With only a day until the January transfer window closes, Chelsea’s lack of activity has a number of fans voicing their anger. Why did the club go to such lengths to get the ban they were saddled with overturned if they weren’t going to do any business in January? Lampard has also been very vocal this month about his belief that the squad needs to be strengthened, particularly in attack. Chelsea have created enough chances to win games handily this season and only drawn or lost games they should have easily come out on top in. The reason that Lampard has been so desperate to bring attacking reinforcements in is plain to see. Chelsea were overly reliant on Eden Hazard to both create and score goals last season and his departure left a hole in Chelsea’s attack that was always going to be difficult to fill. When you have a winger scoring 20 goals a season, it takes a lot of the pressure off of the central striker. The wingers that stayed at Chelsea have never contributed more than 15 goals a season, though an exception must be made for Callum Hudson-Odoi as last season was his first in senior football. Because of this, Chelsea are now reliant on Tammy Abraham to score the goals. Abraham has done very well in his first season as Chelsea’s first choice striker, scoring 15 goals in all competitions this season, but that simply isn’t enough to maintain a top four challenge.
Rumours have emerged earlier today that Chelsea have entered into negotiations with Napoli as to the possibility of signing Dries Mertens. Mertens’ contract runs out at the end of this season, so the fee may be significantly smaller than that of Edison Cavani, who has also been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. Both are 32, with contracts that expire in the summer. Both are renowned goal-scorers who would be able to provide genuine quality in reserve or even to push Tammy Abraham for a starting spot. But Cavani’s contract is worth £360,000 a week and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly asking for £25 million to sign him this window. That just does not represent value for money for me. Chelsea are unlikely to offer anything more than an 18-month contract and if his wage demands really are that high, then that deal is a non-starter.
The real truth of the matter, as far as I can tell, is that January is not the time to try an overhaul of the squad. Lampard has reportedly earmarked a left-back, a back-up striker for Tammy Abraham and a replacement for Eden Hazard. Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell and Jaden Sancho of Borussia Dortmund have been two of the many names linked with Chelsea, but deals of that magnitude are never likely to come off in January. For one thing, both players are vital to their respective clubs and neither will particularly willing to sell midway through the season. Furthermore, they are both likely to command very high transfer fees. Jaden Sancho is more than likely to cost over £100 million while Chilwell is likely to be priced at around £70-80 million. Those are not deals that can be pulled off in January. They will require weeks of negotiations and could run all summer long. The board are rumoured to have promised Lampard a sizable transfer budget for the summer window.
There are also a few Chelsea players whose contracts are running out in the summer. Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud all have less than six months left on their contracts. Willian has publicly stated he would like to stay, but nothing more has emerged on that front. If Chelsea are planning to launch a bid for Jaden Sancho in the summer, then either Pedro or Willian will be leaving, otherwise Chelsea will be overstocked in that area of the attacking wide player. If I was to make a guess right now who would leave, my money would be on Pedro. He’s done extremely well during his time at Chelsea, scored some crucial goals including the second in the Europa League final last season. However, he just hasn’t played enough this season for either he or the club to seriously think about renewing his contract for another year.
Chelsea have gone to great lengths this season to renew the contracts of all their young stars, like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount and Reece James. Offering a new contract to Pedro when he’s not getting in the team and the club is seemingly intent on signing a player in his position just doesn’t make sense. Olivier Giroud is desperate for game time to strengthen his claim for a place in the France squad for Euro 2020. He just isn’t getting that at Stamford Bridge at the moment, and with his deal running out in the summer anyway, he will be looking to move on.
The plan at the start of the season was most likely just to make do with what they had for the season and look to rebuild in the summer of 2020. Given that many January signings often don’t work out as intended (look at Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United) and that clubs don’t want to be dragged into panic buying, that should still be Chelsea’s mindset.