I apologize for the delay in getting past the first team transfer summary. We are using the international break for a nice rustic vacation in Maine. I’ve been trying to generally stay away from the internet, email, and the other things that I tend to use for both my day job as well as staying up with current events in the Premier League and posting to the blog. That lasted for a solid 3 days before I felt the pull of the laptop – I guess that’s why I’ve gotten involved in writing a blog on top of a day job.
As it appears that I’m not going to get to every team, I’m going to start with the ones that have made the most substantial changes and move downward toward the ones that didn’t do much toward the end of window. Since we’ve already covered Arsenal, I’ll move on to Chelsea.
I LOVED what Chelsea did toward the end of the window. They had the type of window that Arsenal used to have. Pick up a few very high end kids and throw in a very strong continental veteran. The difference? The price of the high end kids that used to be Arsenal’s stock and trade has increased by a factor of about ten since this was Wenger’s strategy. I don’t know all the details but my guess is that Chelsea ended up paying Mata and Lukaku (and their previous clubs) like they were already established stars rather than rising talents with the potential to be the “next” someone good. The economics aside, the moves look excellent. The only downside is that they probably won’t payoff in huge measure for another couple years.
The Existing Squad – With Fernando Torres officially dead to the blog, I’m not sure that there is any value to be had on the Chelsea roster. Players like Lampard, Malouda, and Drogba seem to be on the downside of their careers and/or standing to lose playing time to the extent that their current costs are just too high to justify. The others – Terry, Luiz, ACole, and Cech – are likely to keep producing but they priced high enough that you’d certainly never consider them bargains, especially when they’re allowing bad goals like the ones conceded to Grant Holt the last time out. The only potential source of value was Bosingwa but after a strong start to the season his price has probably climbed to the point where his retail value has caught up with his potential to produce fantasy points.
Mata – The biggest question that will present itself to AVB and the powers-that-be at Chelsea will be what wins out, reputation or current skill/potential. In the case of Mata, this will play out in where and how soon he’ll play. As strong as he looked on his debut, his favored spot is occupied by a high-paid veteran in FloMal. If Mata is flexible enough to play on the right rather than on the left then it would be hard to see him sitting on the bench behind Kalou. If he (or Malouda) can’t adapt to the right side then it will be very interesting to see how playing time is divided between Mata and Malouda.
Meireles – I have to admit, I really developed a bit of a soccer crush on Meireles over the second half of last season. Part of it was that I picked him up when he was on the rise and stuck with him through his hot streak. Part of it was just enjoying the efficient and elegant way he plays in central midfield. As with Mata, the question is one of who he will be challenging for playing time and what matters more “name brand” or production. Does Meireles take the spot currently being “manned” by Ramires who just doesn’t seem to be ready to compete at the level required of him at Chelsea? Is he an insurance policy against Frank Lampard continuing to fade? I personally like him better in the latter role but my guess is that we’re headed for an ugly situation where Lampard’s ego and long term standing as a Chelsea legend will lead him to be a starter well beyond the date when that is a benefit to the club. My sense is that Meireles will struggle to get starts but will look like the better option when he does come in and a lot of print will be spent throughout the rest of the season wondering what would have happened if he’d been inserted instead of one of the alternatives.
Lukaku – Not nearly as much controversy here as with the other acquisitions. If the original Drogba can only get the occasional start then what chance does the “next Drogba” have until he spends some time getting settled into the league with guys like Torres, Drogba, and Anelka ahead of him. AVB showed a willingness to compromise his favored line-up approach against Norwich by lining Torres and Drogba up together but it didn’t look any more successful than Torres did on his own. If the manager decides to employ multiple traditional forwards in his starting line-up on a regular basis then Lukaku is at least CLOSER to the starting line-up but with Mata in place it seems more likely that the starting line-up will feature one target striker and two wing attackers (from FloMal, Mata, and Kalou) with Mikel and two of Lampard/Meireles/Ramires backing them up.
Downsides – It is inevitable that Kalou (just not that good), Anelka (fading), and FloMal will lose some playing time and therefore some of their value given their current (high) prices. Ramires isn’t very expensive nor particularly productive so no real loss to anyone if he loses playing time.