The transfer window closed just more than a week ago, and we are starting to see the effects of the big buys. Chelsea were the big spenders of this month’s transfer window in spending £75 million (including bonuses) on two players. Operating on a substantially smaller budget, Fulham brought in three players who will have an impact on the club’s top half aspirations for the second half of the season.
First, at Chelsea and the name on every broadsheet and tabloid back page a week ago was Fernando Torres. Chelsea broke the British transfer record and splashed £50 million on the Spanish striker who’s been out of form since a knee injury suffered last April. Good bit of business for Liverpool, who’ve likely gotten £15 million or so more than the player is worth.
“It’s a lot of money, but potentially worth it,” said The Times football correspondent, Matt Hughes. “I think long-term, he’s a replacement for [Didier] Drogba.” The problem with him being the heir to Drogba is what to do with both of them in the present. Chelsea have reverted to manager Carlo Ancelotti’s diamond midfield rather than the tried and tested 4-3-3 formation installed by Jose Mourinho. In Torres’ debut, Ancelotti’s diamond left the flanks empty, and the central of the park cluttered. To sum up, it was ineffective. Where Chelsea finds space for their new golden boy will be a difficult task for Ancelotti.
The second big name signing that arrived at Stamford Bridge this week was Brazilian David Luiz. Big name might not be the right phrasing, but you get my point. Luiz’s signing is as important to Chelsea as Torres’ is exciting. Chelsea have sorely missed Ricardo Carvalho, who was sold to Real Madrid in the summer, and that has been exacerbated by injuries to John Terry and Alex.
“I think it’s a good signing,” Hughes said. “Maybe slightly overpriced because it’s Chelsea.”
Luiz looks a like for like replacement for Carvalho, except perhaps slightly better in every department. In his 20-minute debut, Luiz looked composed, sharp, quick, intelligent and capable of carrying the ball forward. And at 23, could be the anchor of Chelsea’s defense for the next decade or more.
Of the players out the door at Chelsea, one of the most watched will be Gael Kakuta as he spends the remainder of the season on loan at Fulham. “He’s skillful and tricky and creative, which is one thing Fulham lack,” Hughes said. Kakuta is the 19-year-old French star at the center of FIFA’s investigation and ban (which was later overturned) of Chelsea’s transfer market activity after his former club, Lens, claimed Chelsea unsettled the player in order to secure his services. In other words, Kakuta is one of the brightest young talents in world football.
Fulham also added former Reading, Chelsea, and Aston Villa midfielder Steve Sidwell for a bargain £500,000. Sidwell anchored Fulham’s midfield against Villa on the weekend, breaking up opposing play and creating a fair few impressive passes and shots of his own. A player who was tipped to do little more than offer competition for Fulham’s present central midfielders Dickson Etuhu and Jonathan Greening, Sidwell looks set to displace both as a regular starter if he can continue his run of form.
Fulham also added former Chelsea, Barcelona, and Tottenham forward Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan from Stoke for the remainder of the season. Gudjohnsen isn’t likely to be more than a supporting player for Fulham, but his addition means a side that has looked relative toothless since the injury to Bobby Zamora in September, now has a wealth of options in attack. Gudjohnsen joins Moussa Dembele and Andy Johnson, both returning from injury, and Zamora, who should return to action by the end of February, as out-and-out striking options. Further, the addition of Kakuta means Fulham have another versatile goal scoring threat from midfield in addition to, Fulham’s most valuable player this season, Clint Dempsey.
Six weeks ago, Fulham were in a relegation fight. Since then, they’ve climbed to 12th in the Premier League. With these additions, Fulham should climb into the top half by season’s end. And European places, although a long shot, aren’t out of the question.
As for Chelsea, their weekend loss to Liverpool likely signaled the end of their title pursuit. However, the remainder of the year should be used to sort out how to effectively use Drogba and Torres simultaneously so long as they aren’t in danger of falling out of the Champions League places. Given the talent of that side, and Ancelotti’s prowess, that should be a no-brainer. But this season has gone anything but to plan for Chelsea.