No club in Europe spent as much as Chelsea in the 2020 summer transfer window. With the Coronavirus pandemic causing havoc across the world, football clubs were like many businesses as most looked to rein in their spending. Chelsea, however, bucked the trend as the club made up for lost time – having not brought in any fresh faces during the previous two windows – by shelling out more than £200 million across a host of major acquisitions.
The Blues didn’t just go big on one or two players. They splashed the cash on several stars and purchased some of the most sought-after players in world football.
With Frank Lampard guiding Chelsea to a top four finish and an FA Cup final in his first campaign as manager, there were expectations that the club legend – now armed with one of the best and deepest squads in the division – was set to mount a title challenge.
When Chelsea were on a 17-match unbeaten run at the beginning of December, things seemed to be moving in the right direction. But four defeats in their last six Premier League matches, the Blues have slipped to ninth in the table and Lampard’s job is at risk.
With the January transfer window now open, we thought it would be a good time to rank Chelsea’s summer signings.
Edouard Mendy – B-
Signed for £22m from Rennes
What a difference a month makes.
Heading into December, Chelsea fans thought their prayers had been answered and they had found the long-term solution to their goalkeeping problems, after a painful couple of years with Kepa Arrizabalaga between the sticks.
The club shelled out a world record fee for a goalkeeper when bringing in the Spaniard for £71.6m in 2018. But fans were left feeling as though their club had backed the wrong horse as they looked towards Ederson at Manchester City and Liverpool’s Alisson with envy.
Fast forward to December and no goalkeeper in the Premier League had kept as many clean sheets as Mendy this season, despite the Frenchman only playing six times, with his five shutouts coming in three or four games less than the majority of other goalkeepers had played so far this season.
Mendy was commanding his area in a way that Arrizabalaga never did. He was claiming crosses and corners, he was vocal, he seemed to have installed a confidence in his defence and most importantly, he wasn’t conceding.
At just £22m, the former Rennes man looked like a bargain.
But as Big Ben chimned to mark the start of 2021, Big Ed’s mistakes had started creeping into performances and they were big ones too, contributing to opposition goals.
Fans will be hoping it was just a bad month and his start to the campaign wasn’t a flash in the pan. But after the errors of the last month, he has slipped down to a B- after an A+ start.
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Thiago Silva – A-
Free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain
No one was doubting Thiago Silva’s resume when he arrived at Stamford Bridge. Nine league titles in the previous ten years at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. Captain of the Brazil national team. Chelsea had signed one of the best centre-halves of the last decade.
But Silva would be turning 36 soon. He didn’t speak the language fluently and people questioned whether his stellar showings in Ligue 1 could be replicated in the high-intensity Premier League.
Would he be another Laurent Blanc? An iconic centre back who joined a Premier League title challenger too late in his career to showcase his talent. Or would he be able to show he still has the mobility to be a world class operator?
Well so far it appears to be the latter. It hasn’t been totally smooth sailing. His debut saw Chelsea ship three goals against a poor West Bromwich Albion side. And in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, Silva was part of a centre-back pairing who were pulled out – and caught out – of position on several occasions.
But in the large majority of his outings, Silva has been immaculate. His reading of the game, his quality in possession, the impact he seems to have had on the younger players around him… Silva oozes class.
It is why I have given him an A-.
Ben Chilwell – B+
Signed for £50m from Leicester City
At £50m, Ben Chilwell can never be considered a bargain. But in modern day football where players are going for £200m and British players seem to cost more than their compatriots on the Continent, at £50m Chilwell has proven himself – so far at least – to be good value for money.
The left back is part of a Chelsea squad which has lost four of their last six matches and against Manchester City, Chilwell struggled to cope with the slick movement of the opposition forwards. He wasn’t alone.
But on the whole, the 24-year-old has looked composed, has been effective in defence and attack and even offered a goal threat.
The former Leicester City man has spoken of seeking out Ashley Cole within a week of his big-money move. And while those who attend Stamford Bridge on a regular basis may never see a left back as good as Cole grace the Chelsea blue again, Chilwell has proven he is ready to take up the challenge for many years to come.
Kai Havertz – E
Signed for £71.6m from Bayer Leverkusen.
Kai Havertz has been described as a ‘once in a generation’ talent. He is the player German football fans seem to be most excited about, which considering the conveyor belt of talent which has come out of the country in the last decade, is saying something.
Chelsea fans have yet to see it.
There have been flashes. The hat-trick against Championship Barnsley. The odd nice turn, touch or pass here and there.
But at £71.6m and all the fanfare which came with his arrival, it’s hard to argue that Havertz has not been a major disappointment so far.
However, let us not forget: this is a 21-year-old moving to a new country for the first time, trying to deal with the pressure of a huge price tag and during a global pandemic which will have inevitably had an impact on the youngster, even before he contracted the virus.
Havertz was said to have been bed-ridden by Covid, is still struggling with the after effects of the virus and his manager also needs to take some of the blame for his form, as he has been unable to find a system which seems to suit the versatile German.
Havertz has been tipped to become a superstar and he will almost certainly become an integral part of this Blues team for years to come. But at the moment, even with the caveats above, it is hard to give him more than an E.
Hakim Ziyech – B+
Signed for £33.4m from Ajax
Usually if an attacking player had missed half of the season through injury and had only chipped in with one goal, you would expect the review of their impact so far to be a negative one.
However, the fact Sunday’s 3-1 loss against Manchester City was Hakim Ziyech’s first defeat for Chelsea is telling.
The 27-year-old missed the start of the campaign after injury in the pre-season game with Brighton – having impressively set up Timo Werner by that stage – so fans had to wait until October to get their first competitive look at the ‘Wizard of Amsterdam’.
Well, it didn’t take long for the ‘Wizard of west London’ to start getting a mention as Ziyech quickly established himself as the attacking heartbeat of the team.
His ability to cut in from the right and provide accurate deliveries for team-mates was no secret after years of doing so at Ajax and the Morrocan was doing it consistently at Stamford Bridge before injury struck once again.
Grading him is hard because if you are doing it solely on his minutes on the pitch, he would probably be an A-. But missing half the season so far through injury means he is pushed back to a B+.
Timo Werner – C-
Signed for £47.5m from RB Leipzig
In the three weeks between October 17 and November 7, Timo Werner scored seven goals in six games for Chelsea. He was on fire.
The problem is he has only scored one goal in the other 18 matches and that was the Carabao Cup game with Spurs back in September.
Lampard has stood by Werner despite no goals in his last 12 matches but the frontman has shown little sign of turning around that form.
It doesn’t seem to be due to a lack of trying and debate continues around whether he is best from the left or through the middle. Lampard has tried both.
Like Havertz, this is another player who has moved to a new country during a global pandemic and he has been known to go through dry patches in the past before returning with a bang.
But based on current form, it is hard to give Werner more than a C-. And even then that is factoring in his hot-streak.
We haven’t forgotten about you Malang
Chelsea’s sixth signing of the summer was 21-year-old Malang Sarr. But with the centre-back not featuring in a Blues squad following his arrival and loaned out to Porto five-weeks later, we didn’t feel it was fair to give him a grade.
The free transfer from Nice has been a regular at Porto though and started in five of their six Champions League games, with the 3-1 loss to Manchester City on his debut the only time he has tasted defeat in his 12 appearances in all competitions.