Newcastle 1-0 Chelsea…
Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea …
Losing to Southampton, Bournemouth, Everton all in the space of one month, and drawing with Brighton in the same month as the two above results has, at best, raised some serious question marks around Stamford Bridge. None more so than with Blues manager Frank Lampard who, after the Newcastle game suggested a serious lack of killer instinct. The Blues created 19 chances but failed to score. “If we are looking for people to bring in to the areas to win games when you are controlling it, it is scoring goals,” said Lampard.
The game against Arsenal ended in a draw but the atmosphere around Stamford Bridge was one of deflation. Going 1-0 up and against 10 men with a good 60 minutes remaining should have been an opportunity to really make a statement of intent for the top 4. Instead, Chelsea capitulated and twice threw away a lead.
This is in no way a condemnation of Tammy Abraham as a striker who, I believe, has exceeded expectations as the main man up front this season. This is a recognition that, despite Tammy’s character and prowess, he cannot do it alone – least of all with the business end of the Champions League beckoning. Enter Edinson Cavani. Maybe.
As a proud Frenchman and avid supporter of my beloved France, I will be the first to say that, during the World Cup, I was relieved to see his name missing from the starting eleven when France took on Uruguay in the knockout stages. His scoring record speak for itself too. Between 2013-2019 he racked up 136 goals in 195 for PSG, and has achieved a half century of goals for Uruguay.
So why is there big question mark about Cavani? This season, those who watch Ligue 1 will know that he has only stuck away 2 goals and provided no assists. His admirers will surely point to him only starting 9 games, but that fact in itself is scalding: a manager of the calibre of Thomas Tuchel has only trusted him to start 20% of the time, which has been repaid with a measly 4% of goal participation. The Cavani ship might (and I do emphasis the word “might”) have sailed.
When he has played though, he has run his socks off. His work ethic is, and always has been, beyond question. What you do get with Cavani is a player who will run for 90 minutes and give 100%. His experience is something that is clearly missing in the Chelsea team. Yes, he is cup-tied for the Champions League, but he can certainly take some pressure of Tammy, and give another option to Lampard, in the League games. However, his age and recent form indicate there is a chance this could be an Higuain shaped banana peel.
I believe the problem at Chelsea lies far deeper than finding a simple backup/mentor to Tammy, and someone who can score goals. The Arsenal game highlighted not only a frailty in defence that was clear to see for all in attendance and those watching at home – that has been well documented. The key problem I believe is the delivery into the box. Not to single out one individual as there were a number of culprits during the Arsenal game, but Emerson’s final ball was simply not good enough. This criticism applies to all our wide players. No matter how good the striker in the box is, if he’s not receiving good enough service, he won’t score, and that ever talked about “killer instinct” becomes redundant.
As much as it pains me to do this, consider Liverpool for a moment. The quality of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson’s delivery into the box is frightening. That is the problem area for Chelsea. If Chelsea continue to play a 4-3-3 (which I really hope Frank sticks with), we need more from our wingers and full backs. Maybe this is something that needs to be addressed in training? Maybe a change of personnel in those areas is required? Maybe Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi need more time together? Maybe the return of Loftus-Cheek’s creativity in the midfield will draw more players in and free up space on the wings? Maybe.
What is clear is, despite Frank’s excellent work, his trust in the youth, and the initial great energy levels shown at the beginning of the season, Chelsea are now at a crossroads and all the excellent work displayed so far runs the risk of resulting in a Europa League spot. So we come back to the burning question: Is Cavani the answer?
For the short term: Yes. He can certainly take some pressure off of Tammy, and as it stands given that Tammy picked up a knock against Arsenal, it would be ideal for him to step in immediately. The timing seems very convenient. Not to mention that he would definitely be a superb role model for Tammy Abraham. A young hungry player such as Tammy should thrive off the experience and work ethic a player such as Cavani would potentially bring. There’s also no question that an elite striker coming into the starting eleven would provide a massive boost to the whole team.
Can I see him as a Chelsea player beyond a year though? No, and to be honest I wouldn’t want that. The long term planning & future proofing of the club and the youth breaking into the first team that fans have been begging for these last few years is finally being provided. The purchase of Cavani on anything more than a 1 year contract would set up a dangerous trip down memory lane and a repeat of the mistakes of yesteryear: investing in players for a short term fix.
The faith has to be kept in the youth. It’s been six months. Now, more than ever, Chelsea fans need to show a characteristic which so many of us football fans seem incapable of: patience. A display of patience should of course not come at the price of losing a top four finish. A minimum aspiration needs to be maintained, no doubt. Inject some experience into the team by all means, but it needs to be calculated and it needs to be sparse. The last thing that should happen now is the floodgates opening with short term fix signings. If that happens, all the work will be undone.
Cavani’s recent stats show this would be a risk, but his experience of playing at the highest level, and long being considered one of the most feared strikers in the world could prove to be a calculated risk. Is Cavani the answer? For one year, possibly even eighteen months, I would say yes.