In stark contrast to vast spending sprees of the past four summers, Chelsea has decided not to bring in another set of overpriced superstars. They have instead focused on bringing good, but not spectacular, players in on free transfers. Naturally, many questions have been raised by this sudden change in the club’s transfer policy; however the right ones just haven’t been asked yet. The first ‘right’ question is: ‘how will the new arrivals compare to other Chelsea players?’ the second one is: ‘seriously, will Chelsea buy anyone this summer!?’
As Steve Sidwell, Tal Ben Haim and Claudio Pizarro join the club, they must be aware that most of their new teammates are head and shoulders above them when it comes to talent. Therefore the likelihood of any of them securing a first team place is minimal and it would be safe to assume that all three have been brought in as backup players in case of another injury crisis. On the other hand, to say that neither of these players will perform up to the standards of the team when they will be selected would be ridiculous.
In Claudio Pizarro, Chelsea have signed a player with 99 Bundesliga goals in 230 appearances and paid no money for him. Although both are hugely talented and experienced goal scorers, the discrepancies between his transfer and that of Shevchenko last year are massive. When the club announced last May that the Ukrainian superstar would join them, most football fans expected a goal scoring machine to arrive. The high expectations resulted in sheer pressure on the shoulders of Chelsea’s new striker; as a result he failed to settle in his first season at the Bridge and his performances have been generally criticized. With no high expectations placed on the Peruvian striker, he should be able to settle easily in England while living in the shadow of fellow strikers Drogba and Shevchenko. I think that he will manage to score a respectable ten league goals while competing with Kalou for the ‘off the bench’ position.
Unlikely to score ten league goals in the upcoming season is Chelsea’s new midfielder Steven Sidwell. By far the least fortunate of the three new arrivals at the Bridge, the 24 year old midfielder who has had 164 league appearances for Reading joins a very select group of midfielders. Among them, a two time World Cup semi-finalist who joined the club on a free transfer a year ago. Michael Ballack, just like Shevchenko, was poised to shine but failed to impress in similar fashion. To state that Sidwell will out-perform Ballack in the upcoming season would be laughable, however to say that in two years time Sidwell will be competing with Ballack for a place in Chelsea’s midfield would be realistic. In other words, the young midfielder is one for the future at the Bridge. Expect him to make several appearances next season, most of them in domestic cups, and to perform like he used to for Reading.
If Tal Ben Haim were a wise man, he would reserve a good spot on the Chelsea bench. The Israeli defender has been signed for the sole purpose to be there in case of an injury or suspension to either Carvalho or Terry. Unlikely to face any kind of competition from the disastrous Boulahrouz or the young Glen Johnson, he should be able to establish himself as Mourinho’s third choice central defender. However the former Bolton man will require some sort of miracle to become an ‘untouchable’ in Mourinho’s book. Should Terry and Carvalho stay fit, expect an average season with few appearances form the Israeli international.
Having seen Chelsea bring in three new players who are likely to spend more time on a blue chair than on grass, it will be interesting to see if Mourinho makes any first team changes during the summer transfer window. Naturally any key arrivals will coincide with high profile departures as this team has all the talent it needs and some to spare. However if there will be no more arrivals at Chelsea and they decide to stick with the tactics they have used this past season, they might have a hard time achieving their main goal of winning the Champions League. They will also receive serious competition from three other teams in the title race, if Benitez spends wisely that is.