“Chelsea are not far away if they got a centre forward,” said Gary Neville. “The goalkeeper and centre-forward are not good enough,” Jamie Carragher stated. For the sixth season since Diego Costa left the club in 2017, Chelsea are still searching for their answer to scoring goals, or so Sky Sports’ pundit-cum-comedy duo think.
It is worth saying quickly that Neville and Carragher also thought that Romelu Lukaku would be the man to push Chelsea on towards a title in 2021 – they weren’t alone in that view – so it’s not exactly gospel. Whilst criticising the mass spending of Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital since taking over, here they both are asking for more money to be chucked into the market.
The striker market specifically is an absolute pit for dollars to be wasted. There are so few genuinely value-for-money options that the good ones are then inflated massively and you either pay short and end up lacking – at least on paper – or it’s the big bucks and the big risk, presumably the egg that ends up splattered on the club’s face is bigger as well.
It is slightly ironic, though, that Neville and Carragher are calling for money to be spent by Chelsea on a striker after Manchester United dumped over £60million into Rasmus Hojlund after he scored nine times for Atalanta last year. For all the flair and electricity of Darwin Nunez he hasn’t looked consistently like an £80million player either.
The pair have both started this season well, in their defence, and this is not about digging out other young forwards, it’s more to say that just because Neville and Carragher say Chelsea’s strikers aren’t good enough doesn’t mean it’s entirely right. Nicolas Jackson, for example, cost just £30million but already looks like he will prove to be worth the cash even if he doesn’t go on to fire Chelsea to a league title. It depends on what the club are really after following years of disappointment in the final third.
Chelsea themselves, though, would appear to slightly agree with Carragher and Neville and are said to be planning for the January window already. Having spent the summer saying that Jackson, Armando Broja and Christopher Nkunku would be enough for the season, Pochettino’s tune has changed when you read between the lines and he is now open to doing more business in winter.
According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein it’s extremely likely. “There is a very good chance of this happening,” he said when asked if Chelsea would be looking to make an addition in January. “They have Nicolas Jackson and Armando Broja, but it would not surprise me if Chelsea recruit another top striker. It may look far-fetched at the moment, but they really want and need to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
“For that to happen, they may feel a new goalscorer mid-season could be an important addition. As we’ve talked about on here before, though, that’s easier said than done; the demand for prolific strikers far outweighs the supply at present.
“Chelsea will be considering all of the options, but I’m not aware of them focusing on getting a particular deal done.” So, here, football.london has taken a look at three options that could come onto their radar.
Possibly the most obvious name on the list and certainly the most strongly linked. Ivan Toney promises to be the story of the January window. He cannot play competitive football until late into the month but is expected to field serious offers from Premier League clubs with both Chelsea and Arsenal in the mix.
When it comes to his playstyle he is capable of playing against low-blocks due to his prowess in the air but has also impressed as a sole striker, holding the ball up and linking well with his teammates. Toney is the most established player with Premier League experience on this list and is also likely to be the cheapest due to his age.
At 27 and coming off the back of an eight month ban he is a risk and far from certain to improve dramatically or make the step up to playing at the top level. However, given that his contract will have just 12 months left when it comes to the summer and Brentford aren’t going to be bullied into selling,
From the cheapest to the most expensive, Victor Osimhen is hardly much of an option in January but given the issues with his relationship at Napoli there’s every chance that a surprise play is made for him. At 24 he is in the ideal age range for the Chelsea owners and is also amongst the top performers in Europe across the past 12 months.
Last year alone he scored 31 goals in all competitions, firing his side the Scudetto, but with a managerial change and social media antics throwing things up in the air early on this term, Osimhen’s future isn’t certain to be in Italy. He has six goals already this year and isn’t letting the noise around him disrupt the goalscoring might he possesses.
Any move will command way in excess of £100million, especially mid-season,.
Now to the youngest of the three we’re looking at, Evan Ferguson has been nothing short of a revelation for Brighton. He banged in 10 goals out of nowhere after making his debut under Roberto De Zerbi last term and already has four this season including a hat-trick against Newcastle.
Ferguson has a bit of Didier Drogba about him and is able to score all sorts of goals with brutal clinicality. His remarkable physical frame for an 18-year-old catches the eye and then his lethal right foot (or head) tends to do the rest. Not too many burst onto the scene like he did and it’s only natural that he will attract the big boys in good time.
There’s plenty of time left with Ferguson and Chelsea aren’t a known suitor for him but when it comes to strikers and players that would fit the bill, the Irishman is certainly up there. The issue for someone like Ferguson, and to some extent with Osimhen, is that it would leave Broja and Jackson fighting with players also looking for consistent game time in order to develop.
Just a quick note to add on Chelsea’s already-signed forward who is capable of playing centrally. Come January 2024 there is a chance that Nkunku still hasn’t made his debut depending on how his recovery goes over the coming months. A return in December is on the cards but it could be next year before he really gets going.
In this sense, the man who is already a new signing could be a new, new signing come January and will provide competition as well as just an option for Pochettino to turn to if needed.
If he turns it on in attack before that and starts laying up for his teammates and showing the output that he brought to RB Leipzig, it may be that Chelsea don’t bother going into the market again anyway.