It’s incredible how quickly and how drastically things can change in football. After being the talk of the town for all the right reasons just a few months ago, Chelsea are now in complete and utter disarray. Just one point from their opening 2 games in the Premier League sees their title defence in tatters, and the worst part is that there have hardly been any signs of encouragement in their performances.
Jose Mourinho opted not to delve too much into the transfer window this time, deeming his side from last season good enough to compete this time around as well. While there is no doubt that this group is full of superb talents, not bringing in anyone new was looked on by many as a sign of stagnation. All of Chelsea’s rivals including the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Liverpool strengthened in the summer, making sure that it was never going to be a walk in the park like season for the Blues.
Now, after Sunday’s 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Man City, arguably their closest rivals, it is clear that things need to change at Stamford Bridge. The ageing defence looked jaded, they were overrun in midfield and there was absolutely no creativity from the attacking players.
New players need to be brought in, and there is less than a fortnight left for Mourinho to do it. It was revealed earlier today that owner Roman Abramovich wants the club to bring in three new faces before the transfer window slammed shut on September 1.
Here, we talk specifics and look at three players Chelsea must sign in order to have a chance of retaining their crown:
1) John Stones
This is a transfer story that has dragged on for a long time now, with Everton trying their best to hold on to their most prized asset. Stones is the hottest young English talent in the Premier League today and is undoubtedly going to be one of the best centre-halves in the country in the years to come. Chelsea have already had two bids for him turned down, but have now made a third offer worth £30 million, as reported here by the Guardian.
With John Terry not getting any younger, his lack of pace was well-documented on Sunday, when he was hauled off at half-time. The Blues have Kurt Zouma in their ranks but need one more solid player in that position. Stones is the perfect fit and Chelsea should not hesitate to pay a few million more to get him. Next season, his value will be further inflated, and more clubs are likely to join the race.
2) Axel Witsel
Chelsea need a strong-tackling central midfielder, there is no doubt about that. Nemanja Matic is left exposed in big games when playing alongside Cesc Fabregas, who labours ineffectively against top clubs. The Spaniard should be given more of a free role further up front, and the Blues must have another player like Matic in the middle. John Obi Mikel and Ramires are simply not good enough.
Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel will be a fantastic option for Chelsea, and it was also reported last month that Abramovich himself was looking to intervene and get this deal done. The Zenit St.Petersburg midfielder will cost around £30 million, but at 26, has his best years ahead of him.
There was also news of a move for Koke from Atletico Madrid a couple of months back, but nothing has materialised.
3) Antoine Griezmann/Pedro
Chelsea need to end their over-reliance on Eden Hazard for goals from midfield. The Brazilian duo of Oscar and Willian work their socks off for the team, but do not contribute anywhere near enough in terms of goals and assists. The Blues need to get in someone who can create more of a direct impact.
Griezmann was available for €65 million earlier on in the summer and there were several talks of a possible move to Stamford Bridge. Now, his release clause has been increased to €80 million, a transfer fee that may prove too high even for Chelsea’s liking.
Another option is Pedro, whose exit from Barcelona seems certain, but the destination is still in doubt. He looked set for Manchester United, but is now having second-thoughts after Louis van Gaal’s harsh treatment of his former teammate Victor Valdes. He will be available for a much cheaper price than Griezmann, with his release clause in the area of €30 million.
Both these are top-quality attacking midfielders and have proven themselves at the highest level. Signing either of them will be a huge coup for Mourinho, as it more or less guarantees an increase of at least 10-15 goals per season.
It now remains to be seen whether the ever-stubborn Mourinho admits he was wrong not to buy anyone and make some changes to the side, which at the moment, are clearly lacking in several areas.