There is a tendency among football fans to view the transfer window as the only arena in which teams can be improved. If a side is conceding too many goals or scoring too few, supporters call for new signings. Chelsea should take a different approach this January.
According to reports at the start of December, Frank Lampard will have around $200 million to spend next month. The Chelsea boss would be wise to resist the urge to use it.
After being found guilty of breaking FIFA regulations regarding the purchase of foreigners under the age of 18, Chelsea were banned from registering new players last summer. Mateo Kovacic made his loan move permanent and Christian Pulisic arrived from Borussia Dortmund after agreeing a deal with the Blues at the start of 2019. That, however, was the extent of their transfer activity.
The ban proved to be a blessing in disguise. Frank Lampard, a legend at Stamford Bridge due to his exploits as a player, was appointed manager in July. He immediately set about promoting several of the club’s young players to the first team. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have all excelled this season. Reece James has impressed in patches. Callum Hudson-Odoi’s talent is unquestionable.
In the past, successive Chelsea managers would almost certainly not have given the youngsters a chance. Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne famously left the club because of a lack of first-team opportunities. Both are now among Europe’s best players.
The transfer ban facilitated the need for a long-term plan which is now serving Chelsea well. A 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday moved them four points clear of Manchester United in the top-four race.
Chelsea’s squad isn’t perfect. There are areas that could be improved. An injury to Abraham could prove pivotal, with neither Olivier Giroud nor Michy Batshuayi having convinced as back-ups.
At the other end of the field, Lampard’s side remain unconvincing. Chelsea have kept just four clean sheets this term, fewer than relegation-threatened Watford and West Ham. Tottenham and Everton are the only other top-half teams that have conceded more goals. Elsewhere, Lampard would no doubt welcome a touch more creativity in the center of the pitch.
Nevertheless, acquiring new players for the sake of it would be a mistake. Lampard has fostered a strong team spirit and collective work ethic at Stamford Bridge. It’s not inevitable that newcomers would disrupt that. But making three or four additions would risk upsetting the dynamic.
Were a generational talent such as Jadon Sancho – a player who has been linked with Chelsea in recent weeks – made available, Lampard should do everything in his power to get him. Sancho has world-class potential. He is one of a small group of forwards who could fill Eden Hazard’s shoes.
It would be a surprise if Dortmund were willing to sanction the departure of one of their star players next month, though. That’s the problem with the January transfer window. It’s not impossible to pull off good deals in the middle of the campaign – think Luis Suarez to Liverpool and Nemanja Vidic to Manchester United. But it’s unlikely that game-changing talents will be obtainable next month.
For that reason, Chelsea would be wise to ignore the noise of the transfer window. The club’s young players have made huge strides this season. Lampard has demonstrated the value of training-ground coaching. His team are ahead of schedule and on course for a top-four finish. Entering the market would bring more risk than reward.