FanPost

Sticks and Stones: When Does Caution Become Cynicism?

I seek to find the limit where fans go from 'smart' to 'too smart for your own good, hippie'.

You know the names: Luke Shaw, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis. I would suggest that it's this quartet who, more than any, have incited debate and hot words in the WAGNH community. Sure, there are others (Pogba! you cry, and some shout for stars of Balotelli and Cavanii, and still more cry the advantages of the young crop, of Alberto Moreno and Ricardo Rodriguez or Ciro Immobile), and those we might discuss, but that quartet is a good place to start. It helps that three of them might be starting for us soon.

There has been a bit of a backlash to the backlash (or is it the frontlash?) in several areas Chelsea: Benitez wasn't so bad, some say (he was, really, and there are a lot of journalists who say this and really, what do they know?), we broke down buses with impunity when we had Lord of the Seven Kingdoms Juan Mata or Benitez or whoever (we didn't), we were no better under Mourinho than we were under Benitez (we were). Clearly, my opinions are pretty firm on these issues, but I at least understand the arguments. You might say we were more entertaining under Benitez (I'd say you were just looking at the wrong games), that we scored more with Mata (marginally if at all), or that we should have won the league this year and bottled it (unclear), but at least you can present a case to that effect.

I understand. Total homogenization of opinion is a stupid thing to achieve; with no dissenters you have no inventors.

But where are the limits?

I've seen various opinions on Chelsea's proposed (or confirmed) transfer moves: Cesc can't fill our needs and is too weak in too many areas, Costa is an overrated jerk who isn't sexy enough, Filipe Luis is too old, we should get Shaw instead. These criticisms have varying degrees of truth, no doubt.

However, it makes me wonder: have we become too discerning? In our haste to make sure our club is making the right move, the perfect move, the great move, have we become too negative, too 'shrewd', too cautious? Have we become too hipster, too cool, too 'smart'?

Understand me: I'm not saying it's bad to be smart. I'm certainly not against logical breakdowns of purchases, nor criticism of the club. We were certainly wrong to spend £50m on Torres, for instance, and perhaps equally wrong not to spend the same on Cavani. Having said that, we must also realize that the club has a good track record in the Emenalo era, and that Jose Mourinho does actually know what he's doing.

And, no, that's not an appeal to authority fallacy. It's only fallacious if I discard evidence and say, "But Jose said so." Recognizing that Mourinho is the perhaps the most successful coach of the last ten years and recognizing that his methods usually work is not a fallacy.

Maybe this is over the top and unneeded, but I'm not so sure.

Let's look at the Fabregas signing, for instance. We got a truly world class player for £13.5m a year. We've heard about how our biggest problem is a lack of creativity in passing. Guess who brings that at an elite, world class level (Cesc). We hear about our struggles breaking down parked buses, to the point where people lament the loss of Mata. Yes, Mata was important and a great player, but Fabregas is less than a year older, just about as good (maybe better) at passing, and considerably more well rounded.

The response: the WAGNH version of crickets. Would Pogba be better? For the long run, probably. Having said that... Don't we already have players who have (considerably less good) versions of Pogba's skills? Has anyone ever looked at our midfield of Matic, Ramires, Luiz, Oscar, Willian, and (to a lesser extent) Hazard and said, "Tell you what, we need more athleticism?" At least Fabregas more directly addressed a pressing need.

(An aside: we all talk about how we need passing from deep or another pivoter or this or that, but there are multiple ways to get good. We had little in the way of Pirlo passing when we were running out Makelele/Essien/Lampard and Essien/Ballack/Lampard, but those midfields were the world's best or thereabouts. Constructing pivots out of them would be clunky as well. You can be a great midfield without a Pirlo passer, and you can be great with Makelele. I'd bet on the elite player over the lesser quality guy who might fit some vision of what we need -- looking at you Rakitic. That's not to say Rakitic isn't good, but he's not even a year younger than Fabregas and has been much, much less impressive for his career.

I shudder to think what we'd say about adding Essien to the Lampard and Makelele crew. "Oh great, another player who can defend and run around all day. Can he pass?" And upon playing right back: "We need a right back for right back! Why spend this much on a midfielder if we're gonna play him out of position?!")

If I asked what you thought the biggest need in the squad was, I think most Chelsea fans would instantly say striker. (In fact, WAGNH did, and you did.) Looking at the striker landscape, you have the untouchables (Zlatan, Messi, Agüero, Suarez, Lewandowski), who are clearly incredible but largely unobtainable. After that, you have the good-and-maybe-gettables (Falcao, Cavani, Balotelli, and that's right, Diego Costa). Diego Costa had a better season last year than popular-alternative Balotelli, he outperformed Cavani, and Falcao is older and recovering from a massive injury. It looks pretty likely we will sign him.

Response: outright hostility. Yeah, I get it, he's a jerk. He's an incredibly talented jerk who's good at the sport who would be the best player we've had at his position since Didier Drogba won the Golden Boot, and it's not even close. He's pretty young (younger than Cavani, Falcao, Zlatan, and surprisingly younger than Lewandowski and Agüero), and pretty decently priced (£8-16m cheaper than Falcao and £19m cheaper than Cavani). He embodies the spirit of our greatest striker, Drogba, with a fantastic presence, good aerial ability, willingness to press, and determination.

Again, a hostile response.

We all cite the need for a left back for the squad, as it would free Azpilicueta to get back to right back and thus end Worst Fullback Ever Dude Ivanovic's run (note: I'd imagine nearly every team in the league would take Brana at RB pretty quickly). Luke Shaw is a good player, an 18 year old with the sky as his limit. Over ten years (or more) he'd be a fantastic signing. Personally, I'd like to have Luke Shaw.

But this game is about winning when you can. We had one of the best defense's in Europe. Filipe Luis was the left back for the actual best defense in Europe. He was named to the La Liga team of the year, and at 28 (he's currently 28, and if you call him 29 you should also call Shaw 19) he still has a couple years of peak performance. If we want to be amazing next year, he's the better choice.

Instead, you'd think we're throwing away all sensibility by signing an in-his-peak player. I think we're spoiled in this regard: Willian is our oldest non-free purchase since, I don't know, Meireles (there might be others, admittedly). The point remains: we've been buying young for so long, and have seen the younger market as the way to go for so long, that we've forgotten that sometimes, sometimes, the veteran purchase isn't so bad. (Consider he was named to La Liga's team of the season over Moreno, who some suggest we should steal from Liverpool, and Rodriguez didn't make his league's all-star team either.)

Is it possible Fabregas flops? Yes. The same is true of Filipe and Costa. It's also possible that Shaw flops, that Balo would flop, that Rakitic would have. Will all three of them flop? It's unlikely.

There's a saying, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." We're looking at bridging some of the chasms in this squad, and instead saying we'd rather keep falling off the edge because the bridges aren't perfect Golden Gates. I'd rather have Filipe than Brana playing fullback for us, and I'd rather have Fabregas than a 35 year old Lampard (from a purely performance standpoint: I'd rather have any age of Lampard in pretty much every other respect), and I'd certainly rather have the guy who scored a goal every 103 minutes than the guys we have now.

No move lacks a drawback. No team is invincible. You saw what just happened to Spain's dominant machine: shattered because their weaknesses were exposed (Ramos, Pique, and Casillas, take a bow!). Barcelona could be stopped with ten guys and a plan in the box. Bayern were stopped by a tinkerer. And we could be stopped stopped too. But those teams accomplished something on the way, and we'll be good enough to do the same.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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