Well, this comes as a surprise.
Chelsea’s transfer ban has been truncated. They will be able to buy players this January window.
If you’re a Blues supporter, this is obviously fantastic news. Frank Lampard is sending some mixed messages. One day he says they’ll be active, the next that Chelsea won’t be “reactionary.”
So what should Chelsea do?
Let’s go shopping with site contributors Tyler Everett and Uttiyo Sarkar.
Chelsea 2020 January Transfer Window
Chops: Well, bad news for any team not named Liverpool, Manchester City, or Leicester. Fourth place Chelsea’s transfer ban has been lifted. If you thought you were challenging for a top 4 spot this season, your climb may be that much tougher. First question: do Chelsea even need to spend heavily? Is their squad good enough as is to secure a UCL spot?
Tyler: I don’t think they need to open up the wallet too much at all. One of the best things they have going for them is the chemistry between the current players, and that’s a big byproduct of them relying on each other and growing together this off-season and fall. You definitely don’t want to add too many players expecting major minutes for chemistry reasons, and also because of the “if it ain’t broke…” line of thinking.
Despite saying all that, if the current swoon — they’ve lost three of four in the EPL, including Saturday’s disaster vs. Everton — continues, it will be a sign this roster may not be as complete/dependable as we thought. Chelsea will be favored in more games than not between now and January, and club execs will be studying every player closely now that they know it will be possible to make personnel upgrades. I’ll also add that if Chelsea makes it to the knockout rounds of the UCL, they’re going to be that much more in need of depth, if nothing else.
The Telegraph, FWIW, says Lampard has £150M to spend in January.
Uttiyo: As long as they aren’t plagued with long-term injuries, I think their squad is good enough to hold their nerve in the top-four race. Considering how those below them are constantly fumbling (yes I’m looking at you Arsenal & Man United), they should be able to go all the way. The only real worry has been their defending, which needs to be the place which needs most investment in the winter. But considering how good their attack has been, those blushes tend to get overshadowed so they should secure a UCL position even if they don’t invest in the winter.
Chops: We’ve been pretty consistent on High Press Soccer saying that Chelsea would have highs and lows this season. They’re certainly in a short-term rut (doesn’t it get lower than losing to Everton?) but should come out of it soon. But adding some squad depth can’t hurt. So where does Chelsea need to spend 1) to strengthen their starting XI, and 2) to improve depth?
Tyler: I think we’d probably all agree that if there’s a weakness on this team, it’s in the back-line area. We expected defending to be an issue throughout the summer and the early weeks of the season, and there have been some ugly performances on that end. If I have to single out one player who could be upgraded, I’ll say Kurt Zouma, but it’s more of a matter of that unit needing to step it up.
And for depth, I’ll actually look up top. Chelsea’s young attackers have been awesome, but you can never have too many players who are proven scorers in big games, especially in late-round UCL games. An experienced vet who could start most games on the bench but be ready if they need a late burst in a close game would be a big asset.
Uttiyo: As promising as Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have looked in recent months, Chelsea desperately need to improve their central defence. Inexperience in the middle has been causing them trouble throughout this season, be it bad positioning or over-aggressiveness from their centre-backs exposing the defensive vulnerabilities. So they definitely need a commanding centre-back to hold the line and take the pressure off the younger defenders.
Their midfield is short of depth as well, which was evident when N’Golo Kante was injured. Mason Mount isn’t a central midfielder and Ross Barkley/Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s injury troubles don’t help. So I think central midfield is a place where they need more creative depth in particular to help the attackers be even more lethal going forward.
Chops: Should Chelsea explore bringing in a veteran player to provide further leadership to the youngsters–or stay focused on 21 and under players?
Tyler: Like I said above, an experienced player to increase the number of goal-scoring options would make sense, but otherwise I’d stay youth-focused. It’s hard to be opposed to veteran depth, but it would not make sense to add seasoned guys expecting to play major roles.
Uttiyo: So I think Lampard’s done well in mixing experience with youth so far, but he still needs some older players to help steady the ship. The youngsters still have much to learn and if they can get someone who’s done it all, that’ll be a great learning curve for the likes of Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, etc. They also need experience to do well in the UCL, so bringing someone with good European experience is the call of the hour for them.
Chops: Name one potentially available January target (so no James Maddison! who Chelsea should pursue. I’ll start this off by saying I agree with Tyler that you can never have enough goal scorers, so looking at someone like Bournemouth’s Calum Wilson is intriguing. However, the name to me which absolutely makes the most sense–and this kills me–is Jadon Sancho. Obviously I’m counting down the minutes until he’s wearing Liverpool Red, but from an age and profile perspective, he fits the bill.
But if we all agree they need backline help, here are two center-back names: Brighton’s Dan Burn (about $4M value) and American Aaron Long (same). They’re both 27 and in their prime. They both provide a steady presence and depth. And neither will break the bank. Save the big money spend for the summer when more options may be available.
Tyler: Is Zlatan really going to AC Milan? Would he be a good fit at Chelsea? Probably and no. Honestly just brought him up because how do you not mention him when talking hypothetical spending sprees.
No one jumps to the front of my mind right away, but Chelsea’s need for a midfielder + Ivan Rakitic’s dwindling role at Barcelona seemingly make him a good fit.
Chops: I like both of those ideas for them! At least in the short-term as one season rentals.
Uttiyo: Okay this will be controversial for sure, but I think Chelsea must go all in for Christian Eriksen in January. Yes, he’s a Spurs player so they won’t be keen on selling to their arch-rivals. BUT, they’d definitely prefer getting some money for him than letting him go for nothing. Jose Mourinho is a former Chelsea boss, perhaps he can help his old side out a bit!
Eriksen would honestly fit in perfectly at Chelsea. With Kante, Jorginho taking care of the defensive work, he’d bring in a lot of flair and creativity into their midfield. Just imagine the incisive passes he can make to Abraham, Pulisic and co! His set-piece delivery is perfect and he scored plenty from midfield. Would definitely elevate their title chances next season.
Chops: Eriksen! You’re right, didn’t see that coming. It seems obvious that Chelsea will at least try to spend this January.