The January transfer window is now open and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri may be hoping to bolster his squad over the next month.
Chelsea have already brought in Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for £58m, though the American will not link up with his new club until the summer.
On the pitch, the Blues kicked off 2019 with their third goalless draw of the season as ‘Sarrismo’ was frustrated once again by a well-organised Southampton defence.
It raises questions over Chelsea’s current state with Sarri’s style of play. The foundations are there, but the personnel are not quite up to scratch. “The club knows very well my opinion. I think we need something different for characteristics,” Sarri told post-match reporters.
Could this be down to Sarri’s late arrival in the summer? Does the defensive scent of Antonio Conte’s work still linger within Chelsea’s squad? What follows is a list of the lesser-used or divisive players who could realistically leave the club next month or beyond, and a word on whether they appear cut out for the former Napoli coach’s tactical demands.
1. Victor Moses
Victor Moses was revitalised by Conte, under whom he featured at right wing-back.
But since Sarri took over in the summer, the Nigeria international has featured just six times and was last included in a matchday squad in October.
Two of those six appearances have come as a substitute in the Europa League, and only one was a start – against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup back in September.
And Sarri has already made it clear Moses does not fit in his plans for the future, telling reporters in November: “Moses is more suitable for playing wing back than like a winger or a full-back, I think. I don’t know [if they have a future].
“They have to improve but their characteristics are a little bit different.”
The change to a back four has seen Moses revert to a winger again, a position where he had initially struggled to break into the Chelsea team. With Willian, Pedro, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and seemingly Emerson in front of him on the right flank, it appears time for Chelsea to part company with Moses.
2. Danny Drinkwater
Another player Sarri has pretty much stated publicly is not good enough for his system, Danny Drinkwater’s career at Chelsea has been one to forget.
He signed in 2017 for £35m, but Drinkwater would play just 12 times last season and has added only one under Sarri in the Community Shield back in August.
And Sarri said: “I think for him the problem is only my football. He’s a very good midfielder but he is suitable for a midfield two, because with a three he is not really a central midfielder or suitable for centre right or centre left.”
The signing of this English midfielder really hasn’t worked out since Leicester agreed to sell, even in the two-man midfield under Conte in which Sarri feels he is well suited.
At 28, there is still time for Drinkwater to establish himself elsewhere as he pushes to regain his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the future.
3. Alvaro Morata
Much was promised by the arrival of Alvaro Morata last summer, but he is yet to really take centre stage at Chelsea. The Spaniard has been trusted by Sarri this season, in which he has started 23 games across all competitions, but has only scored seven goals.
Morata’s mentality has been called into question by Sarri, who compared him to the “mentally fragile” former Empoli striker Riccardo Saponara.
Morata has recently seen his place as Chelsea’s starting striker rescinded, with Sarri opting for either Olivier Giroud or Eden Hazard as a false nine, bringing the Spaniard’s future into question.
Morata has frustrated many a Chelsea fan with his performances but the club should not give up on him. The 26-year-old has shown glimpses of the potential that saw Chelsea spend £60m in the summer of 2017 and, with the right managing and confidence, can still come good.
Willian has missed just one game for Chelsea this season, starting 25 of his 30 appearances so far under Sarri.
But the Brazilian is once again failing to deliver in terms of direct goal involvement, having scored just once in his last 15 games.
Pedro is a far better option for Sarri on the right wing, perfectly suited to the Italian’s style of play, as good off the ball as he is on, while Willian still flashes hot and cold in his own style.
Verdict: Keep (for now)
Once again Willian is splitting opinion with his performances among Chelsea fans, some of whom seem to believe he is not good enough for the club.
But Chelsea’s squad is very thin in terms of wingers; right now, there is only Pedro to provide suitable competition for Willian on the right until Pulisic joins in the summer.
5. Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud is the perfect target man to link up with Eden Hazard, and the Belgian has benefited from his presence on the pitch.
But the biggest problem with Giroud is his pace, or lack thereof.
It’s not his fault, but Giroud cannot contribute enough when Chelsea break fast to expose gaps in opposition defences.
Whether he’s suited to Sarrismo or not, Giroud is still a valuable player for Chelsea, especially with the club’s current goalscoring problems.
The Frenchman will be needed for the rest of the season unless Chelsea sign a new striker this month, but a summer move away could still be on the horizon.
6. Gary Cahill
Despite being named captain by Sarri, Gary Cahill does not fit into the Italian’s plans at Chelsea. The England centre-back has never really looked comfortable on the ball, instead relying on his defensive abilities at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.
And while this may have been good enough under previous managers, with Sarri’s style of play passing is key, especially under pressure. And that is an area in which Cahill has failed to prove himself adept.
Cahill has had a wonderful career at Chelsea, practically winning everything there is to offer in domestic football. But the Blues are moving forward and cannot afford to hold onto players of no use to Sarri’s system for sentimental reasons, even if there will always be some doubt about the longevity of Chelsea managers.
Cahill has been linked with a move to Fulham and Arsenal already this month and Sarri has more or less admitted he is free to go, so it may be a case of when, not if, the centre-back is sold.
7. Andreas Christensen
Andreas Christensen was one of a few highlights for Chelsea last season, as the Danish centre-back looked to have broken the curse of the Blues loanee.
And hopes were high when Sarri arrived. Christensen’s passing is, after all, one of his key abilities.
But the centre-back is not the right kind of passer for Sarri, it appears. Christensen often chooses the safer option, compared to David Luiz’s defence-splitting long balls.
This would explain why the Danish centre-back has made just 10 appearances across all competitions.
Christensen is a must-keep for Chelsea. At 22, there is still so full of promise. His confidence appears to be shot since two big mistakes in the second half of last season, but he will come good, and Chelsea will not want Christensen to join the list of players who went on to become world-class elsewhere; see Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah.
8. Callum Hudson-Odoi
Callum Hudson-Odoi is only 18 years old but, as a member of the first-team squad, must strive to meet the same expectations placed upon him as someone like Hazard.
The promising young winger has made six appearances for Sarri this season, scoring one goal in the Europa League. But Sarri is adamant Hudson-Odoi is not ready for his system on the Premier League level.
“I don’t know if Hudson-Odoi is able for the Premier League at 18, especially in a big team,” Sarri said after Hudson-Odoi scored his first senior goal for the club.
“If he’s good enough to play in a big team in the Premier League at 18 then he could be the best player in Europe in two years.
“I think he played very well but the type of match was for his characteristics as they had 10 men after seven minutes. We only needed to play in the offensive phase. He’s very able to do this, but I want to see him in a match when he has to play in a defensive phase.”
The teenager has since been linked with a permanent move away from Chelsea, with Bayern Munich reportedly making a bid, leading some fans to fear Hudson-Odoi’s departure.
It is vital Chelsea keep hold of Hudson-Odoi, as the 18-year-old is one of England’s biggest prospects. But they also need to ensure he is getting regular playing time on a first-team level.
If this is not on offer at Chelsea for the rest of the season, the Blues must send Hudson-Odoi out on loan to keep him happy and at the club in the long-term.