One of my key concerns heading into this season surrounded the top heavy investment the club made during the summer. Willian and Schürrle are decent purchases but there were certainly more pressing issues at hand. (A quick note on Schürrle: has it become de rigueur to slate a new signing based on a handful of games? Our ‘support’ becomes more and more like Arsenal every day – it really needs to stop. By all means criticise a performance, but he has not even played in his preferred position yet).
For several years we have lacked a midfielder capable of running a game from deep. Our pursuit of Modriç suggests that the club have realised this has been a problem: our initial bid of £40m was rejected on 30th August 2011. Nevertheless, the club identified an inherent weakness in the squad and subsequently allowed five transfer windows to pass without signing someone of this particular ilk. There are players of a similar quality to Modriç that have been available in the four windows since this bid. Do we try and then just acquiesce once the bid never results in an offer being accepted?
If the club were willing to spend £40m to solve the problem you could fairly assume that it is a priority. You could reel off a list of names of midfielders who could play this role perfectly. I am certain that given our transfer budget this summer Mourinho would have wanted someone to fulfil this role. Alas, we have known for quite some time now that our manager has very little input in the transfer process.
The blindingly obvious issue has actually become so blindingly obvious as to have seemingly blinded anyone making decisions from acting. How have we started a season with this set of strikers? Who thought this was a good idea? Manchester United will never sell Wayne Rooney to us. It actually felt like the club wanted to publicly look as if they were doing something knowing all along that it would never happen: “at least we tried, eh?”
Our level of finishing was atrocious against Everton. To register over twenty attempts at goal with less than five hitting the target is frankly abysmal. Eto’o, at thirty-two, showed more movement and desire than any of our forwards has done for seasons. Lacking in top level sharpness and fitness he looked a class apart from Torres and Ba. This is what is has come down to for the club.
Torres will no doubt see out the rest of his two and a half years on his contract. That is something that the club cannot keep ignoring. They took a gamble on Torres that has spectacularly backfired; he now ties the clubs hands in several ways. We cannot sell Torres as he will never see anywhere near the sort of money he is on currently. A loan also seems to be unlikely at this point in his career for several reasons. The less said about Ba the better.
With Hazard, Mata, De Bruyne, Oscar and Moses we could certainly have coped this season without additions. The £80m spent this summer should unequivocally have yielded a top tier striker and a central midfielder capable of playing that box-to-box role we have coveted for two years. How do you therefore judge the work Emenalo is doing? Clearly some excellent young players have been bought, but if the composition of the squad falls on someone surely it is him.