It’s on June 10 that the summer transfer window will officially open. And there is much work for Todd Boehly and Thomas Tuchel to complete to ensure the Chelsea squad is ready to compete come the start of the 2022/23 campaign.
The Blues finished 19 points behind Premier League champions Man City last term, and closing that gap in a single window will not be easy – it may even prove impossible. Yet efforts need to be made to reshape the squad in Tuchel’s image. The mish-mash approach to squad building under various head coaches seen during the Roman Abramovich era must end.
Signings are required, especially given Chelsea have lost both Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger this summer. And there may well be further departures in the weeks ahead. Some may prove unpopular, maybe even harsh. Others could very well be welcomed by the Blues’ fanbase.
READ MORE: Mason Mount ends Chelsea argument as transfer window priority for Todd Boehly remains clear
Chelsea must operate with clarity in the transfer market. There can be no hesitancy, given that the first-team squad will be returning for pre-season training in less than a month. So before the summer window officially opens, tough decisions have to be answered. And we have picked out four that need to be solved swiftly.
What’s next for Azpilicueta?
It is ten years this summer that Cesar Azpilicueta joined Chelsea from Marseille. The Spaniard’s signing was unheralded – perhaps because the fee was only £7million – but he blossomed into one of the finest defenders to have played for the club and an excellent captain.
Azpilicueta has won it all with Chelsea; there is no major trophy left for him to claim. It’s why he appears open to a new challenge at the age of 32 years old. Barcelona are prepared to offer him that, and it’s understood the La Liga giants have put a two-year contract on the table.
However, Azpilicueta still has 12 months remaining on his deal at Stamford Bridge. So if he is to move on, he needs Chelsea’s blessing – something that has yet to be granted. However, Tuchel did admit last month that he wouldn’t keep the Spain international against his will.
“I listen to my captain. He has been at this club for more than a decade, so he has this right. This is my opinion,” Tuchel explained. “He is everything Chelsea is about, and I am so, so happy he is the captain because he is humble, hard-working, a nice guy, and a polite guy.
“I am happy that in football, it’s possible a guy like this can win all the trophies. That sets the example. It sets the tone. It sets the atmosphere at a very high level.
“This is absolutely clear, but there are more layers and levels we have to consider. It is also whether he can give all that, whether he is fully committed. If he cannot get rid of this feeling [about wanting a new challenge], we have to talk about it openly, seriously, and respectfully because he deserves it.
“We [need to] find out if he can give everything that makes him special. I think, with all the respect, he can only be special if he is committed 100% and does not have another little voice in his head, not one concern in his head, that he should have done something differently.”
Azpilicueta deserves clarity over his future. Only Chelsea can give him that. And the club must do it soon as they will need to bring in a replacement if the Spaniard does move on after a glorious decade at Stamford Bridge.
Time to say goodbye
In a similar situation to Azpilicueta is Marcos Alonso. Signed in 2016, the Spaniard has won an array of silverware at Stamford Bridge under various head coaches. But he is out of contract at the end of the 2022/23 campaign, and Chelsea hasn’t pushed to tie Alonso down to a longer deal.
Given Alonso is 31 years old and second choice to Ben Chilwell – when the England international is fit – at left wing-back, that is understandable. And an opportunity may present itself to Chelsea this summer to shift Alonso off their books a year early. Step forward once again, Barcelona.
It’s understood Alonso is keen to secure a move to the Camp Nou and work under Xavi Hernandez, but Barcelona’s transfer funds are limited this summer, and they would be unable to pay a significant fee for the Spain international. So Chelsea face a decision: keep Alonso and lose him for nothing next summer or accept a cut-price deal this. It appears an easy choice.
How to handle the midfield refresh
The 2021/22 campaign was an arduous one for Chelsea. Sixty-three matches were played across six competitions, and several players were left worn out – perhaps none more so than Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, whose form dipped from the high standards set during the Blues’ run to Champions League glory under Tuchel.
That has created an issue for Chelsea. Both Jorginho and Kante have a year remaining on their contracts, but the duo are now in their thirties, are on big money, and haven’t shone for more than six months. Renewing them on their existing terms – or higher – is too big a risk.
So Chelsea either have to cash in this summer or lose two players who have proved themselves world-class on free transfers in a year’s time. The decisions are far from easy, although long-standing interest in Jorginho from Serie A side Juventus may force the Blues’ hand.
If the Italian midfielder was to leave, a replacement would need to be considered. Conor Gallagher is set to be incorporated into the first-team fold, but he doesn’t offer the same level of control in possession. Billy Gilmour could, but the Scotland international is coming back to Chelsea this summer off the back of a tough loan at Norwich and may not be deemed ready by Tuchel.
Who solves the attacking conundrum?
Chelsea have invested huge money in recent years on their forward line, and it’s not paid off. Christian Pulisic joined for £60m from Borussia Dortmund; Timo Werner arrived for £49.5million from RB Leipzig; Hakim Ziyech for £33m from Ajax; Kai Havertz for £71m from Bayer Leverkusen; Romelu Lukaku for a club-record £97.5m from Inter Milan.
Combined, that quintet scored just 30 Premier League goals in 2021/22 – it was simply not enough and something that has to be rectified. But who stays and who goes this summer will likely be dependent on interest; Chelsea can’t sell a player if no club is willing to buy, at least not at a price that satisfies the Blues.
There will need to be outgoings, however, if Tuchel is to rejig his front line. Interest in Ousmane Dembele remains, and the Barcelona winger could prove a smart pick up given he is out of contract this summer, although his wage demands and signing-on fee would be steep.
Another number nine would be required if Lukaku departs, and the Belgian is reportedly keen to push through a loan move back to Inter after his return to Chelsea turned sour. Armando Broja is set to link up with the Blues squad for pre-season, but it would be some leap for the academy graduate to pick up the mantle of Lukaku.
Source by Football London