With the transfer window coming to a close on Tuesday (although not properly locked as Rafael Van Der Vaart still managed to sneak in), Chelsea proved to be one of the least active Premier League sides in the market.
The departure lounge at Stamford Bridge was awash with activity, as we said goodbye to Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack and good riddance to Deco, but the arrivals gate was comparatively calm.
Ramires proved to be Carlo Ancelotti’s major signing, following Yossi Benayoun to West London, but despite rumours of a replacement for Ricardo Carvalho rife in the press, nothing materialised.
When the 25-man squads were released on Wednesday, Chelsea fell well short of the cut-off mark, naming just 19. It begs the question as to whether Ancelotti is planning to utilize the youth more this season, with youngsters such as Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma and Fabio Borini waiting in the wings, or whether a costly error has been made over the past two months.
With Carvalho linking up with former boss Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, the Blues have been left short of cover in central defence. Injuries or suspensions to either of John Terry or Alex means Branislav Ivanovic (currently injured himself) will be the likely candidate to be drafted into the middle. No problem as a straight swap, but it leaves the right side exposed to the ‘safeguard’ of Paulo Ferreira – and who knows what he’s capable of! His performances so far this season don’t bode well.
That is unless Jeffrey Bruma, who has just signed a new four-year contract, is deemed ready to step up to the mark. Ancelotti’s youth policy has so far looked promising, ‘blooding’ the likes of Bruma, Van Aanholt and Borini, as well as midfielder Nemanja Matic who is currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem.
Other youngsters such as Scott Sinclair and Miroslav Stoch have departed Stamford Bridge this summer, indicating that those remaining are a cut above, or else surely they would have followed suit, or at least been shipped out on loan.
Of those remaining, Patrick Van Aanholt is my personal ‘one to watch’. The Dutch defender more than held his own when deputising for Ashley Cole last season, even having the confidence to make several nippy runs into the opposition box.
Sadly one of the brightest youth prospects has had to hang up his boots on his short-lived career in the past couple of weeks. Defender Sam Hutchinson has struggled with knee injuries for several seasons and, despite making a handful of first-team appearances last season, has called it a day at the tender age of 21.
It’s a huge blow both for him personally and for the club – he certainly looked to have a bright future at The Bridge.
But even without Hutchinson in the ranks, Chelsea do appear to have a handy crop of kids waiting for their big chance. And that big chance is likely to come this season with limited senior options available. I’m just waiting for Alan Hansen’s words of wisdom…