Well, here we go again, the January transfer window is upon us. The last minute deals, the constant speculation, Harry Redknapp driving away from his club’s ground at a ridiculous hour in the morning, and as usual Chelsea are being linked with a name for almost position you can have on a football pitch. However, this time around, there is at least one position that Chelsea desperately need to spend on and they need to do it now.
The need has been obvious, really since the start of the season, and that is, of course, the signing of a new striker. Alvaro Morata continues to struggle for form in all competitions for Chelsea and just doesn’t seem to be enjoying his time at the club, hardly celebrating when he does score. Olivier Giroud was never supposed to be the first choice striker and while his link-up play, especially with Eden Hazard, is exceptional, he simply doesn’t score enough either. Both strikers together have scored six goals in the Premier League. Six. SIX. That is simply not good enough. But who could they bring in to try and remedy this?
As of writing this, no-one has been signed, but the name most frequently mentioned is that of Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentinian has of course worked with Maurizio Sarri before at Napoli, where he enjoyed his most prolific season, scoring 36 goals in 35 Serie A games. There is no doubt that Higuain knows where the goal is, despite his rather underwhelming start at AC Milan, where he is currently on loan from Juventus. What Chelsea need above all else is some one put the chances they are creating away. Playing Hazard as a ‘false nine’ removes that from the side and leaves the team at a disadvantage. Higuain is apparently Sarri’s first choice for a new striker and has told Gennaro Gattuso, Milan’s manager, that he wants to leave. What Higuain may lack in physical attributes would hopefully be made up for by his nous, but it is worth remembering that he is now 31 and this would not be a long term solution to the problem.
So who else is on the Blues’ radar?
This was a slightly out of left-field rumour when it first emerged but has now seemingly grown into concrete interest. Chelsea are apparently willing to pay £50 million for Wilson if a deal cannot be struck for Higuain, which would represent a rather tidy profit for Bournemouth on the reported £3 million they paid Coventry four and a half years ago. Wilson has done extremely well to come back from anterior cruciate ligament injuries in both knees and has really kicked on in the Premier League this season, scoring 10 goals in all competitions and putting in consistently impressive performances. The questions surrounding Wilson would be his ability to fit into Sarri’s style of play, whether he would be able to make the jump from lower-mid table side to a club usually pushing for European football and if he would be able to score regularly enough to push Chelsea back into title contention.
Other names continue to pop up, such as Krzysztof Piatek, Mauro Icardi and perhaps most surprisingly Jaime Vardy. All are proven goalscorers, but there are factors that could cause Chelsea to think again with all of them. Piatek and Icardi have never played in the Premier League and may struggle to adapt to the pace and physicality as well as the lack of time defenders give forwards on the ball. Vardy is a proven Premier League goalscorer, part of that remarkable title winning Leicester side, but he is 31 and will not be the long term solution, and may not fit in to the system that Sarri wants to develop and hone at Chelsea.
What else might Chelsea get up to?
The other consideration now that Cesc Fabregas has left after 4 and half years of brilliant service (Thank you for everything Cesc, wear your magic hat with pride) is a creative midfielder that can help dictate the tempo of the passing, keep possession and find and exploit gaps in the opposition defence. I was at yesterday’s game against Newcastle at the Bridge and Jorginho was in trouble. Some of his passes were wayward, he gave the ball away a number of times and was often unable to get the ball into a dangerous area. So, Sarri is now asking the board to sign someone in the Fabregas/ Jorginho mold. A few names have been thrown about including Nicolo Barella of Cagliari (incidentally, Gianfranco Zola’s hometown club), Leandro Parades of Zenit St. Petersburg and even an attempt to hijack Adrien Rabiot’s proposed move to Barcelona.
Of course one solution may be to push Jorginho into a slightly more advanced position and put Kante into his original defensive midfield position. In my opinion, a midfielder is not too high on the Chelsea shopping list, because we currently have available; Jorginho, N’golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Danny Drinkwater and Marco Van Ginkel returning from a serious injury, as well as Ethan Ampadu being able to cover the role adequately, as he did against Nottingham Forest in the F.A. Cup. It perhaps should be considered to slightly switch the system and push Jorginho forward and pull Kante back into a more familiar position and try to move the ball forward with greater pace.
And to be honest, there’s no other business that Chelsea need to do in the January transfer window. If a centre forward can be brought in who is able to find the net regularly, I think Chelsea will be able to kick on in the second half of the season and finish in one of the Champions League spots. But if they fail to bring in that someone, they could well fail to finish in the top four for a second season running, and fall further behind Manchester City and Liverpool as well as Tottenham, and God forbid they ever become the dominant team in London.