I’m beginning to think last year’s summer transfer window might have spoiled Chelsea fans a little bit. With clear requirements/issues to address, the club went out with great conviction and made some quality additions quickly – it was always going to be more difficult this year to make improvements of a similar order. But now with only four weeks to go until the start of the season, traces of anxiousness and urgency are beginning to manifest themselves amongst the fans. Names like Mario Gotze, Isco, Axel Witsel and Antoine Griezmann continue to be linked by virtue of unreliable sources and their unconvincing reports; the odds of a big signing actually being made within the month however are beginning to look remote.
Of course the most high profile piece of transfer business involving the club so far has been the long expected sale of Petr Cech to Arsenal. There really isn’t much to be said about this deal. I don’t think the club had much of a choice but to allow it. But though it may be unpleasant to watch the Czech play for our London rivals (and potentially our biggest rivals for the league next season) there are at least two consoling factors. The first being obviously that we still have a better goalkeeper, and the second being that the signing of Asmir Begovic from Stoke looks like happening very soon. I can’t quite believe that the Bosnian, being 28 and arguably one of the top 20 keepers in the world, is prepared to become second choice at a club for close to the remainder of his career, but regardless, his impending arrival means the back-up keeper dilemma will have been emphatically resolved.
Despite the fact ours was comfortably the best in the country last season, looking at our defence, it feels like at least one addition needs to be made. I think it’d be risky to rely on being as fortunate with injuries and suspensions as we were last season. As much we all may hope to rely on another season where John Terry plays every minute, with every passing year it becomes a less likely prospect. Stuttgart’s young German centre half Antonio Rudiger has been mentioned as a supposed target. Tall, athletic and versatile, though still a bit raw, he could be a very clever long term addition, as a possible replacement for Terry and eventual partner for Kurt Zouma. He is apparently an Arsenal fan but we could soon cure that particular ailment.
Having roundly failed to secure a place in the team ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta, it also isn’t surprising to hear Filipe Luis is allegedly keen on a return to Madrid. I think the Brazilian was probably underused last season and I hope he stays but at the same time, if his mind is made up, then the club should look to quickly secure a fee and find a replacement. Augsburg’s talented Ghanaian full back Abdul Baba Rahman has been linked but with Roma interested too, we should make a move soon, or risk being left with either an unhappy player, or a dangerous gap left in the squad.
It’s annoying and bit confusing to constantly hear rumours of Juan Cuadrado and especially Oscar being linked with moves to Italy, when the players, their agents and Jose Mourinho have come out and made clear they aren’t to be sold this summer. Both, it would seem, have the full confidence of the manager and with no big names apparently arriving any time soon, both will surely be needed.
Current midfield –
Matic, Fabregas, Ramires, Loftus-Cheek, Mikel (leaving?)
Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Cuadrado
History suggests that teams don’t retain the Premier League unless they add quality players to an already champion squad, and it feels necessary that at least one top level midfield player is added, almost regardless of whether he is an attacker or more defensively minded. In my opinion though, with the four options we currently have, plus with Cesc and Ramires able to play in those three attacking slots behind Costa, another option to play in those two defensive midfield positions would be a better signing. A player who can suitably replace Matic and also partner him in big games is the one thing missing to make us side capable of winning the Champions League. And with Man Utd dicking around with silly offers for Morgan Schneiderlin, I don’t know why we don’t just snap the Frenchman up now, and make sure we start the season with the two best defensive midfielders in England at our disposal, in front of the division’s best back five. I’m sure how anybody would ever score again.
The signing of Falcao has split opinion; I don’t think anybody expects the Colombian to become first choice striker, except in the case of injury to Diego Costa. Given the nature of the deal, I think the potential reward for a such a low risk makes this a clever move from Chelsea. I only hope it doesn’t prompt Loic Remy to look for a move away. I think the Frenchman is an underrated player and was underused last season, and after their respective campaigns last year, I think he should probably start the year as second choice ahead of Falcao as well.
At the end of last season we found ourselves in an enjoyable position where our rivals had to strengthen if they wanted to compete seriously next year. Two months on from our League win and things don’t feel quite so comfortable however. Arsenal signing Cech leaves them just one big signing either in midfield or upfront away from being contenders. Man Utd are making clever signings in key positions with Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian both likely to improve the starting XI. City have stalled thus far but should they sign either Raheem Sterling or Kevin De Bruyne then they will mean business straight away.
It’s comforting to remind oneself that whatever happens we will start the year with the best manager, the best goalkeeper and the best defence in the league by far. Of all the title contenders, we will also easily be the most cohesive and the most confident. With games against Man City and Arsenal, and some traditionally difficult away matches at Everton, West Brom and Newcastle before October, we have the chance to make an ominous start also. So, all in all no real need to get nervous. Not yet anyway.