As the mayhem begins to settle and the hush descends on the footballing world, fans are still trying to make sense of one of the craziest transfer markets ever. Transfer records were not just broken, but shattered, as PSG stole the headlines. In such a chaotic market, Chelsea’s transfer activity seems like a needle in a haystack, even though the club spent close to £180m. Back in June, I wrote an article analyzing Chelsea’s potential transfer targets and needs. Today I will analyze Chelsea’s transfer activity and see whether Conte and Chelsea can actually compete across various fronts. Lukaku, Caballero, Bakayoko, and Alves were the four targets I discussed in the previous article. Morata, Caballero, Bakayoko, Rudiger, Drinkwater, and Zappacosta were actually brought in. On the face of it, 50% of the targets were brought in, but let’s take a deeper look into each transfer.
Early in the transfer season, Lukaku looked all set to replace Costa at Chelsea, but in swooped Manchester United and paid £80m. It seemed like Chelsea had lost their most important transfer target and the media believed that Chelsea were in disarray and Conte was very upset. But I personally feel that Lukaku was never Conte’s choice, rather the club’s choice. When Chelsea eventually landed Morata, it felt more like a Conte signing because he had signed him at Juventus too before leaving. At £60m plus add ons, Alvaro Morata may be one of the smartest deals this summer and he has already made an impact in the Premier League. Scoring and assisting two goals each, in three games is an impressive return for a striker to is still settling in, and a definite sign that he is more than capable of replacing Diego Costa.
Two players who I thought Chelsea would sign were Caballero and Bakayoko. Caballero is a perfect replacement for the departed Begovic, brining with plenty of Premier League and Champions League experience. Similarly, Bakayako brings with him Champions League experience, and also the confidence of having a very successful season with Monaco in France. He made his debut against Spurs, without having a complete preseason and a lack of match fitness. Not only did he complete 90 minutes that day, but put in an absolute solid performance, and completely justified his £40m price tag. Both these signings are perfect for Chelsea, but they don’t add depth to the squad. Caballero is a replacement for Begovic, while Bakayoka is a direct replacement for Matic.
A transfer that surprised most Chelsea fans was that of Rudiger from Roma. Conte had tried to sign him last year, but Rudiger got injured and the transfer fell through. Many expected Rudiger to provide cover for Cahill and Azpilicueta, but no one expected him to play so early in the season. With Cahill’s red card on opening day, Rudiger has stepped in and performed admirably, with some even calling for him to continue starting ahead of Cahill. However, he too is only a replacement, with John Terry having left the club this summer. On a side note, Christeansen has been kept in the first team this year and also performed well against Spurs. But, with Zouma going to Stoke City on loan, Christeansen is also a replacement rather than an addition to the squad depth.
Morata, Rudiger, Bakayoko, and Cabellero were all signed in July, and then rumors continued to swirl but no one was signed. Conte kept talking about the club working on more targets and potentially three to four more new players, but no one was brought in. Finally, deadline day came around and rumors intensified. Barkley, Drinkwater, and Zappacosta were the top rumors, with Zappacosta being the biggest surprise. Chelsea desperately needed a central midfielder after Chalobah was sold to Watford, and Drinkwater proved to be a great signing, at just £35m. He is a Premier League winner and also has champions league experience, but more importantly, him and Kante have proved to be a successful partnership. While he is an upgrade on young Chalobah, he is once again a replacement rather than added depth to the squad.
The last player on the list is Zappacosta, and in reality he is the only player to add depth to the Chelsea squad. He is also the biggest surprise because no one had heard much about him. He is very much a traditional wing back, and can play on either flank. He is fast, strong and an above average crosser. Zappacosta created the most chances from crosses in Italy last season, and also had the biggest attacking threat, behind Ghoulam. His crossing ability could be a key advantage with Morata proving to be extremely potent with his head so far. He may be a deadline day signing, but let’s not forget Marcos Alonso and David Luiz, who were deadline day signings last year. Him and David Luiz have shone in Conte’s Chelsea team, and Zappacosta might just be another shrewd signing by Conte.
Overall, all of these signings are replacements rather than added depth, but the negativity that the media is portraying about Chelsea and Conte is significantly overhyped. Chelsea now have a strong core of 18 players, along with young players like Musonda providing backup. While the squad may not have the depth that the Manchester clubs have, they have enough fire power to compete in various competitions. This squad is, in my opinion, is much stronger than last year’s squad, and with Conte at the helm, write off Chelsea at your own peril.
Image Credits in Chronological Order
Featured Image: Metro
1st Image: DailyStar
2nd Image: L’Equipe
3rd Image: London Standard
4th Image: Chelseafc.com
5th Image: Evening Standard