The Bues have a huge hole to fill after Eden Hazard’s transfer to Madrid.
Chelsea have 38 goals and assists in total to make up. And they have to find those numbers among the current first team and loanees because of the imposed transfer ban this summer.
There’s a great scene in the movie Moneyball where Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane is discussing offseason moves with his team of scouts. He shocks them when he says, “Guys, we’re still trying to replace [Jason] Giambi. I told you we can’t do it. We can’t do it. Now, what we might be able to do is recreate him. Recreate him in the aggregate.”
This is exactly what Chelsea need to do after Eden Hazard’s departure. The Blues can’t replace him and shouldn’t even attempt to. With the transfer ban in place and not being a top destination for top players, Chelsea shouldn’t waste their time.
The club needs to recreate him in the aggregate to the best of their abilities.
With that, the first thing to know is Hazard’s output last season. The Belgian wizard scored 16 goals in the Premier League and 21 in all competitions. He also led the Premier League in assists with 15 and added another two in other competitions.
So, Chelsea have 38 goals and assists in total to make up. And they have to find those numbers among the current first team and loanees because of the imposed transfer ban this summer. The problem is, without the ability to buy, recreating Hazard is more than an uphill battle. It’s almost a 90 degree vertical incline.
At forward, Oliver Giroud dominated the Europa League, but only managed two goals and four assists in the Prem. Pedro notched 13 goals and four assists in all comps. Willian had eight and fourteen. Callum Hudson-Odoi had six and seven. Alvaro Morata added five goals before going on loan. And Gonzalo Higuain contributed seven and two after coming in on loan.
Not great numbers from the supporting cast in the first place. Secondly, is there any indication that one or more of those guys will have a monster season next year? No. Pedro, Willian, and Giroud are 30 or older and most footballers don’t get better after 30.
Morata didn’t cut the mustard in his first year and a half so what indicates he’s finally figured it out? It’s not like he bashed in goals left and right at Atletico Madrid on loan, so if he comes back, he’ll only make marginal contributions.
And it’s inconceivable Higuain returns on loan with Sarri gone.
The only forward with hope of increasing his output significantly would be Hudson-Odoi, he’s out for an extended and unknown time though due to injury. Most likely half the season at minimum.
Chelsea then will have to turn to players on loan to recreate Hazard.
American Christian Pulisic is the biggest name on paper when it comes to expectations. He struggled with injuries at Borussia Dortmund this year keeping both his playing time and stats down. Should he
stay healthy though, a successful season should see 15 goals and assists in total.
Michy Batshuayi is the only other player with ‘significant’ game time in Europe’s top leagues, including his best spell two seasons ago on loan at Dortmund. Before getting hurt near the end of the year, the Bat Man hit nine goals and one assist in 14 games.
He then though disappointed this past campaign between loans at Valencia and Crystal Palace. It’s unclear at this point if he’ll play at Stamford Bridge or go on loan again this coming season.
On loan at Aston Villa, Tammy Abraham was the one true shining player out on loan. Abraham impressed with 26 goals and helped win the Championship playoffs to earn promotion in May. The question is, can he do it in the Premier League? Can he do it in the Prem with Chelsea, a big club with expectations to win? Both questions can’t be answered at this point.
As Chelsea’s options stand now to recreate Hazard, fans should be skeptical. It looks a little bleak with no reason to believe the first squad or loanees can in aggregate fill Hazard’s shoes.
For the Blues to finish top four and compete again, midfielders will also have to fill in the gaps.
Unfortunately, the first team doesn’t have a plethora of options.
Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek would be the best chance after excelling the second half of last season. However, he’s hurt long term and will start the season on the trainer’s table.
Mateo Kovacic? Ross Barkley? Jorginho? Not exactly deadly finishers or guys who are coming into their own and on the verge of a breakout season in the midfield.
Loanee Mason Mount played well at Derby County in the Championship, but is he ready for the Premier League week in week out? Kennedy has played above average at Newcastle on loan, but not great. Charly Musonda doesn’t seem poised for the big time after his loan at Vitesse. And Tiemoue Bakayoko prefers to remain in Italy after spending the year with AC Milan.
With Hazard gone and the players at Chelsea’s disposal, it seems like a very tall order to replicate Hazard’s production next season.
In Moneyball, Beane and the A’s had to concoct a different strategy than the rest of the league because they’re in a small market with a tight budget. They couldn’t go out and sign the best player or the most sought-after free agent.
Beane and the A’s NEEDED to recreate the outgoing players’ statistical contributions through cheap, undervalued players who collectively accumulated those same statistics.
Granted Chelsea isn’t a small club or working on a shoe-string budget, but they are not a 1st choice destination. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester City, PSG, and Liverpool are just a few examples of clubs more desirable at the moment than the Blues.
Those clubs can definitely pay more both in transfer fees and wages. Moreover, they haven’t missed the Champions League two of the past three seasons like the west London club.
Chelsea might be able to shell out the money it takes to attract one or two of the biggest of names looking for a move, but do those players want to move to Stamford Bridge? Likely not.
Putting the transfer ban to the side, Chelsea doesn’t draw the biggest names on the move anyway so they have to find either undervalued players, or at least cheaper players Madrid, Barca, Juve, City, and the rest are looking past.
When the Blues next have the chance to sign players, Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth, Hirving Lozano at PSV, and Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata are just examples of where Chelsea must look.
Chelsea have a huge hole to fill after Eden Hazard’s transfer to Madrid. And it will certainly prove a formidable challenge for the manager and players on the field and the board off the field.
With the summer off in terms of making deals, Chelsea need to take the opportunity to scout and scout well.
And when they finally can buy players, they can’t miss any of their targets.