Tonight sees the end of the 2013 January Transfer Window, the 10th in the history of The Premier League. In that time fans have seen billions of pounds change hands, and millions of players change clubs. One such club to be heavily involved in this 10 year period, is Chelsea FC. In this period, Chelsea have made a net loss of £524.5 million. HALF A BILLION POUNDS. Let’s consider the most expensive 20 of those transfers: Fernando Torres £50m; Eden Hazard £32m; Andriy Shevchenko £30m; David Luiz £26m; Oscar £25m; Michael Essien £24.4m; Didier Drogba £24m; Juan Mata £23.5m; Shaun Wright-Philips £21m; Ricardo Carvalho £19.85m; Yuri Zhirkov £18m; Romelu Lukaku £18m; Damien Duff £17m; Hernan Crespo £16.8m; Claude Makelele £16.6m; Jose Bosingwa £16.2m; Jon Obi Mikel £16m; Adrian Mutu £15.8m; Nicolas Anelka £15m; Juan Sebastian Veron £15m… To be fair, in that time, here’s a list of the trophies they have won: The Premier League (x3), The FA Cup (x4), The League Cup (x2) and of course, as no Chelsea fan will let you forget, they are currently Champions of Europe. Everyone is very aware of Roman Abramovich’s funding of Chelsea FC, and no-one really cares anymore that they spend that much money, or that he can whimiscally just dismiss manager after manager… but what we don’t want to hear is Chelsea FC moaning about it.
This week, The Sun printed a story regarding Rafa Benitez’s problem at Stamford Bridge of not having a big enough squad. This is the same club that has spent £524.5m net in 10 years. This season has seen Chelsea compete in an unprecedented amount of games, and astonishingly next Thursday will see them compete in their 8th competition of the season when faced with Sparta Prague in the Europa League. We have consistently seen before that when a club is challenged with the extra baggage of success that they can struggle to cope. A prime example to back up the Chelsea saga would be that of Newcastle United this season. However at Newcastle United, there is an element of sympathy.
Newcastle have been a victim of their own success, with a squad not strong enough to fulfill two fixtures a week whilst in European competition, a host of injuries to key players, and a poor run of form culminating in their star striker Demba Ba leaving on a budget to Chelsea this transfer window.
Chelsea have no such sympathy. Whilst they indeed have had to play more fixtures, and travel the world for the luxury of more medals, they have the budget and knowledge necessary to avoid the kind of player fatigue Gary Cahill felt was the reason for poor 2-2 draw at Brentford in The FA Cup last weekend “We haven’t got enough time to do our recovery work and sometimes we feel leggy”. Rafa Benitez’s complaint of not having a big enough squad has been met with dismay, with 23 players out on loan, at a total cost over £80m (pictured left, the extra two line-ups Chelsea could play).
When the January transfer window (which often feels sponsored by Sky Sports News HD) was introduced 10 years ago, there were plenty of mixed feelings and predictions as to how it would affect the current model that English, European and World football was used to. The previous model held only one transfer deadline towards the end of March. Teams that were involved in a relegation battle opened their cheque book when they needed to. Teams pushing for promotion and trophies opened their cheque book when the time was right. Teams that suffered horrific injuries were able to delve into the market as and when necessary. This sudden fear that you could only make purchases at defined times panicked teams and fans across the country.
10 years ago, one huge fear would be that the large clubs would develop squads big enough to run an insurance policy ie having 20 or so players out on loan that should you have an injury crisis you were able to re-call them to your first team. The problem at Chelsea, is “We cannot bring back some of the players who are out on loan because we have an agreement that they will carry on for the rest of the season”.
Looking around the big clubs, both domestically and abroad, it is hard to feel sympathy for Rafa Benitez. Understandably, these decisions to loan players out without re-calls was out of his control, but he understood the constraints of the poison chalice he took on, and I’m fairly certain we’d have all had a go for less than half the salary. The two Manchester clubs have not been so apologetic for their poor form to base it on too small a squad. Manchester United have actually suffered all season from defensive injuries, but despite on occassion having to field Michael Carrick at centre-back, and conceding goal after goal, and coming from behind on 9 occasions to win in the Premier League this season, not once has Sir Alex Ferguson raised the issue that, frankly they don’t have enough players.
A club that could be justified in lamenting the extra fixtures that comes with unprecedented success and the struggle of managing those games in a tight schedule and a squad on a budget, is Bradford City. The immense success that is happening at Valley Parade highlights the romance and excitement of cup football. Having beaten Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa as Premier League scalps on their way to the League Cup Final, they went down 4-1 away to League 1 Crewe in the Johnstone Paint Trophy North Semi-Final, and a 4-2 after extra time loss against League 1 Brentford in the 2nd Round of The FA Cup. Both Chelsea and Bradford have used 22 players this season, with the former having 5 players having made over 30 appearances, and the latter having 9 players that have made over 30 appearances.
And if Cahill really wants to use fatigue as an excuse for the team’s performance at the weekend, he may be pleased to hear from scorer of Brentford’s second goal Harry Forrester, whom during Sunday 17th February’s 3rd Round Replay could be making his 40th appearance of the season. Good luck.