January transfer window to shape Chelsea's immediate fortunes

Posted by Phil Lythell

Marouane FellainiPA PhotosMarouane Fellaini would be the perfect addition to Chelsea's midfield.

To say the first few months of Chelsea's season have been eventful would be something of an understatement. Free-flowing football coupled with positive results soon gave way to a protracted winless run and the subsequent removal of Roberto Di Matteo as manager.

- Willian: I wanted to join Chelsea

Since then the appointment of Rafael Benitez, the unprecedented Champions League exit and defeat in the FIFA Club World Cup final have all helped to further energise the turbulence around Stamford Bridge. The New Year needs to see an upturn in fortune and an improved attitude from supporters and players alike but, more importantly, it requires some personnel changes in the dressing room.

The transfer policy of summer 2012 was as flawed as it was exciting. Nobody could possibly complain with the addition of Eden Hazard and Oscar to the ranks and the performances of each have already gone some considerable way to paying off their hefty price tags. However, the purchases of both Marko Marin and Victor Moses were certainly questionable. Both are decent players though acquiring them hinted at greedy accumulation rather than of strategic planning; a return to the hoarding of talent that marked the first few transfer windows of Roman Abramovich's stewardship.

The arrival of a new right back in Cesar Azpiliceuta was certainly welcome but the offloading of Michael Essien and Raul Meireles without bringing in any cover raised eyebrows at the time and has shown to be foolhardy following injuries and suspensions throughout the midfield options. Likewise, the decision not to bring in another striker so that Fernando Torres' ego can be soothed has backfired spectacularly as the Spaniard has continued to flounder as Daniel Sturridge sits lame on the sidelines.

Thus the January transfer window will see Stamford Bridge become a hive of activity. With almost every newspaper claiming that Sturridge just needs to dot the 'I's and cross the 'T's on a move to Liverpool, Chelsea will be looking to sign at least one if not two strikers before the month is out.

There are no prizes for guessing who is at the top of every Chelsea fans' wish-list but the arrival of Radamel Falcao is far from a done deal, whatever the rumours coming out of Spain might suggest. While the Blues might have pulled off huge signings in January before and would seemingly have few problems triggering the release clause of £48 million that would take the decision over any transfer out of Atletico Madrid's hands, the player himself has publicly stated that he is committed to Los Rojiblancos until the end of the season as they strive for Champions League qualification. Of course, should he change his mind he wouldn't be the first footballer to perform a volte-face when presented with a lucrative move to a big club but for now he has to be taken at his word.

Equally, it is hard to believe that Real Madrid would not attempt to hijack any deal should he show an inclination to move mid-season. Club president Florentino Perez has made his admiration for the player very clear as has manager Jose Mourinho and few players turn down the chance to play for the nine-time European Cup winners especially when they already live in the neighbourhood.

Several lesser names have also done the rounds in the gossip sections lately from Bafetimbi Gomis to Demba Ba via Loic Remi and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. All are viable targets though each has a significant question mark against their name, whether due to playing style, fitness or top level ability. Should any of those names arrive it is hard to see Blues supporters thronging to greet them at the airport and it is hard to escape the feeling that their presence would be to provide back-up for Torres rather than to challenge the misfiring hitman for a regular starting place.

The main contender for the midfield berth - as far as the rumour-mongers are concerned and also this author's preferred choice - is Everton's Marouane Fellaini. The imposing Belgian has developed into almost the complete midfielder during his four and a half years under David Moyes and his acquisition would inject some much needed physicality into the team as well as providing a fulcrum between defence and attack. He has largely been deployed in advanced positions this season though it was instructive to hear his team mate Phil Neville state recently that the player himself perceives defensive midfield to be his best position.

Should Chelsea be unable or unwilling to secure his services then they could do worse than pursue Fernandinho of Shakhtar Donetsk. The Brazilian put in two masterful midfield performances in their two Champions League meetings with the Blues this autumn and would be a welcome addition to any side in England. However, the 27-year-old has been heavily linked with both Manchester clubs who are both in need of a dominant presence in that part of the field and it is unlikely that Roman Abramovich would go head-to-head with City owner Sheikh Mansour other than for a true marquee player. Like Falcao, perhaps.

With the Chelsea squad looking increasingly threadbare when shorn of its main talents, the decisions made at boardroom level over who comes and goes will surely shape the club's fortunes during the latter half of the campaign. January purchases have been hit and miss over the last few years; for every Nicolas Anelka there has been a Fernando Torres. The man tasked with this critical conundrum, technical director Michael Emenalo, faces a crucial few weeks if his demanding paymaster is to be found smiling at season's end.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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