Football Features

Sell, loan or replace? Eight January transfer decisions for Chelsea

By Harry Edwards

Chelsea transfers: Eight decisions for the January window | Keep, sell or replace?

Published: 11:00, 14 January 2021

When Chelsea began an overhaul of their squad in the last transfer window, there were plans to match incomings with outgoings.

However, while the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva all came in, the Blues did not move on anywhere near the number of players they would have liked.

What followed was a period of complete limbo for some players. Other slightly luckier squad members have been used sparingly, meanwhile, clearly not wholly trusted by Frank Lampard. But now January is here and the Blues are looking to shed some of those unwanted players, to either keep options open for potential new signings (unlikely in January) or just to draw a line under unsuccessful spells.

There have already been a few Chelsea players linked with a move away, both permanently or on loan. But what should Lampard actually be doing with these players? Who can be sold immediately, who could be loaned out and whose departure should only be sealed with a replacement already lined up?

We’ve taken a look at some of the key names and given our verdict on what Lampard should do: Keep, sell, loan, or replace. If you disagree with any of them, you can say hi on Twitter or Facebook.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

In the summer of 2018, Chelsea made Kepa Arrizabalaga the most expensive goalkeeper in the world and lofty expectations were put in place. The Spaniard did not have the worst first season at Stamford Bridge, mixing a few poor goalkeeping choices (and a certain substitution controversy) with solid performances, including saves in vital penalty shootouts.

But last season he regressed and looked more likely to make a mistake than a good save, his confidence dropping with every substandard performance. In the summer, he was replaced by Edouard Mendy and is now currently the most expensive substitute goalkeeper in the world. A low came when, on Arrizabalaga’s 100th Chelsea appearance, Morecambe’s bench were heard to be encouraging their players to shoot whenever they got to within 40 yards of the Spaniard’s goal.

Verdict: Loan

Some have called for Chelsea to try and cut their losses with Arrizabalaga and while it may be good for both club and player to do so, taking him out of the limelight and back into his comfort zone, a temporary move may do the job.

Although there are certainly better goalkeepers, a big factor of Arrizabalaga’s poor form will be due to his confidence that has undoubtedly come with a lack of support from his manager and team-mates. If Arrizabalaga gets his confidence and ability back, Chelsea can either reap the rewards themselves or, worst-case scenario, sell the Spaniard for a bit more.

Fikayo Tomori

The arrival of Thiago Silva gave Lampard five centre-backs to choose from; the Brazilian joined Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Fiyako Tomori. For the first half of last season, Tomori and Zouma looked to be Lampard’s first-choice centre-back pairing, and his best. Sure, they weren’t perfect, but when allowed time to play together and learn alongside each other, it worked. Tomori was another success story of Chelsea’s academy and loan system.

But 2019 turned into 2020 and Tomori lost his place in the team. In fact, since the start of 2020 Tomori has played just seven times for Chelsea, with four appearances coming against lower-league opposition in the cups and he appeared to be on the brink of a loan move in the summer.

Verdict: Keep

This isn’t going to happen, as Tomori looks certain for a loan move away, with AC Milan among those reportedly interested, but Chelsea should not be doing that. Even looking at the immediate future, Tomori appears a more capable centre-back than two of his four team-mates and would be a better deputy than them to Silva and Zouma. Granted, there are still weaknesses in his game, but they are not as telling as those of his teammates and it’s quite bizarre that he appears to be the one on his way out.

Antonio Rudiger

Another centre-back who has been linked with being moved on is Antonio Rudiger, whose Chelsea career looked to be over in the summer before a dramatic U-turn. He isn’t in Lampard’s first-choice pairing but at the moment he appears to be first back-up, overtaking Christensen as the season as gone on and, remarkably, at 27 Rudiger is Chelsea’s most senior centre-back behind Silva.

Verdict: Sell

As with the reasoning for Tomori’s verdict, this isn’t going to happen this window, as Chelsea would prefer to offload the English centre-back than his German counterpart, but were they to reconsider, it should be Rudiger who goes.

Again, there’s nothing overly wrong with Rudiger or his abilities. He is a more than capable centre-back that can do a job on his day. The problem here is that, in the case of Chelsea defenders, it would make more sense for them to move Rudiger on permanently (a 27-year-old doesn’t really suit their loan system) than potentially give up on Tomori.

Declan Rice next club odds (via Sky Bet

  • Chelsea 3/1
  • Manchester United 14/1

Odds correct at the time of writing. 18+ Only. UK only. Terms and Conditions Apply. BeGambleAware.

Marcos Alonso

When Antonio Conte switched Chelsea to a back-three, Marcos Alonso thrived as a wing-back and he carried that form into Maurizio Sarri’s spell as an attacking left-back. Under Lampard, Alonso’s defensive issues were proving increasingly costly but as Chelsea didn’t have another suitable left-back (Emerson was not favoured), the Spaniard continued.

He also started 2020/21 as Chelsea’s left-back while Ben Chilwell recovered from injury. But then West Brom happened. Chelsea were atrocious in the first half, conceding three goals and while no player was blameless, Alonso received much of the criticism as West Brom attacked mainly down his flank. He was taken off at half-time but did not return to watch the second half, instead heading straight to the team bus. Lampard publicly criticised him after the game and Alonso hasn’t made a matchday squad since.

Verdict: Sell

It looks as though Alonso’s time at Chelsea is up (certainly as long as Lampard is manager). His departure will just depend on which team comes in for him, whether it is this January or in the summer.

With Chilwell already impressing, perhaps Chelsea’s best left-back since Cesar Azpilicueta ended Ashley Cole’s time at the club, Alonso has no future there and it would be good to free up a spot in the squad.

Emerson

Like Alonso, Emerson has fallen behind Chilwell in Chelsea’s left-back pecking order, though the Italian has seldom been their first-choice. There were spells under Sarri and even Lampard when he looked to be making the role his own, but now he is having to make do with back-up, thanks to Alonso’s new status.

Verdict: Replace

Emerson is a capable deputy for when Chilwell is rested, and gave Morecambe nightmares at the weekend, though he was playing more as a winger with very little defending to do. He also, surprisingly, came on as a winger in a Carabao Cup tie against Barnsley earlier in the season. But as a long-term left-back deputy, Chelsea could do better and probably should look to replace Emerson, keeping him until they have picked their new man, of course.

Danny Drinkwater

Now, onto a player some may have forgotten still plays for Chelsea. Things just haven’t worked out for Danny Drinkwater ever since he moved to Chelsea in 2017 as he struggled to get into Conte’s, Sarri’s or Lampard’s teams. He spent last season on loan at Aston Villa and Burnley but was unable to find a new club in the summer, so has been sitting unused since.

Verdict: Sell

There’s nothing new to say here, really. If Chelsea can find someone willing to sign Drinkwater and the midfielder can agree wages, then the rest of the fine print and it should be done. For both club and player, now is the time to call an end to this partnership and hopefully, for Drinkwater, he can get back to playing.

Olivier Giroud

It’s January and that can only mean one thing: Olivier Giroud is being linked with a move away from his club. It happened in 2018, when he got his move to Chelsea, and again last year, when he was behind Tammy Abraham in the pecking order.

Both were tournament years (or supposed to be). The same story is being played out again, as Giroud has experienced spells in and out of the Chelsea team, rotated with Abraham. When in the team, he has mostly been brilliant. A four-goal haul against Sevilla is testament to that. However, there have also been games where he wasn’t suited to the system, though the Frenchman cannot be blamed for being picked. Ultimately, there is something more immediate about the Giroud problem this time: his contract is up this summer.

Verdict: Keep

Giroud has pledged his immediate future to Chelsea, insisting he will stay at Stamford Bridge for the remainder of the season, with the European Championships to prepare for. And Chelsea should be happy with that, regardless of whether he signs a contract extension in the summer or moves on. For now, he’s an excellent player to have just in case. Though if he were to leave, he is currently priced at 5/1 to seal another move across the capital, with West Ham favourites for his signature this month.

Olivier Giroud next club odds (via Sky Bet)

  • West Ham 5/1
  • AC Milan 9/1
  • Juventus 10/1

Jorginho

Jorginho was an important part of Lampard’s side last season, carrying on his good performances from his debut campaign under Sarri. He did well to win over most of his doubters but there were always rumours of a potential move away, particularly with Sarri at Juventus.

Sarri has left Juventus, but the rumours haven’t disappeared and Jorginho still faces an uncertain future at Chelsea, where he is not guaranteed a spot in Lampard’s starting XI.

Verdict: Replace

Although Jorginho isn’t the defensive midfielder Chelsea need, he is still a very capable midfielder when the game requires his particular set of skills. For this reason, Chelsea should keep hold of him until they are able to find a replacement.