Cast your minds back to 6 December, 2019.
Britain was still a member of the EU, there was still hope of avoiding five more years of Tory rule, you were three stone lighter, the word ‘coronavirus’ just sounded like a pale lager-induced hangover and, most importantly, Chelsea’s transfer embargo ?had been lifted.?
The shackles were off at Stamford Bridge. No sooner had the ban ended than the ever-reliable Daily Telegraph reported that the Blues would have ?a £150m war chest to unload when the January transfer window creaked open (if this sounds familiar, it’s because they will apparently ?have the same amount to spend in the summer). The collective thoughts of ?Chelsea fans the world over? ‘Phwoar’.
The following days and weeks were characterised by relentless transfer rumours, linking the west Londoners with all manner of stars; Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho, Gabriel Barbosa, Moussa Dembélé, Dani Olmo, ?Edinson Cavani. The supporters salivated – what a January it was going to be.
Fast forward two months and, well, suffice to say things didn’t quite work out as planned. Frank Lampard was able to spend all of £0 of that reported budget, and the Blues are actually one good player worse off having lost impressive youngster Tariq Lamptey to Brighton.
Oh, and we’re also into another five years of Tory rule, out of the EU, fatter and all going to die – in case you had forgotten.
In the wake of a frankly baffling January from the Chelsea hierarchy, here’s 90min’s assessment of their stupid, stupid transfer window.
Signed From: Nowhere
Simply put, Chelsea failed in the January transfer window – a big fat F, or an ‘L’ if you will.
It’s not that they necessarily needed to buy anyone. Once the window opens it is easy to forget what you have and get lost in the incessant rumours and speculation – especially following a well-documented transfer ban. As things stand, Chelsea still have a good squad and Champions League qualification is firmly in their hands – they just need to avoid anymore silly slip-ups, as detailed ?here.
We’ve all heard about their young stars shining, and while they were scrambling for cover for Tammy Abraham, ?Michy Batshuayi is either younger or just as good as several of the options being considered, while ?Olivier Giroud can be effective when he actually plays. On the wings, Willian, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Pedro offer decent depth, with the out-of-favour latter demonstrating he’s still got it against Leicester on Saturday.
Breaking news: Chelsea free to splash the cash in January after Court of Arbitration for Sport halves its transfer ban.
— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) December 6, 2019
Central midfield and defence are also well stocked, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his way back too. Left-back is perhaps the biggest problem area, but with Reece James excelling at right-back and Cesar Azpilicueta covering the left, they can probably survive until the summer.
However, the failure comes in the fact that Chelsea fought so hard to have their embargo lifted, only to do all of nothing in the transfer window itself. They set out their stall early, expectations were raised and speculation was rife as the rumour mill whirled.
Frank Lampard was obviously expectant too. The Chelsea boss was barely comprehendible through the saliva as he gave answers in his first press conference after the ban was cut short. ?Speaking in December, he said:
While the current crop is adequate, to end the month having made no improvements to a squad with a few weak links was inevitably a disappointment for all concerned. Needs serious improvement in the summer.
Transferred to: Brighton (Undisclosed)
?Chelsea only avoid and F for this one because – for the player at least – it’s a move that makes sense.
Such has been the meteoric rise to prominence of Chelsea’s young crop, their even younger crop are facing a future where they are second in the pecking order for years to come. Seeing 20-year-old Reece James ahead of him, 19-year-old Lamptey seemingly made a judgement call and decided to jump ship.
Far be it from me to criticise a young lad’s ambition, and if he feels he is ready to play first-team football on a regular basis in the Premier League then good for him.
This still isn’t great from the Blues, though. Once again, expectations were raised after the young defender impressed in three appearances over the last month, and ?a long-term contract was even put on the table. But evidently, it was too late.
In those three games, he demonstrated the quality to challenge both James and the ageing Azpilicueta for a starting berth. But that is no longer what his future holds. Instead, he will go on to excel for ?Brighton before inevitably re-signing for Chelsea for £50m in 2025.
Transferred to: Aston Villa (Loan)
Let’s be real, at this stage it really doesn’t matter where Drinkwater ends up – the lad is never going to play for Chelsea again.
The only query the fans might have about this move is ‘why the f*** wasn’t this a permanent deal?!’ – one that can probably be answered by Drinkwater’s £110k-a-week wages and nobody wanting to take a long-term risk on a semi-washed-up midfielder who is still piggybacking a successful season four years ago.
No offence, Danny.
Transferred to: Swansea (Loan)
A move that makes sense for all parties. Guehi was way down in the centre-back pecking order at Stamford Bridge with Fikayo Tomori, Andreas Christensen, Tony Rudiger and Kurt Zouma ahead of him.
Swansea play the brand of football that Frank Lampard likes to see from his own players, and he will hope that Guehi benefits in the same way that Tomori did at ?Derby County.
The 19-year-old has already featured twice for the ?Swans in the Championship.
Transferred to: Bristol Rovers (Loan)
Grade: F(fs again)
Jamal Blackman is 26 YEARS OLD – TWO-SIX. That means he will be 30 in four short years. This is his seventh loan in six years.
Having come through the academy eight years ago, Blackman has made all of ZERO appearances for the Blues, and while goalkeepers do tend to be late bloomers, there ain’t no way he will be Chelsea’s no.1 going forward (despite Kepa’s struggles).
Blackman has been a victim of Chelsea’s baffling loan policy and has ultimately been failed by the club, wasting a huge chunk of his career on temporary deals with no hope of ever making the first team.
If I had a mortgage, I would bet it on him being released when his contract expires in June 2021. Completely pointless.
Transferred to: Inter (Loan)
At 29, Moses is another player who will never play for Chelsea again, especially now Antonio Conte is no longer manager.
He will be glad to have reunited with the charismatic Italian in Milan, and thankfully for all parties there is an option to buy.
Thanks for the memories from that one season, Vic.
Transferred to: Fulham (£5.3m)
Another of Chelsea’s loan brigade to never have made a senior appearance for the Blues.
Following his own series of loans, Hector was finally able to escape the clutches of Chelsea in January, securing a permanent move to west London rivals Fulham.
Again, clearly a move that makes sense, and to make a profit on the £4.8m they spent on someone who has never played for the club seems like OK business, I guess?
Joining ?Fulham is nothing to be sniffed at as they challenge for promotion, a move he earned having impressed at Sheffield Wednesday on what would be his final loan last season.
Transferred to: Swansea (Loan)
A rare piece of good work here from Chelsea in January.
Having impressed on loan at ?Charlton with six goals and four assists, the young midfielder earned a jump up the Championship table to promotion-chasing Swansea, joining Marc Guehi there.
While the midfielder looks the part, he is nowhere near the first team at Stamford Bridge having fallen victim to the rise of the Blues’ other youngsters. However, a certain Frank Lampard spent time on loan with the Swans back in the 90s. Gallagher will be dreaming of following in his footsteps.
Chelsea’s Overall Transfer Grade – January 2020: D