Transfer appeal almost inconsequential for Chelsea
Chelsea's fine start means their transfer ban appeal is just a minor sub-plot in their first season under the guidance of club legend Frank Lampard.
As it stands, the club are unable to sign players until the 2020 summer transfer window after FIFA found them guilty of breaking transfer regulations relating to minors earlier this year.
Chelsea were unsuccessful in overturning the decision when presenting their case to Fifa’s appeals committee in April and have now taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS], which will hear it on November 20.
Chelsea will know whether their appeal against a transfer ban has been successful later this month but manager Lampard should have no concerns regarding the outcome.
This season was supposed to be a campaign of consolidation for the Stamford Bridge club. They were unable to bring in any of their own targets, with Christian Pulisic the only new face in a deal that had been agreed in the previous transfer window with Borussia Dortmund.
Star man Eden Hazard left for Real Madrid leaving what many felt would be a void that could not be filled in attack without dipping into the transfer market, a route that was unavailable to them. The talk in the build-up to the new season was all about giving new manager Lampard the chance to get used to the demands of Premier League management after making the step up from the second tier after a stint with Derby.
One of Lampard’s main targets was to bring youngsters into the first-team fold and he has done that, although ultimately that job will be an ongoing process for as long as his tenure lasts. Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and – in particular – Mason Mount have been exceptional. Reece James has looked comfortable whenever called upon and Billy Gilmour is also starting to see a few more chances come his way.
The more optimistic Chelsea fans were probably hoping they’d be able to launch a sustained top-four challenge, or at least remain in touch and hope the ban would be overturned going into the January window. At the moment they are exceeding expectations as the Blues remain in the title race, albeit as outside shots, and they sit comfortably in the Champions League places with a nine-point advantage over Sheffield United in fifth.
It is fair to say that if Chelsea are to challenge league leaders Liverpool and defending champions Manchester City for the title in the future they will need to strengthen their squad but that doesn’t mean the next widow is the time to do it.
Lampard has indicated he would be tempted to add to his squad in January if the appeal is successful and targets have started to emerge. Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is currently under the microscope as reports say he is the club’s ‘priority’ target ahead of the winter window, while Leicester’s Ben Chilwell and Bournemouth’s former Chelsea defender Nathan Ake have also been mentioned as options.
All three are quality performers and would add further quality to an already talented squad, but there is an argument to be made for Lampard sticking with his current squad if injuries don’t come into the equation.
Prices tend to be inflated in the winter window and bedding fresh faces into a settled team is much more troublesome than when new arrivals join during pre-season. In the case of Milinkovic-Savic or any player arriving from a foreign league, they would have to get used to the Premier League and that comes with its own problems.
Obviously, it would be better if Chelsea had the option to sign new players in January. The likes of Olivier Giroud, Marcos Alonso and Pedro appear to be on borrowed time and if Chelsea could sign replacements it would give Lampard the opportunity to offload those who don’t fit into his plans and sign replacements.
It may be that they face rivals for their targets and simply have to move in January to avoid missing out. For those reasons it would of course be better for the club if they were free to sign players but a squad overhaul is simply not required.
If Chelsea’s appeal is rejected and they have to wait until the summer before strengthening it would not be a disaster, and they should have no concerns over reaching their targets this season as they look on course for a top-four finish and are well placed to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League.