WITH seven minutes remaining at the Emirates stadium, Chelsea must have been getting their chequebook ready for action, but two goals later, the shortcomings of the first hour of the game were brushed aside.
Recent Chelsea performances have shown that they are very short of experienced talent. The energy and enthusiasm of their young players has carried them through the first half of the campaign, but they have not been able to replace Eden Hazard, whose absence is truly felt.
That Chelsea are in fourth place in the league at the halfway stage is a major achievement in itself. True, at times they have been absolutely outstanding, but their home form – one of the staples of the Abramovich era – has been sub-optimal and they haven’t shown they can live with the top teams. Considering they have been unable to add to their squad until now, Frank Lampard has done a remarkable job in keeping Chelsea in the top four and qualifying for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. But like everyone else in the Premier League, they are far off the top places.
In this season of transition for a few clubs, the top four should be within Chelsea’s grasp. Arsenal can be written off now and the big challenges are likely to come from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, as well as Tottenham and maybe Manchester United. Assuming that Liverpool and Manchester City will take one and two, there are two Champions League places up for grabs.
Chelsea lack the overall quality to be title contenders with their current squad and they have mined their youth system for the cream of the crop. They need a decent left full back and a commanding central defender, although there are still hopes that a new John Terry might emerge from the current group of centre backs, although Kurt Zouma is 25 and Andreas Christensen seems out of favour. They also need goals from midfield and another striker to take the pressure of 22 year-old Tammy Abraham. They are still waiting for Callum Hudson-Odoi to come good and it seems unlikely that Michy Batshuayi will still be at Stamford Bridge come 2020-21 season. The rumour mill suggests that Chelsea will spend up to £ 150 million in January, but who will they pursue?
There’s no shortage of exciting young players linked to Chelsea, but all of them are also on other clubs’ shopping lists. Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund has continued his progress this season but he’s 19 and media reports suggest the Bundesliga club want around £ 100 million for him. But Dortmund may be more inclined to sell now they have secured Erling Braut Håland from Red Bull Salzburg.
Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace is keen to move to a bigger club and at 27 years of age, he’s reaching a point where it is now or never. Zaha had one attempt to playing for an elite club when he joined Manchester United at 20, but he never really got the chance to make the move a success.
Timo Werner of RB Leipzig is also a much-coveted player. At 23, he’s approaching his prime and with 68 goals in 109 games, he’s proved he can score in the Bundesliga. He’s also scored 11 goals in 29 appearances for Germany.
Some newspapers reported that Real Madrid’s Isco (27) is also heading for Chelsea. He’s a versatile player who has excellent dribbling skills and has been capped 38 times by Spain. But is he any better than the resources Chelsea currently have at their disposal?
Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell, Lyon forward Moussa Dembeele, Nathan Ake and Callum Wilson of Bournemouth and Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech have also been linked with Chelsea. Of course, they may end up with a completely different set of players or even decide to wait until the summer to bolster their squad.
While all of these players are either potential-rich or established names, Chelsea arguably need a talismanic figure to spearhead the challenge of the new decade. Since Abramovich arrived at the club, players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard have filled that role. Chelsea need a successor to these players.
Chelsea’s current lack of consistency could cost them dear if they do not get back on track. The win at the Emirates was as much about Arsenal’s current problems as it was Chelsea’s powers of recovery. It remains to be seen if they can build some momentum on the back of this victory, but they will be watching Mourinho’s Tottenham, United and the Midlands duo closely in the coming weeks.