As Summer 2016 was Antonio Conte’s first transfer window as Chelsea manager, I was expecting a huge negative net spend. But Conte was more than happy to let the same team that won the Premier League and crumbled soon afterwards carry on. He did bring in a few players, but not as many as I thought.
- Michy Batshuayi
Previous Club: Olympique de Marseille
Price: €39 million
I have always known who Michy Batshuayi is. He was raised in a district in Brussels which had a crime rate but later developed into one of the best strikers in the Ligue 1. He is fast, strong and a great finisher, much like a great Chelsea striker who quit Chelsea in 2015, Didier Drogba.
He scored a lot of non-penalty goals. But even greater is the stat to the right of NPG – shots. Michy Batshuayi takes loads and loads of shots. And he isn’t inefficient either. He is a good dribbler, too. The only concern is that he isn’t creative. However, when you’re at Chelsea, playing in front of Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar & co., lack of creativity isn’t a crisis. Batshuayi also keeps himself fit and never suffered an injury last season. He rarely received bookings. At Marseille last season, Batshuayi played 86% of the time.
But he will face the same problem Lucas Perez will face: lack of minutes. Marseille didn’t have a great striker on their books last year. But Chelsea do, and his name is Diego Costa. As far as we’ve seen this season, Conte won’t play a formation with two forwards. Batshuayi has played no more than 52 Premier League minutes at Chelsea, even though he was good during those 52 minutes. So basically, Chelsea blew up €39 million on a super sub.
But every cloud has a silver lining. The world-class striker who is great competition to Batshuayi is Diego Costa. And everyone knows that Costa has a red-hot temper and receives lots of bookings and suspensions. So, when Costa gets into a fight and gets himself suspended, Batshuayi is always there to fill the gap. So, the €39 million is a long-term investment on someone who is already performing very well. When Costa becomes 30, Batshuayi will hit his prime, and that’s when Chelsea will have a great striker on their hands.
- David Luiz
Previous Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Price: €38.5 million
Chelsea’s main deadline day signing was a “five-year-old who loves playing PlayStation”. David Luiz, make no mistake, is a good defender. Buying back David Luiz is a great deal for Chelsea, who sold the Brazilian to PSG for €50 million and made him the most expensive defender ever.
Let me make this clear: David Luiz is a great defender. The only problem is he dives into too many tackles. But he’s great at long balls.
Or that’s what I thought till I used a radar to display his stats.
And that is why we use radars. I (and a lot of people) thought David Luiz was crazy and kept committing to rash tackles. But when we use radars, we know that he didn’t. While we can’t use a center-back radar to evaluate David Luiz, radars can reveal what kind of a player he is. David Luiz isn’t too aggressive; he wins the ball through interceptions and blocks. Luiz is hardly dribbled past. He passes well, although long balls and clearances aren’t his thing. He isn’t the greatest aerial threat, though.
Last year, he played 60% of the time for PSG in the Ligue 1. That was because he had to compete with fellow brilliant Brazilians Marquinhos and Thiago Silva for minutes on the pitch. The only thing was that he missed five games due to injury. He won’t face too much competition to spend his days sitting on the sidelines for Chelsea, as Antonio Conte employs a three-man defensive system. But there are players who can play in place of Luiz if he gets injured. Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and Kurt Zouma are all players who can play as center-backs. I can’t say too much about it, but I think David Luiz was too highly priced. But again, I have no way to value a center-back.
And when David Luiz is past his prime, Andreas Christensen, Matt Miazga, and Kurt Zouma can become Chelsea’s new back three.
Oh, yeah, and the best part? Entertainment.
- N’Golo Kanté
Previous Club: Leicester City
Position: Defensive midfielder
Price: €35.8 million
Chelsea didn’t buy one player for €36 million. They bought two. I don’t have Prozone data, but N’Golo Kanté does A LOT of work and covers a huge amount of space. And he won a Premier League last year with Leicester City. His radar is as impressive as his résumé.
He is not creative at all, but he makes up for that with his defensive work. Just look at those tackles and interceptions! He doesn’t get dispossessed or dribbled past too much. Kanté can take on a man when he needs to, which is surprising. If I had tracking data, N’Golo Kanté’s stats would be even better.
And the best part? He can do all this work every week. Kanté played 88% of the time in the Premier League with Leicester. He started 33 times and only missed one game due to injury/suspension. In the four games he didn’t start, he was subbed in later in the game. That’s how much Leicester City needed Kanté.
I wonder how Chelsea got Kanté for that price. For such a fine player, €35.8 million is a bargain. Kanté hasn’t missed a minute this year in the Premier League for Chelsea. He has been the main reason for Chelsea’s low xG conceded. He was arguably the best player when Chelsea faced Leicester City. Kanté scored a stunning goal when Chelsea thrashed Manchester United 4-0.
Now tell me if you think Chelsea shouldn’t have bought the Frenchman.
- Marcos Alonso
Previous Club: Fiorentina
Price: €23 million
I did not know who Marcos Alonso was till Deadline Day 2016. Chelsea bought him for €23 million. €23 million on a guy I don’t know at all? But it looks like Marcos Alonso was a player I should have known.
Alonso wasn’t the greatest defender on Earth. He doesn’t tackle too much or look to intercept passes. He loses some of his defensive duels. But look at the other side of the radar. Alonso is one of the most creative full-backs in Europe. He gets most of his passes on target. He is a great crosser of the ball. Not a bad dribbler, either. But look at those key passes! How creative a full-back can you be? He’s also good in the air, probably because of his height. Marcos Alonso might be one of the most underrated full-backs in the world. His attacking influence will only increase with Conte switching to a 3-4-3 formation.
But there is one problem: Marcos Alonso is a little injury prone. He only played 68% of the time in the Serie A for Fiorentina last season. He didn’t face too much competition for playing minutes, either. He missed five Serie A games last year due to injury. This isn’t much of a problem for Chelsea. Ola Aina or Cesar Azpilicueta can fill in the gap.
Chelsea’s scouting system is good. They can also buy the players they want thanks to Roman Abramovich’s petrodollars. Chelsea have identified false positives and spent tons of money bringing them to Stamford Bridge, but this summer wasn’t there worst transfer window ever. They bought some of the most underrated players in the big 5 leagues such as Marcos Alonso and Michy Batshuayi. They bought N’Golo Kanté, someone who’s already looking like signing of the summer. They also brought back an old favorite of the club, David Luiz. These players aren’t too old or too young. I think Chelsea could have paid less, but that might just be me failing to keep up with the inflating transfer market.
These players also fit in well with Antonio Conte’s tactical philosophy. N’Golo Kanté is the perfect engine in Chelsea’s two-man center-midfield. Marcos Alonso is an excellent attacking wing-back who will really add a fang to Chelsea’s superb attack. David Luiz will play perfectly in the Chelsea back-three.
The best part is Chelsea can do fine even if these players don’t perform as well as expected. They have a lot of players who can play instead of these guys. If Batshuayi misses his shooting boots, Chelsea can recall Bertrand Traoré or Tammy Abraham. If Chelsea don’t like Kanté, they can play Cesc Fábregas, John Obi Mikel, Nathaniel Chalobah, or Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Ola Aina or Azpilicueta can play if Alonso isn’t as good as I thought.
. . .
David Luiz: By rayand – RA1_6511Uploaded by Yoda1893, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19521288
N’Golo Kanté: By Dim50 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32237603
Michy Batshuayi: By bobo_300 — DSC_0901.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40657871
Marcos Alonso: By Football.ua, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39636446
Featured Image: CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=695347