Chelsea will now be able to sign players in January after their transfer ban was reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Blues had initially been handed a two-window transfer ban for breaking Fifa regulations regarding the transfer of players, involving minors.
Chelsea served the first window in the summer at what was a crucial time for the club, with Frank Lampard replacing Maurizio Sarri. Mateo Kovacic was the only new permanent addition at Chelsea, though the Croatian midfielder had an option to buy in his loan deal.
The ban meant Chelsea have had to rely on their returning loanees and the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have exceeded expectations so far. But there are still weaknesses in the Blues’ squad that have caught Chelsea out at times.
Chelsea had always been clear on their intentions to appeal the ban, first sending their case to Fifa. And even though that was rejected, another appeal to the CAS had the Blues already planning January action, according to some reports.
And now that the ban has been reduced, leaving Chelsea free to buy in January, we could see Lampard make his first signing as he looks to keep a hold on his spot in the top four.
So, who should they sign? As always, we’ve picked out the dream, realistic and potential wildcard options while also suggesting our own signing.
Dream: Jadon Sancho
While defence has been a problem, at the other end of the pitch, Chelsea still have the gargantuan task of replacing Eden Hazard.
The Belgian was simply irreplaceable for Chelsea last season, being directly involved in 49.2% of the Blues’ Premier League goals – scoring 16 and recording a division-high 15 assists.
And although Christian Pulisic is doing his best to try and replicate what Hazard can do, Chelsea are still being linked with various wingers. One of those is Jadon Sancho.
The Englishman is growing unsettled at Borussia Dortmund and has been linked with a return England after initially leaving for Germany in 2017.
Sancho, still only 19, has a bright future ahead of him but is also performing well now. Since the start of the 2018/19 campaign, no player has recorded more assists in the Bundesliga than Sancho’s 20. Six of those have come this season, with the Englishman averaging 0.64 assists per 90 minutes.
Then there’s the fact Sancho was a boyhood Chelsea fan and already has a friendship with Callum Hudson-Odoi, having grown up together rising through the ranks with England.
Dream: Ben Chilwell
One of the problem positions for Chelsea this season has been left-back. Marcos Alonso remains unable to perform effectively as a full-back, much more comfortable at wing-back, while Emerson has been stuttering after a bright start.
Over the past few months Chelsea have been heavily linked with a move for Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell. The 22-year-old has been exceptional as part of Brendan Rodgers’ side currently sitting second in the Premier League.
An all-round performer, Chilwell is composed in both defence and attack, winning 62 duels so far to add to his 17 tackles and 24 clearances. He has added three assists in the Premier League but made headlines when he matched that tally in just 25 minutes for England.
Chilwell recorded a hat-trick of assists as England beat Montenegro 7-0 at Wembley including two wonderful crosses and a pinpoint corner. Chelsea have been missing this kind of quality down their left.
Squawka Suggests? Ben Chilwell
Although Sancho would be an excellent signing, Chelsea are in serious need of a top-quality left-back. Cesar Azpilicueta has been doing fairly well in recent games but, at 30 years old, the Spaniard is slowing down.
With significant Premier League experience already, Chilwell appears an ideal replacement. If Chelsea could sign him to accompany right-back Reece James, the Blues may have a full-back pairing to rival Liverpool’s in years to come.
Realistic: Wilfried Zaha
If a move for Sancho proves too outlandish for the January transfer window, Chelsea could look closer to home with Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.
It is widely known the Ivorian believes he is ready to leave Crystal Palace and test himself once again at a top club after struggling at Manchester United in 2013.
Over the summer, Zaha was being linked with Arsenal and Everton, going as far as handing in a transfer request. The 27-year-old remains settled with Palace after a move failed to materialise, but Chelsea have reportedly made contact with Zaha’s agent.
So how do you replace Hazard, the Premier League’s most prolific dribbler? Signing the second-most prolific is one way of going about it.
In what was considered to be a slow season for Zaha, the winger completed 113 take-ons, with only Hazard (138) making more in the Premier League. He has carried that form into the new season, completing 68 take-ons so far, 13 more than any other player.
Zaha has also won 47 fouls, a tally only bettered by Jack Grealish (60) this season, while creating 15 chances, recording one assist and scoring twice.
Realistic: Moussa Dembele
Tammy Abraham has been excellent this season, scoring 12 goals so far in all competitions, but past him Chelsea are left wanting in attack.
Neither Olivier Giroud nor Michy Batshuayi have truly impressed under Lampard this season when called upon, with the former managing just 282 minutes of action.
In the past, Chelsea have been linked with French forward Moussa Dembele, formerly of Celtic and now at Lyon. And those links have surfaced once more, leading to suggestions of a January move.
The 23-year-old has been in phenomenal form for Lyon in Ligue 1 this season, despite their struggles, scoring 10 of their 24 goals. No player has scored more than Dembele in Ligue 1, tied with compatriot Wissam Ben Yedder.
This is just one fewer than Abraham has managed in the Premier League and would certainly provide better back up than Batshuayi or Giroud.
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Squawka Suggests? Moussa Dembele
Chelsea showed just how much they rely on Abraham in their 1-0 defeat to West Ham United at the end of November, unable to trouble the Hammers defence.
The Blues need a good back up for the Englishman that could also provide competition for places, with no player guaranteed a spot. It would also allow Chelsea some room to let Giroud go as the former Arsenal man grows frustrated with his lack of playing time.
Wildcard: Timo Werner
If Chelsea want to go for a bigger signing than Dembele to rival Abraham then they could look to Timo Werner.
The German striker’s future is uncertain with many of Europe’s top clubs circling, and rightly so. Werner has scored 17 goals in 20 games for RB Leipzig this season and continues to be a big part of the side as they look to establish themselves as one of the Bundesliga’s Champions League regulars.
No player has been involved in more Bundesliga goals this season than Werner, with the 23-year-old adding five assists to his 13 goals. And only Robert Lewandowski has scored more.
The biggest question mark surrounding this move, however, would be how Abraham and Werner can be in the same squad. Werner is the slightly more established striker and is being tipped for a wonderful career but Abraham has also shown himself to be a reliable goalscorer.
If Chelsea were to sign Werner, the German couldn’t just be sat on the bench as a back up, waiting for his opportunity. Chelsea would either need to start him in place of Abraham or change formation to fit both in one XI, dropping a player from elsewhere.
Wildcard: Nathan Ake
Another position Chelsea may need help in is at centre-back. The Blues allowed Gary Cahill and David Luiz to leave permanently in the summer, with Ethan Amapadu also departing on loan.
This left Chelsea with four first-team centre-backs for the season: Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori, though the latter has barely played through injury.
And although there have been promising signs, the Blues do still need to strengthen and could look to a former player: Nathan Ake.
The Dutchman has been a fine addition to Bournemouth’s team since joining them permanently in 2017 and his performances have led to links with a move to one of the Premier League’s bigger clubs.
Now that they are back in the transfer business, Chelsea are among those names being linked with the 24-year-old, who has made 66 clearances – more than any of Lampard’s defenders – and 19 tackles.
Squawka Suggests? Nathan Ake
It would be a bold move, returning to sign a player they let go of, but Ake would certainly strengthen Chelsea’s defence.
And that’s realistically what they need to prioritise, before adding to support for Abraham. At 24, Ake would keep Chelsea’s defence young and one for the future, but he is also an experienced head thanks to the faith of Eddie Howe.