Grading Chelsea in the summer mercato

Shut the fucking door. El mercato has finally ceased, meaning we can finally get down to the proper business of actually focusing on the football. I, for one, am ecstatic.

That's not to say the summer wasn't enjoyable. A tad chaotic and frustrating at times, yes, but it certainly was an intriguing one for the club. Full of rumor as well as movement, both in and out. At the close, several new faces had joined a certain well-dressed Portugese in not necessarily ushering in a new era at Chelsea, but preparing the club for the future ahead.

So, how did Roman, Emenalo, Villas-Boas and company grade out?

Well, we must first take a closer look at what actually happened at the club over the summer. It was chock full of movement to be fair. Below is a breakdown (loan, in, out) along with a brief analysis of each.

Loaned
Jeffrey Bruma, Hamburg (season)
Sam Walker, Northampton (season)
Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid (season)
Ben Gordon, Peterborough (six months)
Milan Lalkovic, Doncaster (one month)
Tomas Kalas, Vitesse (season)
Ulises Davila, Vitesse (season)
Yossi Benayoun, Arsenal (season)
Patrick van Aanholt, Wigan Athletic (season)
Gael Kakuta, Bolton (six months)

The club has sent 10 players out on loan to start the season. That number obviously could alter drastically over the next few weeks - see the past three years: 26 loans in 2010-11, 17 in 09-10 and 21 in 08-09 - but Emenalo, our new sporting director, appears far more interested in nurturing talent at home rather than elsewhere. That is in stark contrast to Frank Arnesen who loved a good one or two-month loan, almost as if he wanted to rid himself of having to take responsibility for some players. This is a very positive step for the club. The guy have always been a quality judge of talent so it's good to see him using that pedigree here rather than coaching on the pitch alongside the manager.

window As for the current deals. Bruma's move to Hamburg is good in the sense that we should know if he is of Chelsea standard by the end of it. The young Dutch has been involved greatly since the move, but it hasn't exactly gone well for the club - see mauling received from Bayern recently. Hopefully he'll continue to be a first-choice central defender, though that will be more difficult now that Hamburg have poached another young Chelsea talent, Slobodan Rajkovic, on a permanent deal.  Van Aanholt's move to Wigan I view as an excellent one. Though Wigan have solid personnel on the left (Figueroa, Moses), Patty should be able to challenge, and eventually win, significant minutes. Wigan are also similar in style to Chelsea, which is a nice bonus.

Davila and Kalas are joining Vitesse. Both should see regular time and I'd gauge they both will excel. Davila, in particular, could flourish in the free-flowing Eredivisie. Thibs has already thrust himself into the starting XI at Atletico, and should progress well in a top-tier league. Meanwhile, Gael Kakuta's move to Bolton is perhaps the most intriguing of the loans, the Frenchman in desperate need to prove himself at this level. We know he's an elite talent. The real question is can he add consistency to his repertoire. Owen Coyle has an excellent track record with loan signings - see Danny - and hopefully will be able to harness Kakuta's ability and polish it.

Overall, I'm pleased with the direction the club took with its loan deals. It will make for good viewing over the season.

Out
Fabio Borini, Parma (free)
Michael Mancienne, Hamburg (£3m)
Gokhan Tore, Hamburg (£1m)
Jacopo Sala, Hamburg (undisclosed)
Jan Sebek, FK Baumit Jablonec (free)
Michael Woods, unattached (free)
Danny Philliskirk, Sheffield United (free)
Jack Cork, Southhampton (£1.2m)
Yuri Zhirkov, Anzhi Makhachkala (£13.2m)
Slobodan Rajkovic, Hamburg (£2.0m)

Net: £20.4m

It was certainly not the clear-out many of us expected. Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Florent Malouda, Paulo Ferreira and Jose Bosingwa were all linked with a move away from the club fairly consistently during the summer after seasons that were simply not up to standard. In the end, none of them received the hook. The only significant departure was Zhirkov, who was intermittently linked with a move away from Chelsea. All in all, it was a good decision for both parties. Yuri never quite lived up to the hype during his time in London, but he is far too talented to be languishing behind in the pecking order. For us, Juan Mata gives us much more up front, while Ryan Bertrand should receive the push he deserves as Ashley Cole's backup.

Of course most of us were sad to see Borini leave, but that was one we all were braced for. Cork was another favorite of supporters, including me, though it was evident that he was never going to make it at Chelsea unfortunately. The one real definitive disappointment has to be Rajkovic. The Serbian finally was able to make an impact at the club in preseason, looking a real terror after Villas-Boas handed him the chance. Then, much to our chagrin, the kid was sold to Hamburg after we failed to secure him a work permit. The FA can suck it.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, losing one real first-team face isn't going to really impact our pursuit of hardware. Keeping those that we expected to leave, meanwhile, may. Jokes. We should be fine.

In
Andre Villas-Boas, FC Porto (£13.2m)
Thibaut Courtois, Genk (£8m)
Oriol Romeu, Barcelona (£4.4m)
Romelu Lukaku, Anderlecht (£18m)
Ulises Davila, Chivas de Guadalajara (£1.75m)
Juan Mata, Valencia (£23.5m)
Raul Merieles, Liverpool (£12m)

Net: £80.75m
Note: Transfer fees are unofficial.

A very active summer of influx it was at Chelsea. I don't think we need to go too far into the individual players, because we have discussed all of them at length already. A brief look at how the club fared in the market during what was a pretty pivotal close season will follow instead.

Areas of need prior to the summer: competent wing play, creativity in midfield as well as depth, and a general glide toward getting younger. The club was mostly successful in addressing all of these. Mata brings creativity, flair, versatility and wing play in one potential world-class package. Depth in midfield comes in the form of Meireles, a proven performer in the Premier League, and the young but extremely talented Romeu. Youth, meanwhile, is scattered throughout our transfer business. Lukaku, at 18, has the potential to be one of, if not the, greatest strikers in world football. Then there's Romeu (19), Thibs (19), Davila (20) and Mata (23). Meireles, 28, is the elder statesmen of the new class and he still has at least three more quality years ahead of him.

The club did not manage to address the glaring deficiency that is creativity in midfield, but that wasn't for the lack of trying. Luka Modric was a major target that simply did not come off. Javier Pastore chose Paris over London. Perhaps, at the prices quoted for both, missing out was good thing. Well, not a good thing but something we can deal with for the time being. And who's to say we won't renew our interest in Modric come January, when we may well be able to pry the Croatian away from Spurs for a better price?

Despite failing to improve ourselves in this key position, it was still a very good summer for the club with regarding to incoming transfers. Very good indeed.

Oh, and don't forget about AVB. It's early doors, but he looks like an epic long-term signing. Bargain.

The team, 2011-12
So, how does the team shape up now that we're Teflon (barring injuries) until January? I'm glad you asked.

GK: Cech, Hilario, Turnbull
CB: Terry, Luiz, Alex, Ivanovic
FB: Cole, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Bertrand
MF: Mikel, Essien, Romeu, Lampard, Ramires, Meireles, McEachran
FWD: Drogba, Torres, Anelka, Sturridge, Lukaku, Malouda, Mata, Kalou

italic = homegrown players
Note: McEachran and Lukaku count as Under-21 players; Romeu does not.

Looks pretty damn good if you ask me. Not Real Madrid or Barcelona good, but good nonetheless.

We have depth across all positions for the most part, with midfield, as mentioned previously, being the only spot of bother. Another injury could potential do some serious damage there, but let's try not to think about that. Just no. There's a solid mix of veterans and talented young'ns, too. Looking at the larger picture, we've replaced a talented but injury-prone left-sided utility player and a potentially great central defender with two midfielders, an epic winger, a forward and goalkeeper prospect, and a monstrous young forward. That's solid business.

Adding an elite creative mid would have made this a near-perfect summer, but as it stands, the club did extremely well in reshaping the squad with a view to the future. More needs to be done, but the platform is there. It seems as if the business side of CFC is beginning to shift as well, and for the good of the club. Well done, Chelsea.

Grade: Solid B. In two to three years time, we may be looking back at this class as a firm A, though. The potential is there.

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