The transfer window slammed closed several days ago, and Chelsea were very, very busy over the course of the summer. We've now had a few days to digest the activity and form rational conclusions about it, so I decided to ask a bunch of my favorite people (and Kevin) what they thought of Chelsea's business, and to give it a letter grade. Here's what everyone had to say:
Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Loïc Rémy and Filipe Luis were smart buys at positions of need -- especially the former -- and it's difficult to be down at all about a transfer window which has seen Fernando Torres leave the club once and for all. But at the same time, it wasn't perfect. Losing David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku makes sense both from the financial and personal perspective, but Chelsea are undeniably weaker for them being gone, especially the former. Questions about the depth in central midfield and defence would have evaporated had David Luiz been retained, and while nobody's arguing with the month we received, £40-50 million in unmarked bills is only of real use if turned into another footballer.
Had David Luiz been replaced -- and by this I mean David Luiz at his best moments, a classy centre half and all-action midfielder, rather than the all-too-familiar inverse -- this transfer window would have been about as good as it could possibly have gotten. Instead, we stayed within ourselves, changing, improving, but not perfecting the balance of our squad. Perhaps we simply weren't ready to add the final piece yet. Perhaps a replacement simply wasn't available. But the fact that we're not yet complete in a season when the Premier League and European Cup both look up for grabs takes a slight, slight gloss away from what's been a very good summer.
I really have a hard time not giving a window in which we successfully jettisoned Fernando Torres into outer space an A+, but I do enough of a worry about midfield depth that I have to stick to an A. For as frustrating as David Luiz could be on any number of levels, he was the only player in the squad truly capable of replacing Nemanja Matic if the Serbian suffered an injury. While I'm probably higher on John Obi Mikel than most around these parts, I'm not insane enough to think he's anywhere near the player Matic is.
That said, we managed to replace three non-versatile center forwards that couldn't score regularly with Diego Costa, Didier Drogba, and Loic Remy. That trio is both more versatile and more talented than the group we had before, enough so that it will be like having eleven players on the pitch again.
We've also managed to upgrade in front of goal, upgrade our fullbacks, and add an elite passer in Cesc Fabregas to the squad. The balance of the unit is far, far better than it was a year ago at this time, and assuming Nemanja Matic remains healthy for the entire 2014/15 season, Chelsea should be among the favorites to lift the Champions League trophy for a second time. An A it is...
The second plus is for Torres.
We upgraded three strikers, the backup (so far anyway) left back, the starting goalkeeper (slightly), and theoretically improved the team's ability to retain possession and break down weaker opposition. Yet there remains an oddly shaped void in the midfield that no combination of Ramires, Mikel, or Fabregas can hope to fill on a regular basis. How could they, when it's shaped like a Paul Pogba?
I had hoped Mourinho cured Michael Emenalo in January of this strange allergy to proper central midfielders (hello, Nemanja Matic), but clearly the disease has reared its ugly head once again. Taking further shine off the transfer window is the loss of David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku. We were handsomely compensated for both, to say the least, but I cannot completely overlook the emotional deficits. And that's before we get to Lampard and A.Cole and, of course, Milan Lalkovic.
Given the way we acted quickly and effectively in the market to secure nearly all of our first-choice targets, it's hard not to see this window as a resounding success. Any window, really, if we're being honest, that sees the arrival of a striker as enjoyable and brilliant as Diego Costa is worthy an A.
However, there's still that nagging feeling we're lacking depth in both midfield and at the back. If only there was a strong, quick passer of the ball that could play both positions. If Paul Pogba could play centre-back, I would've happily endorsed spending something in excess of 50 million on him - but I'm presuming the restrictions of the market and player availability dictated the club's decision to overlook what is, at this stage, a minor problem that might eventually became a major one.
Efficiently and satisfactorily solved every major issue we had for essentially no cost. Would have been an A+ had we solved the minor issues as well by locking away a top CM and another top CB with the enormous pile of cash we had, which is somewhat useless unspent. Maybe we spend in January, though, after Jose observes the needs and wants there a bit more.
The club was ruthless in its efficiency this close season. Nearly all major areas of need were addressed, most notably at center forward where the additions of Diego Costa, who has been a revelation thus far, and Loic Remy have revitalized a position that last season represented a regular source of heartache and frustration. Acquiring Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, in the face of Arsenal, was inspired business while engineering the transfer of Fernando Torres to Italy was nothing short of a miracle.
That said, questions remain about the overall makeup of the side. Depth is an issue, and Chelsea feel a world-class midfielder and central defender away from being probably the best team in Europe. Considering the money raised in player sales, it would appear these questions could have been answered; they weren't and as it stands, the side is not as strong as it possibly could have been.
All in all, an incredibly strong window, but not a perfect one.