The problem, in a sense, has been obvious since last summer. Chelsea's depth in attacking midfield was already the envy of most of the rest of Europe before Willian arrived from Anzhi Makhachkala in August; after the Brazilian's addition to the squad we were in possession of six top-end talents for three first-team places.
Meanwhile we were looking exceptionally light in central midfield. Although Chelsea did see acquire a new face in Marco van Ginkel as well as welcoming Michael Essien back into the fold, neither the depth nor raw quality of our midfield options looked up to scratch, especially when compared to Europe's elite teams, who universally boast extraordinarily strength on the centre of the pitch.
With van Ginkel out for the season and Essien looking about as far removed from bisonry as it's possible to get, the issue is even more acute, and Jose Mourinho's been forced into overplaying Ramires and Frank Lampard for much of the season. Meanwhile, the issue most saw coming higher up the field has also come to pass. There's not enough playing time for everyone, and that's led to the marginalisation of Chelsea's sixth-choice attacking midfielder, Kevin de Bruyne.
It's funny how much emotional investment Chelsea supporters have put into back-to-back summer arrivals from Werder Bremen who managed to impress in the pre-season but do virtually nothing meaningful for the club, but in de Bruyne's case there's at least the attachment we got from watching him develop on loan for 18 months. If you buy into the need to nurture young players, de Bruyne failing to make his mark will hurt.
But football clubs cannot be run on emotion alone. The squad is out of balance, and this week we'll see Michael Emenalo take the first big step in fixing it. Sending a sixth-choice player, albeit one with bags of potential, to the Bundesliga in exchange for a hefty profit is a good enough move. When that money is then turned into one of Portugal's best midfielders, we've made a massive improvement to the team without too much in the way of a sacrifice.
A player who's never getting minutes in exchange for someone we expect to be a regular starter? For the rest of this season, that's a no-brainer. And if de Bruyne turns into an elite player who we 'let get away' for 20 million... what do we think the chances are that he turns out better than one of Eden Hazard or Oscar?
- Chelsea's top prospects: Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Bertrand Traore, and Patrick van Aanholt
- Matic confirms Chelsea interest, ready to 'talk' once clubs agree
- Chelsea's Billy Clifford currently trialing in Belgium
- Chelsea aren't the only ones who made a Matic mistake
- Kevin de Bruyne deal complete pending medical