In the early hours of September 1st 2017, Chelsea announced the £35,000,000 signing of Danny Drinkwater from Leicester City on a five-year contract. A surprising transfer, the deal was met with a general consensus of ‘Why?’. 22 appearances came for Drinkwater that season under Antonio Conte, however his departure at the end of the season and arrival of fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri has since turned Drinkwater into Chelsea’s forgotten man. At the time of writing four months of the season has gone and what impact has the ex Leicester midfielder had? Half an hour in the Community Shield played, failing to make any matchday squad since.
So, the logical next step would surely be a transfer elsewhere which is best suited for both parties. The problem is, Drinkwater’s contract runs until 2022 so what club outside of the big 6 of English football is going to buy him out of that contract, especially seeing as he hasn’t played a competitive fixture since last season. Therefore the alternative to this is a loan and if this does happen this season and possibly for the three remaining seasons on Drinkwater’s existing deal, it begs the question of who behind the scenes sanctioned this transfer thinking it was a good idea? This whole scenario is no fault of Drinkwater though. He is a Premier League winner and what player heading towards the twilight of their career would turn down a move to a club like Chelsea? Especially when I imagine a far greater financial gain to be made, than if he were to have stayed at Leicester. The blame lies with Chelsea’s shambolic transfer policy that has plagued the club in recent times.
In the same transfer window as Drinkwater’s move, 6 weeks earlier came the £40,000,000 arrival of Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco who arrived with large expectations from the Stamford Bridge faithful. So 16 months into the 5 year deal he was given by Conte, where does Bakayoko find himself now? Farmed out on loan to AC Milan with the Italian side reportedly looking to return the Frenchman to Chelsea in January due to consistently bad performances. £75,000,000 in total spent on central midfielders in one transfer window less than a year and a half ago and both men have no chance of playing for Chelsea anytime soon. Unforgivable. A similar case can be made for Michy Batshuayi. The Belgian striker had a decent goal record for the Blues before being sent to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of his second season at the club to make way for effectively a direct replacement in Olivier Giroud. This season the Belgian finds himself in Spain at Valencia whilst the misfiring Alvaro Morata takes the role of first choice striker at Stamford Bridge this season. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if two years from now it is Morata out on loan, having to make way for another marquee striker signing, not because that player is necessarily better than Morata, but because Chelsea just seem to have the urge to buy bang average players just for the sake of doing so.
In addition to the previous points, these pointless signings not only lead to the stockpiling on players joining the ever increasing ‘loan army’, but it blocks the pathway to the first team for some of the most talented youngsters in the country. Look no further than last seasons signings of full backs Emerson and Davide Zappacosta. Both playing second fiddle to other full backs, why spend so much money on them when there are players arguably of similar quality and definitely greater potential in the u23’s, examples being Reece James, Dujon Sterling, Jay DaSilva, Ola Aina etc. Why not ease them into the first team set up, giving them game time here and there. Obviously there is the argument to be made progression can be hindered by being a fringe player, see Callum Hudson-Odoi this season who is stuck in limbo between being too good for academy football but not good enough for the Chelsea first team (in Sarri’s eyes at least), but as long as these minutes in the first team gradually build with time and development as is the case with Manchester City’s Phil Foden then there is no harm in doing this. More often than youth won’t let you down, shown this season by Emile Smith-Rowe in Arsenal’s Europa League campaign and even Hudson-Odoi against PAOK, bagging a goal and an assist on his first competitive start. Chelsea are only harming themselves by making these fringe player signings instead of promoting youth and if things keep going the way they are doing, they risk wasting some of the most promising British talents there has been in years and these players definitely won’t want to end up the same way as Wallace (who has since left Chelsea), Todd Kane and Lucas Piazon.
There are plenty of other examples that could be used to make my point and Chelsea aren’t the only other club to be doing this but no other club does it to the same extent as the Blues do. For as long as the Premier League is around, the money being spent on transfer fees will only rise with every passing window and there will probably be more and more signings just for the sake of making a signing as clubs have money to burn these days, but that is still no excuse for Chelsea to waste so much money on bit-part players only to not learn from their mistakes and do it all over again in the next transfer window.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!