Chelsea are in the unique position of being champions of the transfer market and chasing the world record for spending in one window – while struggling on the pitch against relatively modest rivals of their stature.
This week, the team recorded a second consecutive away loss and conceded 1:2 to Southampton. The previous visit of Thomas Tuchel and his players ended with the embarrassing 0:3 defeat by Leeds. The Blues have so far managed tough wins over Leicester and Everton without impressing, and their best game was actually the 2-2 draw with Tottenham when victory was dropped at the end.
Despite the lackluster moments on the pitch, new owner Todd Boely continues to splash money left and right on new players and, after signing Wesley Fofana from Leicester for £70m, broke the British record for spending in a single transfer window.
Hefty sums were also spent on Marc Koukoreia, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raheem Sterling and a number of youngsters, taking the total spent to around £260m. If the English media are to be believed, Boelli won’t stink on the final day of the transfer window either, as Chelsea work on a few more possible deals to solve their attacking woes.
Barcelona’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Everton’s Anthony Gordon are rumored to be interested, and the Blues have even been offered Neymar, who has impressed in recent weeks with PSG.
No wonder another transfer will be made, with which Real Madrid’s world record of 272.6 million pounds spent in one transfer window (in 2019, when Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic were among the signings) will be broken. Ambitions are obviously high, so Chelsea’s performance and ninth place in the standings cannot help but cause concern.
Of course, manager Thomas Tuchel sees where the problems lie. Watching how easily his players let their lead slip away against Southampton, he admitted that the loss was more down to defensive play than the much-maligned lack of a typical No.9.
In fact, Chelsea started the game quite energetically and Sterling deservedly opened the scoring after several good chances opened up in front of him. By the break, however, the visitors were already behind and, not for the first time this season, looked increasingly unconvincing as the match progressed. The spark for a final assault and to effect even a partial turnaround was lacking, and the bench’s attacking options could not trouble the well-organised hosts.
Of course, it’s no news that Chelsea are scoring hard under Tuchel. The German’s success at Stamford Bridge so far has been based on solid defence. In his first 50 games in charge of the team, he managed 31 clean sheets – more than any other side in the top 5 leagues during the same period.
However, the departure of key defenders after the end of last season had an impact. So far in the new campaign, Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet and have conceded 8 goals in 5 games. Perhaps the worst news for Tuchel and Boehly is that the frailties in Chelsea’s game don’t look like something that can be easily ironed out with one more transfer or another in the closing hours of the window.
Could Aubameyang, 33, sacked by Arsenal at the start of the year, be the solution? Or 21-year-old Anthony Gordon? Or should a reliable defensive midfielder be considered given another injury to N’Golo Kante? The Frenchman is outstanding, but unfortunately he cannot be counted on to go a full season without injury and this should have been taken into account when planning the massive selection.
Confidence in Tuchel at Stamford Bridge remains high and he will not lose it easily. The manager led Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph in 2021 and kept the squad stable during the difficult period surrounding the change of ownership and the departure of Roman Abramovich. Unsurprisingly, the new owners gave him a more central role in transfer policy.
And while Chelsea’s activity in the market appears to be largely chaotic, it is too early to judge this summer’s transfers. Certainly the names attracted and the sums spent, at least on paper, meet the ambitions of a club that wants to be in the top 3 of the Premier League and go far in the Champions League.
But the problem is that changes take time, the cooperation of the players does not always go smoothly, and so far Tuchel’s attempts to freshen up the game scheme seem to make it more difficult for the performers than to make it easier. And in modern football, patience is not respected and time for reorganization is never enough. The calendar is merciless and leaves almost no normal period for rest and preparation even in the summer.
Once the season starts, games come every few days and problems have to be solved on the fly. Chelsea have money, but all the money in the world can’t buy you time – and right now, maybe Tuchel and this group of players need time the most.
However, there is no one waiting for them. With such ambitions and such failures, with such a serious and developing competition, the “blues” cannot afford a transition season without it leading to significant upheavals.
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