Chelsea transfer news as Mauricio Pochettino sets out new map for decisions to come with crucial involement planned
The cat is out of the bag. Chelsea are gearing up for yet more transfers in the near future.
Mauricio Pochettino, working with a squad plagued by injuries but with an ongoing £1billion repair job done to it, can see what has been apparent for quite some time. If the big chances missed didn’t make it clear then the lack of fit first team striker for the trip away to Fulham on Monday will have.
Chelsea will travel to their neighbours without £30million summer acquisition Nicolas Jackson due to a suspension the 22-year-old picked up for a quick burst of early-season yellow cards. Warned about the need to be more sensible and to grow up, the squad responded by picking up two suspensions in the same half of football.
It’s something that comes with the nature of a young squad but doesn’t go any distance to helping Pochettino get towards improving results. The forward area, which will now be one that is looked at closely during the game at Craven Cottage and for weeks to come, is the obvious position of weakness.
Chelsea are without Christopher Nkunku, granted, and he was expected to be their top scorer for the season despite having never played a Premier League game before. That says a lot about the group that are playing back-up to him. When he does return over the winter there’s a large chance that he’s no more than six or seven goals behind being top scorer anyway.
Outside of Nkunku, there has been a lot of promise from Jackson but just one goal in the league. He looks like a player that can become a well established striker in England but his catalogue of early-season misses demonstrates that it’s not there just yet.
Broja, who is now somewhat a messiah due to simply being able to play as a centre forward, has one league goal for Chelsea and only managed six when he was at Southampton. He is a player who looks suited to developing under Pochettino and is well admired by the club and ferociously cheered by supporters, but again looks a little way off the standard of player who will be leading the line for those competing for a place in the top four.
So the next pitstop is January and Pochettino has said what we all really knew. Chelsea have plans.
“The good thing, the relationship is very good with the owners and the sporting directors,” he said when asked for the 100th game in a row what those above him are thinking after a disappointing start. “I think like I told before, when the transfer window was closed, I need to be involved, more involved now, in every single decision,” he then added. “I think we need to start identifying what we need for January.”
There’s the admission of guilt. It only took one month of pundits and fans continuously questioning how it is possible to spend such vast sums of money and not to solve the goalscoring issue, before the head coach effectively said that the answer lies in the market.
There is no direct reference to buying a striker, but when it comes to what Chelsea need, it’s someone to finish the mountain of chances and even half chances that they are creating. For many, and for good reason, this is a positive.
Chelsea look to be attacking the market once more and trying to get ahead of their rivals. Bear in mind that they will also be doing the same thing so this isn’t much of a secret, but it is a public admission that actually there are things that cannot be solved within the squad
Pochettino, a man who worked with Daniel Levy and the shoestring budget at Tottenham after moving stadium, knows what he wants. All managers have key targets, players they fantasize about and dream of coaching. There is no doubt that Pochettino has his own.
The issue is that even for a man of Pochettino’s stature and with the evident trust of the Chelsea board right now, he is, after all, the coach they see as actually taking them from here to there, there is still an element of balance that is needed. Granting coaches their wish in the transfer market is often seen as smart and ‘backing the manager’ is a necessity, but there’s a flip side.
Chelsea backed Thomas Tuchel last summer and he decided that Levi Colwill wasn’t as useful as Kalidou Koulibaly for £40million and that Billy Gilmour was fine to leave. It was Tuchel who went hard after Romelu Lukaku and fell out with him within three months and turned to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last year as well.
Tuchel isn’t the only one. Pep Guardiola failed with Claudio Bravo after turning on Joe Hart quickly when arriving at Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp’s pursuit of Naby Keita hardly paid off and the list goes on. What is important is not just giving in to a coach’s demands, even if they arrive with pedigree, promise and immediate trust, but aligning the process throughout.
If reports are to be believed then Pochettino was keen on signing Dusan Vlahovic from Juventus this summer, meanwhile he insisted publicly that the need for a new striker wasn’t as great as it seemed. Although there is a sense of protecting those already on the books, it’s not hard to think that even if he was settled with Jackson and Broja, underperforming xG by nearly a goal per game has turned his mind early on.
Ivan Toney, timely available in January otherwise a move may well have been made in the summer window, is the obvious candidate to fill this role and it’s not hard to see Pochettino picking him out and being involved that way. What is important is that Chelsea do not bend to the will of Pochettino just because he is the manager.
Creating a structure that works through the recruitment team, directors, analysts, scouts and then coach is more important than simply buying from a shopping list handed over from the training ground. Ideally players will overlap to give a sense of togetherness, and they may well do when it comes to Toney, but the striker is the next point of contention for Chelsea and they can’t afford to get it wrong.