Chelsea’s January Window

So it has come to that point in the season again that every fan absolutely hates loves: the hallowed January transfer window. Not since the days of Chelsea’s fateful Fernando Torres signing has anything of note happened in January. Nevertheless, Sky Sport’s incessant ramping up of the final day has almost become a day of celebration in itself. Millions of people sitting in front of a rolling news station waiting for something that is likely to have broken on Twitter 45 minutes beforehand. The joy.

My contempt for the SkySportsification™ of the transfer window aside, January can often be a place to find crucial squad depth for the final push towards the Premier League title (or to avoid relegation). After two years of relative obscurity, from a Chelsea perspective, this finally feels like the club are back in the thick of things. With that being said there are certain holes that Chelsea could look to fill that would at the very least guarantee them a serious shot at landing the Premier League.

Chelsea’s current defensive situation is far from ideal, but definitely serviceable until the end of the season. While more quality in the full-back area and centre-back should be sought it can at least wait until the summer. I would be surprised to see any departures here and no club is likely to be able to afford the price Chelsea were reportedly quoting for David Luiz in the summer.

Into midfield is where things become interesting. The long-term injury to Marco van Ginkel is incredibly unfortunate given the potential playing time he would have had this season. Michael Essien may not be sold this January, but his days are sadly numbered at Chelsea. David Luiz can be used as an auxiliary midfielder, which bolsters numbers to five, but one serious injury could leave Chelsea with two recognised central players able to play twice a week comfortably.

The mooted options appear to be resigning Nemanja Matić or bidding for Fredy Guarín. Matić is an interesting case having already been at the club for some time but not quite getting the chance. For the reported fee Chelsea could be better served waiting until the summer, however, this transfer rumour does appear to be gathering pace with a formal bid submitted. Matić has fantastic ability and the only minor concern surrounding him will be how quickly he can adapt to the tempo of the Premier League. If he settles well then he slots in alongside Ramires or Mikel to provide a perfect foil and physical edge. A great distributor, powerful and an impressive ball winner he is the type of player Chelsea have missed since Michael Ballack’s departure.

Verdict – If this is the only money to be spent on a midfielder in the next year then I would wait until the summer and push for Vidal. However, this is a position of great need and it is not a stretch to say it could push Chelsea towards a serious title challenge. If Chelsea are going to further add to the central midfield area at the end of the season then Matić represents a great signing.

Guarín has absolutely no interest in joining the club and Chelsea appear poles apart with Inter in their valuation. This is certainly a blessing in disguise. Guarín has played more times as a striker this season than in holding midfield and despite having a fantastic engine offers little that Ramires cannot replicate. He is not the box-to-box destroyer that Chelsea so desperately seek, nor is he above a merely average-to-good midfielder.

Verdict – avoid the signing – signing another body just to have another body is a silly way to go about spending money.

Matić is the only player worth investing in, but even he is not the panacea to Chelsea’s midfield issues. If the £30m fee is to be believed (other sources say £21m) then are Chelsea better off waiting until the summer and targeting someone like Vidal, Pogba etc? The quandary remains that Chelsea are desperate for another person in midfield but with the January premium and other factors, i.e. are they cup tied, the right midfielder is scarce. A future midfield quartet of Matić, Mikel, Ramires and van Ginkel represents the type of power Mourinho likes, but there needs to be someone more technical in the box-to-box bracket for that to become a special group.

If Mourinho’s words are true, that Chelsea are targeting three significant signings this summer, then the need to find elite quality perhaps diminishes somewhat. My preferred option is to look closer at home and use someone like Nathaniel Chalobah as a rotation option. After an excellent campaign at Watford he has stagnated at Nottingham Forest under 3rd person referring Billy Davies. Chalobah is comfortable in midfield and will likely raise his game with the quality of players around him. This, however, is highly unlikely and some newspapers are suggesting that Guarin will also be signed in addition to Matić.

The other obvious area of improvement can be seen in Chelsea’s centre forward options. It is a miracle and testament to Mourinho that Chelsea are so well positioned with such a mediocre set of strikers. People can bleat on about Romelu Lukaku’s absence for as long as they like but the reality is that while the Belgian is certainly a better option than current incumbents he has a plethora of things to work on to make him suited to Mourinho’s team. He should improve his link-up play and ability to play with this back to goal. Working within tight spaces and developing his footwork to deal with intricate build up is another must. All, hopefully, are improving under Roberto Martínez’s exceptional coaching.

All signs point to Demba Ba leaving the club in January after an underwhelming stint. Ba certainly works hard but lacks the consistent quality to assert himself as a first choice striker. With Ba’s departure Chelsea have Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o to rely upon for the foreseeable future. Given the age of the latter and the erratic play of the former Chelsea must surely be looking to reinforce this area in January. While André Schürrle can play as a makeshift centre forward, a club competing on three fronts over the coming months cannot solely rely upon two players to remain in form and healthy.

The rumours surrounding a bid for Wayne Rooney persist, but given Manchester United’s form of late is losing their talisman something they are going to entertain? Rooney is certainly from a stylistic standpoint the profile of striker Chelsea should be looking to buy. He has the ability to link play, works incredibly hard and would fit seamlessly into a side that would allow him to play to his strengths.

It could very well be that Rooney is desperate for a change of scenery and that playing under Mourinho could completely reinvigorate his career. That is not to say that he has not been a fantastic performer this season, but Mourinho would take Rooney to a level that Moyes could never envisage. There is always a fear factor in signing high profile strikers at Chelsea. The money tied up in signing Rooney, now in his late 20s, would be astronomical – potentially the highest paid player in a squad full of high paid players and a transfer fee approaching £40m. If Rooney were in his mid-20s this would be an easy decision, but more thought needs to go into this.

My outside the box suggestion would be to make a loan move for Radamel Falcao. Chelsea, unquestionably, missed a trick in the summer by not signing Falcao or Edison Cavani. Yes, elite strikers cost a lot of money, but the effect they have on a team cannot be ignored. Van Persie essentially papered over much of this season’s United form and delivered a league title (I am being somewhat facetious here). The damage that Falcao or Cavani would have causes spearheading the Chelsea frontline this season is catastrophic.

There are more than one account of Falcao’s unhappiness to be read on the internet concerning his time in Monaco. A move purely for money has seemingly backfired as he has taken such a backwards step in his career. He would certainly jump at the opportunity to play in the Premier League, Champions League and under Mourinho. A loan fee and paying a sizeable portion of his wages would surely be enough to capture the Colombian for the remainder of the season. Nevertheless, a long term solution must be sought in the summer. Diego Costa appears a fine player with many Mourinho-esque characteristics and someone I would like to see the club move for. Nevertheless, Atletico are in the hunt for the title for the first time in a while and I would find it strange if they considered bids or he wanted to move in January with a World Cup approaching.

Prediction* – Demba Ba (50/50), Michael Essien (if not now, then the summer) and Kevin De Bruyne depart (£25-£30m). Chelsea sign Guarín or Matić. Chelsea do not sign a striker – they will not think of a loan move for Falcao, Rooney will prove too costly and Manchester United will definitely not want to sell him and Diego Costa is unlikely to move in this window. Juan Mata does not leave the club.

Hopes – Chelsea agree a fee in January to sign Luke Shaw and Kurt Zouma in the summer. Both players return to their clubs on loan for the remainder of the season.

* I am hopeless at predictions.