There was plenty of talk about the players named on the Chelsea substitutes’ bench by Thomas Tuchel against Arsenal on Sunday. And for good reason.
The German had more than £250million worth of players in reserve; it could’ve been more had Christian Pulisic not missed the game due to testing positive for Covid-19.
There was the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalga (£71.3m). Left-back Ben Chilwell (£50m). Centre-back Kurt Zouma (£12m). Ballon d’Or contender N’Golo Kante (£30m). Moroccon wizard Hakim Ziyech (£33m). Erratic forward Timo Werner (£50m).
Add in Chelsea academy graduates Trevoh Chalobah and Callum Hudson-Odoi and free transfer Thiago Silva and it’s a bench the envy of many Premier League and European sides.
“I am absolutely happy with our squad and the alternatives we have,” Tuchel said after the 2-0 victory at the Emirates. “It’s not too big a squad, we were missing Christian Pulisic today and that meant everybody else was in the squad.
“That means we maybe don’t have the biggest squad but that we have a very competitive squad in all positions. This, on one hand, is necessary because we play a lot of competitions and we play the World Club Cup in December. We also played very long last season and there was the Euros and Copa America.
“So if we want to compete we need this level. But at the same time, it’s also important we’re a strong group, this was maybe the key for the last half a year. We played with a strong bond and a great team spirit.
“This is a challenge for the team and for me to create this atmosphere again. And that everybody is ready to take hard decisions and keep pushing the team. If we do this we can achieve more than we have.”
That Chelsea’s squad is so strong is largely down to two factors: the rapid incorporation and progression of a number of academy graduates over the past two years and the pure financial might possessed by the Blues in the transfer market.
Last summer – a year on from serving a transfer ban – Chelsea spent more than £200m on new players, including Chilwell, Ziyech, Werner and Kai Havertz.
In the current transfer window, the club’s transfer record was smashed with a £98m deal for Romelu Lukaku.
The somewhat lazy perception is that these transfers have all been financed by Chelsea’s billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich. There would certainly have been an element of truth to such a theory in years past. It isn’t the case anymore.
In Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea possess one of the shrewdest operators in the transfer market. Her ability to extract big money for fringe players has been showcased time and time again in recent seasons. And it’s largely why Chelsea have been able to go out and repeatedly spend big on new signings.
According to transfermarkt, the Blues have spent an eye-watering figure of £554m on new players since the summer of 2018.
Crucially, however, player sales over the same period have raised £346m; that is £100m more than any other Premier League club and testament to Granovskaia’s negotiating skills.
Those of you good with numbers will have already worked out Chelsea’s net spend over the past four seasons stands at a little more than £52m. That is not extravagant for a club of the Blues’ stature.
It’s also far less than Sunday’s opponents Arsenal, whose squad is considerably weaker than that belonging to Tuchel.
The Gunners, under a combination of Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, have spent £425m on new players while recouping £99m. That leaves Arsenal with a net spend over the past four seasons of £81.5m.
They’ve got little to show for that outlay, though. Arsenal have finished fifth, eighth and eighth again in the Premier League over the past three seasons. The current campaign, meanwhile, has started with back-to-back defeats. There was also a humbling Europa League final defeat to Chelsea in that period.
Mikel Arteta is under pressure at the Emirates. As is the technical director Edu. Problems run deep at Arsenal but a lack of clear thinking in the transfer market has certainly impeded their progress over the past three years.
Chelsea haven’t encountered such problems. Under Granovskaia’s watch, the Blues have been able to build an elite-level squad without being reckless in the transfer market. That approach resulted in a Champions League triumph and success in the Super Cup.
Further trophies are expected to be won this term. And given the players available to Tuchel, you sense that ambition will become a reality.
Source by Football London