Chelsea has a bad habit of not striking while the iron is hot. The time to spend big on transfers and sell off players no longer needed is right after winning a major trophy. The last time the club got that right was 2012. 2015 was a disaster on every level. 2017 was awful too given the main targets were almost all replaced by plan B, C, and D options that were “good enough”.
Thus far, Chelsea has done well to avoid signings for signings sake. But it’s the overall path of this window that makes little to no sense for the club. Almost everything assumed when the summer started has now changed completely. While there is still time to save this window and it can’t be written off yet, the club can’t really be given the benefit of the doubt yet either.
First of all, a ton of players that are supposed to be sold every single summer still remain. Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Matt Miazga, Davide Zappacosta, Lewis Baker and many, many others are all still kicking around Cobham. Thomas Tuchel has two defenses for this. The first is he’s never seen these players before and he does deserve time with them to evaluate them. The second is the team’s been drained of first teamers this summer and these players were needed to fill in. But all of that has passed and none of these players seem any closer to finally leaving than they did at the start of the summer.
Next up is the youth exodus. If you had asked fans which youth player from the loan army was most likely to stay in the new season, many would have said Marc Guehi. If you had asked others who from the academy was most likely to breakthrough next, they would have said Lewis Bate and Tino Livramento. All are gone now.
The argument can be made all day about how they weren’t ready and how they may never be, but it should absolutely be a concern to Chelsea that in one summer most if not all of their top prospects opted to leave. Them leaving not even a season removed from Mason Mount and Reece James lifting the Champions League should be analyzed, not waived away. If the youth revolution was real at all, the club has to figure out how to continue it. It cannot die with Frank Lampard’s sacking while the youth don’t want to wait to see if Thomas Tuchel can follow suit. They need to be shown how the pathway exists now, but that’s tricky when other clubs offer them better career opportunities than the team that took the time to invest in them.
And finally, the actual transfers themselves. Stop if you’ve heard this story before: Chelsea goes all out for one player all window just to decide that it won’t happen too late to change course. It’s basically every Chelsea window of the past decade except for last summer. The club has all eyes on Erling Haaland as other options slip away.
Romelu Lukaku is supposedly being courted too, but that’s little more realistic. At the time of writing, Harry Kane is AWOL from Tottenham but even staying in the same city may be too unrealistic when Daniel Levy is involved.
Then there is the adjacent business. Achraf Hakimi was a target despite not being a need. We know he wasn’t a need because all rumors of alternative targets died within the week of his Paris Saint-Germain transfer.
Add in a midfield pursuit of Declan Rice or Aurelien Tchouameni that never quite goes away but never really moves either. If that deal is real, it is likely that it is tied to how much goes into a striker. If that’s true, then it just feeds into the tunnel vision.
Next, enter Jules Kounde who blows most of what was just said about centermids out of the water. Does Chelsea need another centerback? Maybe given current contract situations. Do they need to engineer swap deals or pay over price for a young one to get them before anyone else? Probably not but there are so few centerback options that it pains the club into a hole. Even still, the move seems predicated on so many other things happening that it looks more likely each day something new is added.
And the thing working against Chelsea most of all with transfers now is time. It’s already August and teams are going to hold tighter to their players every day. Dortmund won’t sell Haaland at any price if they don’t have time for a replacement. Same goes for whoever is a midfielder target and Kounde if he comes without a swap. There is still a month left, but some of these deals take a full month to happen as it is. Time is no longer the club’s ally.
The transfer window has about four weeks to go and it hasn’t made sense for Chelsea. Players that should have gone remain. Players that should be the future have all left. The big money transfers that are supposed to keep Chelsea at a Champions League winning level all seem unlikely but the team is undeterred in their pursuits. All this can change with time, but time is running out with each passing day.