Transfer deadline day, for the summer of 2010, has come and gone. So, too, has Sept. 1 - deadline day for submission of the newly regulated Premier League squad lists. How has our very own Chelsea Football Club graded for each? Not exactly great. Let's take a look.
A list of Chelsea's deadline day targets.
Shall we tackle these two topics in reverse order? Yes, we shall.
I. The Squad
Many of you should already know much about the home grown player rule, as mandated by the Premier League last September. For those that do not, here's a quick recap.
So. Teams are required to submit a squad of no more than 25 players at the close of each transfer window. Of those 25, eight must be considered home grown. What is a home grown player? Well, read on. As stated by the FA, "A home grown player is defined as one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh Football Association for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21)."
Clubs are not required to submit a full squad of 25, as long as said club does not have 25 contracted players over the age of 21. A club also does not have to field eight home grown players, so long as the submitted team is less than 25 players. Under-21 players need not be registered. The squad can only be changed between windows under "exceptional circumstances," except of course for those without 25 - they can pursue free agents if compelled.
Not particularly super for the CFC. Not particularly bad, either. On to the squad.
Here it is, as posted on the club's official website.
Submitted squad of 25
1. Petr Cech
2. Branislav Ivanovic
3. Ashley Cole
5. Michael Essien
8. Frank Lampard
10. Yossi Benayoun
11. Didier Drogba
12. John Mikel Obi
15. Florent Malouda
17. Jose Bosingwa
18. Yury Zhirkov
19. Paulo Ferreira
21. Salomon Kalou
22. Ross Turnbull
26. John Terry
39. Nicolas Anelka
40. Henrique Hilario
Under-21 players (with a squad number)
23. Daniel Sturridge
38. Patrick van Aanholt
43. Jeffrey Bruma
44. Gael Kakuta
45. Fabio Borini
46. Josh McEachran
As you will no doubt notice, that is a squad of 19. Yes, 19 - six less than can be registered. That total puts Chelsea level with Wigan for joint lowest in the Premier League. Of course that number is offset by the dearth of Under-21 talent at the club, but nevertheless it is extremely worrying when considering the sheer amount of games Chelsea can expect to play this season (over four competitions) and the potential for injury - of which we've already been privileged enough to enjoy.
Second. There are just four home grown players in this squad of 19 - John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Ross Turnbull. Arsenal, meanwhile, named seven in their squad of 20, not including their U21 selection of talent that includes Jack Wilshire.
Breaking down the likely first-team squad into a handy depth chart, we get what follows:
Aside from a glut of forwards, it's a fairly thin squad throughout. Sure there is multi-functionality within this side - seen with players such as Ivanovic, Essien, Kakuta, Malouda, etc. - but that, by no means, changes the fact that this side is treading a fine line with regard to depth, even more so than in most recent seasons. Central midfielders are a premium in this team (still have to question the loaning of a versatile performer like Michael Mancienne to Wolverhampton). A run of injuries similar to that experienced in Jose Mourinho's third season at Stamford Bridge (2006-07), when, amongst other mayhem, three central defenders fell to the side, would likely cripple our push for silverware.
And that brings me to our second topic.
II. Transfer Market
Activity was sparse around SW6 on the final day of the summer transfer window. It was sparse for much of the close season, to be fair.
The only move on 31 August? Franco Di Santo securing a permanent transfer to Wigan Athletic. Not exactly a surprise, nor is it significant in terms of its effect to the first team.
Wrapping up our close season business, it looks something like below. Note: I did not include fringe youth players who have left the club.
Out (9): Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti, Deco, Miroslav Stoch, Scott Sinclair, Franco Di Santo, Sam Hutchinson (retired)
In (4): Yossi Benayoun, Ramires, Tomas Kalas, Matej Delac
Now I applaud the club's stance. Lavish spending is of the past at Chelsea Football Club, and, really, would unlikely benefit the club long term anyway. But, however you view it, those numbers represent a net loss in overall talent at the club, both on paper and on the field. It's certainly not a hammer blow, but a blow nonetheless - one that could be felt significantly as the season wears.
The club, with this stance, has obviously made it clear that youth will be served, either this season or next. How that pans out remains to be seen. The talent is there, no question. The experience? Negative.
And that, my friends, is why I feel the club has taken a gamble. A gamble in not funding further additions to the first team. Nothing drastic, mind you. But perhaps two signings, of not marquee but genuine quality, that would have safeguarded the club from an injury debacle like the one experienced in 2006-07. Of course, you can't prepare for injuries but you can lessen their impact. Then again, our much-ballyhooed youth products just might exceed all expectations. I'd love it if so, but I certainly won't be holding my breath. Why? Because Gael Kakuta will be sucking it all out of me by January. Mark it down.
Oh, and there's also the little fact that this aging squad is about to get another year older. Long-term replacements are no where to be found. That also must be kept in mind when this summer is revisited. Nevertheless, only time will tell whether the club's blueprint for this season was the correct one.
Let's hope Romes & Co. are right.