüero’s success comes at a price. With just two years left on his current deal at Stamford Bridge, and having won nearly every trophy available, the summer transfer window brings interest from across Europe in Agüero. AC Milan see him as the man to build on Zlatan’s legacy. PSG want a new international star to compete with Ibrahimovic. In the end, Agüero is tempted by a return to Spain and FC Barcelona, who follow the recommendations of Lionel Messi and take Agüero as ample replacement for the departed David Villa sign the Argentine for a staggering €100m on a six-year contract.
Agüero continues to score on a frequent basis for Barcelona for the next six seasons, ending up with over 200 goals for the Catalan club, before returning to where it all began – Estudiantes in Argentina when his contract expires in 2020.
Overall, the Argentine doesn’t stay long enough to cement himself as a true Chelsea icon, but He does usher in a new age at the football club, where possession-based play and easy-on-the-eye football displaces the win-at-all costs mentality that previously drew so much success. His momentous season in 2013-14 become legendary, and the snapshot of Agüero scoring against Iker Casillas at the Estádio da Luz becomes iconic in Chelsea history.