Chelsea’s Transfer Window Review: New Manager, Same Old Problems!
Posted by Daniele Accurso | Published on September 3, 2016
As the clock struck 11pm, I sat back with a sigh of relief as David Luiz was confirmed and our defensive worries were eased. Spaniard Marcos Alonso signed from Fiorentina earlier in the day and will help provide cover to his countrymen Cesar Azpilicueta at left back, an area we’re desperately short on after the departure of Baba Rahman on loan. However as the dust settled and BBC 5 Live’s coverage came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with how our transfer window came to an end.
With Conte having put pen to paper over becoming Chelsea’s new manager back in April, the Italian had plenty of time with the board of directors and in particular Michael Emenalo, to sort out Chelsea’s underlying problems. The Blues were quick off the mark at the start of summer, signing the best central midfielder in the league last season, N’Golo Kante. The man who runs a marathon as a warm up was a welcome addition in the centre, with the Matic-Fabregas partnership no longer working. Kante’s early performances have been nothing short of brilliant. Breaking play and keeping it simple has allowed Matic to roam forward and assist the front line. At £32 million for a title winner, he looks a bargain when you compare him to Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, who was bought for a world record £89 million. Having made the most successful tackles in the Premier League last season, Kante has papered over the cracks that Chelsea were so vulnerable to last season. An astute signing at the age of 25, he’ll be playing for the Blues for years to come!
Conte then bolstered a lackluster forward line with the highly sought after Michy Batshuayi. Having been scouted by fellow London clubs Crystal Palace and West Ham, the talented 22 year old playing for Belgium in the Euros was a surprise buy from the South West London club. His passion is electrifying and his banter on twitter has made all fans regardless of club loyalties fall for the man! Playing second fiddle to Costa last season were Pato who was hardly fit, the Colombian Falcao who netted only once, the bored Frenchmen Loic Remy and youngster Bertrand Traore who still needs time to progress. Thus Batshuayi’s pedigree and charisma has been a breath of fresh air for a team which seemed lifeless at times last season, eventually getting Jose the sack as they revolted within the dressing room. With a record of 0.42 goals a game for Marseille and 7 caps for Belgium, he is being touted as the next Didier Drogba and could become a cult figure at the club!
So what has disappointed me so much? What seemed like a glorious window of signings soon turned stagnate, with defensive reinforcements playing hard to get. Chelsea’s midfield and striker issues were sorted, but what really needed addressing was the back line. Zouma’s long term injury mid way through last season forced John Terry and Cahill to partner each other once again, but their performances were incomparable to that of when Chelsea won the league two season back. Terry’s legs had gone and Cahill’s clueless marking were causing Chelsea to let in goals galore. This problem was further compounded by Branislav Ivanovic at right back. When going forward, he would be caught out at the back on a counter, with Cahill or Terry having to come across and deal with the opposition. The defence was a shambles, even Mourinho’s brilliance as a defensive manager couldn’t hide the ever growing issues with the back four.
With Conte’s preference of a strong back line being his ideology behind a successful team, signings were expected and world class additions at that. Having managed the Italian national side and in Serie A, strong, capable centre backs were being touted as possibilities including Napoli’s Koulibaly, AC Milan’s Romagnoli and Juventus’ Chiellini. What Chelsea fans were not expecting was the purchase of ex-Blues favourite, long haired Brazilian, David Luiz. Having signed for PSG back in 2014, a world record fee £50 million for a defender, everyone laughed at the Parisian side for buying a centre back who seemingly couldn’t defend. Respected pundits have been quoted saying this about Luiz’s abilities;
” (He seems to be) controlled by a 10-year-old in the crowd on a Playstation.”
Jamie Carragher after Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi final,
“I have never been a fan… that was as bad a central defensive performance as I’ve seen from someone at this level.”
“Certain centre backs are leaders, while others need to be led. After this game, it is obvious what category he is in!”
Ex Chelsea defender Jason Cundy had this to say,
“He’s a talented footballer but questions still remain about him as a defender due to the risks he takes and the lapses in concentration that can, and have lead to goals conceded in the past.”
Finally, French Journalist Laurens Julien isn’t the biggest fan of Luiz,
“David Luiz has had no more than 4 good games in 2 years & “PSG can’t believe their luck”
So the experts don’t seem so keen on the move so why has Conte gone for him? To me its plain and simple. It’s a panic buy! We targeted Koulibaly along with others and never got them. So we went for a player that a club were willing to sell as he’s replaceable. Fantastic! With Luiz not in their side, it doesn’t weaken the team, they’ll just stick Marquinhos in there instead, whose naturally a proper centre back. The love affair with Luiz blossomed after that night in Munich 2012. We all know the Brazilian isn’t a gifted centre back but he played the full 120 minutes, through injury, to score a penalty in the shootout and win the coveted prize that had allured the blues for many years, the Champions League. His eccentric personality has fans on the edge of their seat, sometimes not always for the best but us fans want that thrill. Without it, it’s just boring! However, I prefer excitement usually higher up the pitch.
And onto our final signing, the 25 year old Spanish full back Marcos Alonso. Having played for Bolton and Sunderland, he has Premier League experience and last season was participating in the Europa League with Fiorentina. Alonso holds the key to finally dropping Ivanovic as Azpilicueta can move onto the right hand side whilst Alonso takes up the left back spot. At £23 million, he hasn’t come to be a bit part player. Conte’s splashed big on him and by loaning out Baba Rahman, he now has to trust Alonso and drop the Serbian stalwart who doesn’t have the pace to match the speed of the league anymore. Once again though, was Alonso our first choice target for the left back role? Could Conte really not find someone better to replace Azpilicueta whose been fantastic in an unnatural left back role?
Both Luiz and Alonso scream panic buys to me. Neither would have been Conte’s preferred targets unlike Kante and Batshauyi. Last year we made the same errors in the market. Buying Papy Djilobodji who saw one minute of football and has now gone to Sunderland, Michael Hector who never saw game time and Pedro who has been average on either wing and seemingly only scores against “lesser teams”.
A window which started so well for us buying Belgium’s finest young talent along with a title winner filled me with such hope. What an oxymoron to how I feel now. Deflated, solemn, angry all come to mind. Resigning a player we celebrated when he left as we couldn’t believe we got £50 million out of him. He’s no long term replacement for Terry or Cahill. We needed a leader at the back, a presence alongside Zouma when he returns back from his long term injury. We needed a Thiago Silva type player, not his assistant David Luiz!
I hope with Conte’s tactics and philosophy we can get the best out of Luiz. With his natural abilities on the ball, if Conte can mould him into a ball playing centre back who can control his attacking urges, we maybe onto a winner. But I just can’t help but feel after a start of such promise with Kante and Batshuayi, we’ve made the same mistakes as last season which may cost us the title this season. Come May, I want Luiz to prove me and everyone else wrong by lifting the title. Here’s to a new beginning for all our signings and hopefully to having a great season at the club!