The January transfer window is closed and the major talking point at the moment is which club made the most profitable deals between Chelsea FC and Manchester City. Chelsea FC signed Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina (26 million pounds reported fee) with Mohamed Salah going the other way on loan and sold Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg (22 million pounds reported fee) and Ryan Bertrand to Southampton (10 million pounds reported fee) while Manchester City signed Wilfred Bony from Swansea City (28 million pounds reported fee) and loaned Matija Nastasic and Scott Sinclair to Schalke 04 and Aston Villa respectively.
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Popular opinion indicates that Chelsea made the best deals. Juan Cuadrado is considered to be an upgrade on Schurrle, Salah and Willian and so a massive signing for the club. Wilfred Bony is a fantastic striker and though he may be great addition to Manchester City, the club already possess several top quality strikers while they failed to strengthen the defence, which is the generally considered to be club’s weakest link. While these points may be true, several factors have not been taken into consideration. By signing Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC (and Jose Mourinho) have effectively managed to increase the quality of the squad marginally. But by selling Andre Schurrle and loaning off Mohamed Salah, they have massively reduced the depth of a squad that was already stretched as it were.
I can not claim to know the circumstances that led to the sale of Schurrle or the loaning of Salah (let’s face facts… no one knows half of what goes on in the dressing room or boardroom, so all we can do is speculate!). But what we do know is that both had failed to live up to the high expectations placed on them this season, none more than Schurrle, who couldn’t re-enact his fantastic world cup form due to a combination of illness and other factors. But while a return of 15 goals in 68 appearances (according to ESPN) may not look impressive, the fact that he came in from the bench in 32 of those games (almost half) gives a better picture of how effective he was.
His tendency to shoot at almost every given opportunity, his very poor work rate and a relative inability to create goal scoring chances (his primary duty) were one too many weaknesses associated with his game. So getting 22 million for him was probably a good deal on Chelsea’s part. Salah was simply Salah… poor at almost everything! It was always expected he would be the one to leave so it didn’t come as a surprise in his case. But I do feel he could have come good if he had been given enough opportunities to blend with his team mates, but the competition in his position coupled with his modest transfer fee always indicated that game time would be few and far between.
In my opinion, the biggest mistake was letting Ryan Bertrand leave. He is a home-grown talent, one of the best left-backs in the league right now and most importantly, at 25, young enough to get even better for the future. Chelsea FC currently have Filipe Luis (who is 29) as the only available left-back (Dave, as Azpilicueta is fondly called, is NOT a left-back!). So letting Bertrand, a British player, leave for 10 million pounds to me does not represent good value for money! To put it into perspective, Luke Shaw was signed by Manchester United for 30 million pounds! And in my opinion, Bertrand is a better player. I still believe we could have gotten more for him.
Juan Cuadrado, based on his numbers, is just a slight upgrade on Willian (or Willian 2.0, as it were). They both have similar skill sets… both are fast, can dribble, create a reasonable number of scoring chances and have really high work rates for attacking midfielders. But Cuadrado edges it in terms of his goal scoring ability and versatility as he can play at right full back and wing back, right midfield, and he has most recently been effective in central attacking midfield.
We alsohave to consider the fact that he played in the Italian Serie A, which is generally considered to be less difficult than the English Premier League (after all, Francesco Totti (38 years), Antonio Di Natale (37 years) and Andrea Pirlo (35 years) are still considered as stars and first team regulars in the league!). There are no real guarantees that he will be able to re-enact the same form for Chelsea FC.
To make matters worse, while Chelsea initially had 2 back-ups for the 3 attacking midfield positions, they currently have just one! In case of injuries (an area where Chelsea have been quite fortunate this season… until recently!), resources could be stretched to the limit. The situation could also mean that Jose Mourinho intends to make good on his promise to blood more youngsters from the academy, but as we all know, this is MOURINHO we are talking about!
Fortunately, with the early exit from the F.A. Cup, the number of games to be played have been reduced, meaning that Chelsea just have to focus on the EPL and UCL, as well as the Capital One Cup final. So the current lack of squad depth may not be a pressing issue as long as Chelsea’s luck with injuries holds up till the end of the season.