Work to be done as Chelsea face unexpectedly messy end to transfer window

Krishan Davis
Neither Jules Kounde nor Saul Niguez appear likely to join Chelsea
Neither Jules Kounde nor Saul Niguez appear likely to join Chelsea / Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Chelsea's summer had been going swimmingly until a matter of days ago.

The club had been able to put a bold line through the priority item on their shopping list (a̶n̶ ̶e̶l̶i̶t̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶r̶), and looked almost certain to complete a cut-price deal for coveted Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde and a shrewd loan for Spain and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez.

It's fair to say that the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and the additions of two players of the calibre of Kounde and Saul would constitute more or less the perfect window for the Blues.

However, on the eve of the transfer deadline, those negotiations appear dead in the water; Sevilla have suddenly raised their asking price for their French defender, while Atletico are having second thoughts over whether to agree to a loan with Chelsea unwilling to entertain any obligation to buy.

Of course, transfers move very quickly and that could all change again in the next 24 hours, but at the moment it seems Thomas Tuchel will have to make do with an already strong Chelsea squad - and again, a matter of days ago, that wouldn't have been a problem.

Indeed, plenty of the club's supporters would argue that neither signing was necessarily...necessary.

However, over the weekend football's knack for instantaneous twists of fate suddenly made the need for new arrivals more pressing than anticipated; Kurt Zouma's permanent move to West Ham - which was supposed to facilitate the arrival of Kounde at Stamford Bridge - was finally completed on Saturday, hours after N'Golo Kante was forced off injured in the west Londoners' 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

Zouma's departure and Kante's knock suddenly leave Chelsea looking light in two key areas of the pitch with new signings not forthcoming - although the emergence of Trevoh Chalobah should provide Tuchel with another rotation option at the back.

The recurrence of Kante's ankle injury will be a bigger worry. The midfield dynamo has only managed 63 minutes of Premier League action so far this season as he worked his way back to full fitness, and even if he is only sidelined for a short spell his absence will highlight the Blues' lack of depth in the centre of the park, with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic the only top-level options.

Sadio Mane, Ngolo Kante
Kante was forced off injured against Liverpool / Michael Regan/Getty Images

With Saul now likely off the table, the club may now be scrambling for alternatives such as Monaco prospect Aurelien Tchouameni. That's not to say they don't have general options - they just aren't very good,

That brings us on to the substantial amount of deadwood Chelsea still need to hack away before Tuesday's deadline; Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater - who have been training in a separate group and using the academy building at Cobham - are all still on the books, as well as Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda, and have barely been in the headlines linked with moves away.

Then there are several younger players for whom there is still hope of a first-team breakthrough but who need minutes away from the club - namely Malang Sarr, Ethan Ampadu, Tino Anjorin and potentially even Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has been linked with a loan to Borussia Dortmund.

That all of those names are still at Stamford Bridge is bizarre, especially considering most have been in the window throughout the summer - although we have certainly seen that in the post-coronavirus landscape it is not a seller's market.

Danny Drinkwater
Danny Drinkwater is - somehow - still a Chelsea player / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

With the extended EFL loan window abolished a few years ago, there is a monumental amount of work for Chelsea's transfer negotiators to do before 11pm on Tuesday, unless they start cancelling contracts left, right and centre.

While Chelsea are spoiled for choice in attack, the failed moves for Kounde and Saul would leave them lacking quality depth at centre-back - especially as a side that plays three at the back - and in central midfield in particular, while neglecting to trim some signifiant blubber will leave Tuchel with a bloated and potentially disquieted squad (not to mention the wage bill).

Serious work to be done, then. Tick tock.

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