In the first of a new feature, we look at what Premier League clubs need to do in the January transfer window. First up: Chelsea.
The January transfer window may be three months away, but Premier League clubs up and down the country are busy getting their plans in order to go shopping in the New Year.
The sums spent might not be anywhere near what was laid out in the summer, but the window can play a key role in shaping some teams’ seasons. First up to come under the microscope at TEAMtalk.com is Chelsea and what they need to do in January to get their squad right.
Positions to strengthen
Chelsea need to resolve their defensive issues in January making reinforcements in the backline their top priority.
After starting the season with three straight wins, the Blues have suffered a dip in form drawing one and losing the other two and conceding seven goals in the process.
Despite adding David Luiz and left-back Marcos Alonso just before the close of the transfer window, Conte is understood to be keen to increase his options at the back in the next transfer window.
It is clear from the performances of Branislav Ivanovic that the club need a new long-term right-back and whether that be Cesar Azpilicueta moving from left-back to right-back or bringing in a new right-back altogether. The Serb’s displays have been below-par to say the least and he was mercifully exposed by Arsenal in their 3-0 defeat at the Emirates.
Centre-back also looks a position of concern and it is no surprise to see Chelsea lose two games when John Terry was not available to marshall the backline. Deadline day signing Luiz has had a tough reintroduction to life in the Premier League and the Brazilian’s presence alongside Gary Cahill has seen the England international looking shaky culminating in his horrible mistake for Alexis Sanchez’s opener for Arsenal.
Chelsea transfer targets
Chelsea failed to land their top defensive targets in the summer with Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly both slipping through the net.
Antonio Conte is a huge fan of Bonucci having worked with the centre-back while in charge of Juventus and Italy, but the Italian champions managed to keep hold of the player and the player is being lined for a new contract at Juventus.
Koulibaly also appears to be off the market after signing a new long-term deal with Napoli and his buy-out set to be raised to a staggering £76million with the Italians initially pricing Chelsea out a move for the tough-tackling defender in the summer.
Chelsea are also keeping tabs on Burnley’s Michael Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson as they have one eye on the future as they seek a long-term replacement for John Terry.
The duo are an added attractive proposition for Chelsea as they would boost the club’s homegrown contingent to help them meet their homegrown quota. Tottenham defender Ben Davies is also a target for Chelsea as the Wales international impressed as part of a three-man defence for his country at Euro 2016 and his arrival would allow Antonio Conte to play his preferred formation of 3-5-2.
Chelsea’s transfer budget is almost limitless as money is not a concern for the club’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Funds will be made available to Conte if the Italian feels his side needs strengthening, but the problem Chelsea might face with inflated prices is that invariably the top clubs do not want to sell their best players in the middle of the season.
Chelsea did spend £120million in the summer on N’Golo Kante, Michy Batshuayi, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso and Eduardo and brought in £34million meaning their overall net spend was £85million.
Ivanovic faces a battle to persuade Chelsea to offer him a new deal with his current deal due to expire at the end of the season. The defender, who joined Chelsea from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008 seems unlikely to be offered a new contract next summer and he has already been linked with a possible move to Major League Soccer in the January transfer window.
Gary Cahill’s position has also come under threat with the former Aston Villa man failing to impress Conte. The returns to fitness of Terry and Kurt Zouma could see Cahill pushed out of starting line-up and could eventually see him phased out of the first-team picture.
John Obi Mikel has yet to feature for Chelsea under Conte and with the Nigerian in the final year of his contract he seems almost certain to leave either in January or next summer. Mikel has attracted interest from clubs in America and in China.
Cesc Fabregas’ future at Stamford Bridge has been the subject of speculation during the summer transfer window and the longer he is out of the starting line-up the increased probability that he could move on. West Ham and AC Milan have been credited with an interest in the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder.
There have also been question marks raised about whether Nemanja Matic is mobile enough to feature in a Conte midfield, and while the player may be replaced in the engine room long-term, it would be a major surprise if he was shown the door in January.