With Chelsea free to sign players in January following a successful appeal of their transfer ban, Dan Tracey weighs up the pros and cons of looking to strengthen the squad after Christmas.
At the start of this current season, Chelsea were deemed a club in transition and with the shackles of a FIFA transfer ban restricting them, it was almost seen as a free hit for their new manager Frank Lampard.
While if it was a free hit, then the former Chelsea legend has knocked this one straight out of the park and although the Blues’ league form has been slightly indifferent as of late, there can be few complaints with their position in the table.
With the Stamford Bridge outfit lying fourth at present, you could argue that expectations have now been raised and the objective is not just to secure a European berth next season, but a return to the Champions League.
‘Expectations have now been raised’
After getting the better of Lille midweek, Chelsea secured their place in this season’s Champions League Round of 16 and by the time the competition resumes, Frank Lampard’s squad could have a different look to it.
That’s because the aforementioned shackles that came with a FIFA transfer ban have now been removed and that means the West London outfit can shop in the January sales, just like all their Premier League counterparts.
Which when you consider their primary objective has changed to a top four finish, the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to lift the transfer ban, will undoubtedly have been welcomed by the Chelsea hierarchy.
The ability to add to their ranks in January means that last season’s Europa League winners will have been given a huge short in the arm and if they do manage to strengthen, it will only make life more difficult for the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United.
‘The boost that this will give Frank Lampard for the second half of the season will almost be immeasurable’
That’s because these two are the outsiders looking in when it comes to the top four party, and if Chelsea’s transfer ban was still intact, then both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be confident of catching them by the end of this campaign.
However, with Chelsea now able to add reinforcements, it only makes life more difficult for the chasing pack and the boost that this will give Frank Lampard for the second half of the season will almost be immeasurable. Although, there is perhaps room for a small plot twist.
One that asks the question, what if? What if Lampard decides he doesn’t need to use his chequebook in the New Year and has the ultimate faith in a young squad that has already impressed pundits and punters alike?
‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
He may well deem that new and arguably higher-profile faces will only lead to the proverbial apple cart being upset and this could ruin the harmonious atmosphere that he has cultivated within the squad.
You only have to look at the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount for proof of just how effective the enforced youth policy has been and when it is working so well, you lean towards the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
The England pair are just a couple of players that have been afforded a huge opportunity this season under Lampard and with the contribution that they have made, there’s no argument that they’ve taken full advantage of it.
Which means if they are playing so well in England’s top division, why curtail their astronomic progress at this point in the season? Especially when a new star may need time to bed into their new surroundings.
If Chelsea don’t finish in the top four and book another entry into the Champions League, it will not be an unmitigated disaster, if only because no-one really expected them to achieve this before a ball was kicked.
‘The future looks incredibly bright’
Yes, it would be a disappointment, especially as collective expectations within the club have been raised. However, by continually blooding youngsters and turning them into genuine first team players, the future looks incredibly bright.
A future that may lose some of its shine if Chelsea’s young lions are spending more time on the bench at the turn of the calendar year and therefore, the temptation to splurge in January may be resisted.
Not only for the reason above, but also because there is a lot less perceived value in the mid-season transfer window and therefore, it makes more sense to hold fire on the spending power and go bigger in the summer.
There will undoubtedly be some clamour from their fans to start spending, but the new ethos surrounding the club and one that promotes youth has certainly been beneficial to them – even if it was enforced by a governing body.
Football does have a habit of moving in mysterious ways and the best thing that Chelsea have done is not spend any money as of late, now they have to decide whether to continue with this current philosophy or revert to their previous type. Just how expensive will their decision prove to be?