A lot has been made in the last week about Chelsea and their lack of a clinical finisher. Whilst having possibly the world’s best stable of attacking midfielders, pundits have criticised Jose Mourinho’s side for lacking a 20+ goal a season striker. I think from the outside, the pundits have a point. Whilst players such as Oscar, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Juan Mata and Willian are capable of scoring goals as well as creating them, that one extra player up front up could be relied on to score the goals to win the team the league seems to be missing. Here I will look at their current options who are contracted to the club and assess their standing in the Premier League at present.
Fifteen goals from 86 league appearances in not a good return for any striker, let alone one which cost Chelsea £50 million. This is common knowledge. However, what is sometimes underrated is that during his time at the club, the 35 goals he has scored in all competitions have helped the club towards winning the FA Cup and Champions League in 2012, and the Europa League in 2013. Despite his goal return, Torres is a winner. At the age of 29, he is probably past his prime now, unable to return to the heights that he was infamous for at Liverpool, but if he can still score goals, key goals, then he will remain a valuable player for Chelsea. The main surprise for me is that since signing Torres, the club has had a large overhaul in midfield, shifting from a traditional 4-3-3 formation to a strict 4-2-3-1 shape, introducing a more fluid passing style to their game rather than the more brutish style that was employed during Didier Drogba’s reign as Chelsea’s number one striker. With the players available now, this team is built for Torres. The missing piece of the puzzle is likely to be a Steven Gerrard-esque player, who can send a long ball upfield for Torres to chase onto when the neat interplay he is used to playing with Spain fails.
One player that I am actually surprised to still see at Chelsea is Demba Ba. When Deadline Day reports said that he was on the verge of leaving for Arsenal, although the club in mention surprised me, the idea of him moving on did not. At Newcastle, Ba was ruthless in front of goal, sometimes being deployed on the left of a front three, other times more centrally. Whenever he played though, he was the main man. At Chelsea, he had to share this honour with Fernando Torres during his first half-season at the club. However, I do not believe that the reason he scored two Chelsea goals in 14 league appearances compared to the thirteen Newcastle goals in 20 appearances during 2012/13’s season is to do with sharing the pressure. At Newcastle, Ba’s strength was the more direct style that the club would play, occasional long-balls mixed with a short passing build-up and crosses that he could fight for in the air. At Chelsea, the build up at present in largely on the ground, with fewer crosses coming into the box as the emphasis on play is through the middle rather than via wide areas. Although Ba might be selected for certain games, such as the game against Stoke in December where physical players may be more appreciated, I believe that Demba’s days at the top of the league are numbered.
Signing for an undisclosed fee this summer, Samuel Eto’o returned from the domestic wilderness and joined Chelsea. Since joining, he has started all three games he has been involved in against Everton, FC Basel and Fulham. Despite this, he has looked less threatening than an Ice Warrior in a firefight in these opening games, leaving the field open for critics to suggest that his age is exacting its toll. There are suggestions though that this could be true, going back as far as 2009, when Barcelona sold Eto’o to Inter Milan. Despite scoring 36 goals in 52 appearances in his final season at the Nou Camp, Barcelona considered swapping Eto’o, then at the age of 28 a reasonable deal to get Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The next season, despite helping Inter Milan to complete a treble – under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho – his scoring record dipped, scoring 16 goals in 48 appearances. Considering Serie A had a reputation during this period of being an easier league to score goals in, backed up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic finding goals harder to come by in Spain, was Eto’o’s goal dip a sign of things to come? In the summer of 2011, Eto’o moved to Anzhi Makhachkala, scoring 36 goals in 71 appearances. Whilst the Russian league is a fairly competitive league, with a few recent Premier League imports coming from Russia, it is by far less competitive than England, Spain or Italy. Should the lack of goals from Eto’o be a surprise? No. Earlier in the summer, when Anzhi announced they were to clear out their high-earners, my thoughts went to Eto’o, but not in relation to Chelsea, but Stoke. His wages would always have been an issue in that day-dream, yet the fact remains that even before his first game for Chelsea, I doubted his prolific nature from Spain, and his semi-prolific nature from Italy would return when playing for the blues of London. Whilst being the best player for the striking role Mourinho wants Chelsea to play, the best available is not necessarily the best.
One of the more baffling transfers of deadline day was Chelsea’s decision to loan out Romelu Lukaku to Everton for the remainder of this season. Whether it was Lukaku’s decision to play more regularly or Mourinho’s, I have to admit I find the decision baffling as Lukaku would offer more than any of the three options I have listed so far. He has the pace to run channels if long balls are the option, he has the strength to hold the ball up and allow midfield runners to support an attack, whilst he also has the goals in him based on his spell at West Brom last season, plus scoring on his debut for Everton this afternoon. Whilst having plenty of time ahead of him to cement a starting place at Stamford Bridge, I think a large portion of Chelsea supporters would have preferred to see Lukaku being cemented into the team this year rather than gambling on the options I have listed up to now.
Whilst not considered as a striker, Schurrle has played in this position for Bayer Leverkusen in the past and was utilised as a lone striker in Chelsea’s away game at Old Trafford recently. Despite not grabbing a goal in this game, Schurrle does have the potential to be a striker as he has the pace and strength the all good Premier League forwards need to have. The only question remaining is in regards to his finishing ability, with Schurrle only scoring 18 goals in 65 league appearances for Leverkusen. At the age of 22 though, he would have time to adapt to a role in a more advanced position, and potentially score more goals than he has done in the past.
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