It wasn’t long ago that Chelsea supporters were singing their club’s praises after a couple of excellent additions in the transfer market. Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella all addressed key needs within the squad since coming to SW6 a number of weeks ago, and they have each been superb additions thus far. However, the Blues have continued to ignore the midfield given the amount of bodies in the middle of the park.
The presences of Carney Chukwuemeka, Conor Gallagher, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek led many to believe that Chelsea was set for the season in midfield. Just three games into the new campaign, injuries have begun to take their toll and expose the fragility of the unit. Now, with just seven days left in the transfer window, the Blues have a glaring need that they need to address or they run the risk of a large-scale failure this year.
Chelsea needs to address the injury situation in midfield or risk failure
The unfortunate reality of the current situation is Chelsea can no longer rely on a couple of individuals to remain healthy. Manager Thomas Tuchel said as much last season when discussing Kante’s future with the club:
"“He is our Mo Salah, he is our van Dijk, he is our De Bruyne. He is simply that player, he is our Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. I think he is our key, key player but key, key players have to be on the pitch and he only plays 40% of games.”"
Now, just three games into the Blues’ 2022/23 Premier League campaign, Kante and Kovacic have already wound up on the sideline. This left Chelsea incredibly thin in the middle of the park, forcing Tuchel to start a pairing of Gallagher and Jorginho in a midfield pivot against Leeds United. This resulted in the Blues getting pressed to high hell and failing to establish themselves in the game overall. The visitors were soundly—and rather inexplicably—beaten 3-0.
It reached a point in the second half where Tuchel was simply throwing anything to the wall and hoping it stuck. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. By the time the final whistle was blow, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Loftus-Cheek had all been pushed into the midfield at one point or another. Each failed to properly get ahold of the contest, regardless of Chelsea’s formation at the time (3-4-4, 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, etc.)
Sunday’s embarrassment at Elland Road was a foreshadowing of things to come if the Blues fail to address their lack of depth in midfield. While players such as Chukwuemeka, Gallagher and Loftus-Cheek are class midfielders overall, they are not suited to play in Tuchel’s pivot. Chelsea may be struggling in every aspect—from goalkeeper to attack—right now, but it’s the midfield that seriously needs some help.
The Blues have the talent to win Champions Leagues with the current crop of midfielders, they’ve done it once before. However, seeing as Kante and Kovacic are nothing more than luxury additions at this point, there is little chance that Chelsea could survive an entire campaign without establishing its dominance in the middle of the park. Players like Frenkie de Jong would go a long way in ensuring that the Blues have reliable options for this season and beyond.
Chelsea is chasing individuals like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Wesley Fofana and Anthony Gordon as the final week of the window approaches. The Blues are not going to address every single need of theirs in one transfer period, it’s not a realistic expectation following the aftermath of the takeover saga. Thus, they need to focus on getting the most important additions over the line in the little time they have remaining.
The loss to Leeds United last weekend showed that bringing in a midfielder is crucial. If the club fails to add more depth in the middle of the park, it could be a long season for Tuchel and Co.
Which midfielder would you like to see Chelsea sign before the window slams shut? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!