Chelsea have spent big but glass seems half empty as transfer window closes

Thomas Tuchel expects to have clearer picture of personnel at his disposal on Thursday and then chart revival path

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel wants attacking reinforcements beyond Raheem Sterling. EPA
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At almost exactly the moment Timo Werner was slotting in his hat-trick goal for RB Leipzig, Chelsea, who sold the striker last month, were throwing away a lead at Southampton.

Unfortunate coincidences like Tuesday’s tend to stalk the London club, a place where footballers move in and out frequently with a tendency to up their form after departing Stamford Bridge.

The list is long and notorious. It’s ten years this summer since Kevin de Bruyne was first shipped off the premises. It’s nine seasons since Mohamed Salah was signed, only to be marginalised and then let go.

Chelsea may not suffer the same enduring regret over Werner even if, two seasons on from joining Chelsea from Leipzig, he has made his return journey to east Germany look like a ticket to immediate contentment.

Werner has four goals from four matches since rejoining his former employer, although, admittedly, Tuesday’s three within 24 first-half minutes were in an 8-0 Cup win over fourth-tier Teutonia Ottensen.

Werner may come to miss the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League in time, although he will be relieved not to be part of the finger-pointing at Chelsea that starts with the manager Thomas Tuchel.

After Chelsea conceded a lead for the third time in five Premier League matches, losing 2-1 at Southampton, Tuchel repeatedly called the performance “soft”. He told the players, via a fiery post-match briefing after the second defeat of the short campaign so far: “Just toughen up. It’s too easy to push us off track.”

Yet plenty of hard cash has been invested by owners who only bought the club in May, a sanctions-driven purchase because of previous boss Roman Abramovich’s perceived links to Russia’s government.

By the close of Thursday's transfer window, Chelsea may well end up showing the biggest overall spend of a summer market in which the Premier League will have set new records for total outgoing transfer fees.

Wesley Fofana was on Wednesday confirmed as another new Chelsea player, his £70 million move from Leicester City making him the fourth costliest defender in the game’s history and taking the club’s overall close-season spending over £250m.

Yet, over a turbulent summer, Chelsea have also been a soft touch. In the limbo between ownerships, Antonio Rudiger let his contract expire and joined European champions Real Madrid.

Andreas Christensen, another central defender, also left for free, to join Barcelona, who have been shaking up the market more than any club outside England and criss-crossing Chelsea’s path more often than Tuchel would have liked.

One of the preferred targets to fill the gaps left by Rudiger and Christensen’s departures had been Jules Kounde, but he chose to leave Sevilla for Camp Nou rather than for Stamford Bridge.

Marcos Alonso, the experienced left-back, was meanwhile being courted by Barca and, after a long saga of a proposed deal, is preparing to end his six-year stay in London to join Barcelona, where his father played in the 1980s.

150 summer transfers

Barcelona also chased Cesar Azpilicueta, the Chelsea captain finally committing to stay in London. Chelsea have been in advanced talks over Barca’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and sounded out the Catalan club, where the transfer turnover has been hectic, about Frenkie de Jong.

The Aubameyang option found favour with Tuchel, who coached the striker at Borussia Dortmund, and with the player himself. But a deal has been complicated by factors including the length of contract – Aubameyang is 33 – the fee and whether or not a loan deal could be brokered, with Barcelona anxious to reduce their salary bill.

On Monday night, there was also a terrifying incident in Aubameyang’s family home just outside Barcelona. Burglars, apparently armed, broke in, threatening the player and his wife while their children were in the house. Aubameyang reportedly suffered a facial injury, which, quite apart from the shocking experience, will keep him out of action for several weeks.

Having sold Werner for less than half the €53m they paid for him in 2020, and loaned Lukaku back to Internazionale, from whom he was signed for almost €100m in 2021, Tuchel wants attacking reinforcements beyond Raheem Sterling, who signed from Manchester City in July and whose three goals so far are the only ones scored by a Chelsea forward this season.

“Raheem is just one player and as a team we are not strong enough at the moment,” said Tuchel, anticipating a busy last 24 hours before the transfer window shuts.

“We need to find solutions. What will help is the closing of the transfer window. We will know then who has full commitment, what we demand, what role everybody needs to fulfil. And then everybody, including myself, needs to step up to a new level of performance.”

Updated: September 01, 2022, 2:25 AM