Chelsea transfer rumors: Anthony Gordon and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang aren’t the answers for Thomas Tuchel

The idea that a player’s transfer fee may be indicative of their qualities has long since been disproven in an era where youth often seems to be the most prized asset in the market. And yet there remain deals that can only be greeted with the raising of eyebrows and furrowing of brows. For most, Anthony Gordon’s prospective move to Chelsea is firmly in that category.

Gordon looked a player of promise last season, a young forward who blended prodigious hard work off the ball with an ability to draw fouls off defenders with his encouraging forward running. Although, his end product was nowhere near that of the Premier League’s best young forwards. In 35 games last season he scored four times and provided two assists, while his combined expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) of 0.31 per 90 minutes is about half of what the best English prospects were delivering from his position last season. But, given time, it was fair to project Gordon as a useful player for a team in Everton’s position.

What he does not look like, on the evidence of last season, is an international superstar in the making. And yet that is how he is being valued by both sides. Everton, who have refused to deny publicly or privately that Gordon has made a transfer request, have already rejected a £45 million bid for the 21 year old and yet may feel they have played their hand exquisitely with the Blues said to be willing to return with and a £60m offer. Those who know Goodison Park speak of a lingering fear that this could be a sale in the mold of Wayne Rooney, who joined Manchester United in 2004 for a then stunning £27m.

Of course there is one significant difference between the two players. When Everton sold Rooney he had already set Europe alight at Euro 2004; Gordon has had one season of encouraging play. There is clearly something to a youngster who has caught the eye of Tottenham as well as Chelsea. Perhaps it is not reflected in the underlying metrics. Maybe the fact that he has not produced to the level of Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount is because he is not in a team that enables him to hit those sorts of heights. Everton, and their manager Frank Lampardsee enough in him that they are pushing to keep him despite a fee that, if spent wisely, could allow their squad to be strengthened in two or three positions.

If it is easy to construct a case for Everton selling Gordon, it is harder to put together an argument for why Chelsea should be willing to pay so much for this particular player. Sources close to other targets that the Blues have identified across the continent have expressed bafflement that they may end up paying double the price of a top performer in Ligue 1 or the Bundesliga for a solid starter from a team who were nearly relegated from England’s top flights .

CBS Sports sources indicate that the pursuit of Gordon has been spearheaded by Tuchel. It is easy to see why any manager might like to work with Gordon, a player whose greatest qualities last season were his pressing and hard running. Everton team mates rave about the humility of the youngster and at a club such as Chelsea he would probably have the requisite versatility to play in either of the wide forward roles or as a wing back.

But then Chelsea have (for the moment at least) one player who ticks all those boxes. In barely over 900 Premier League minutes Callum Hudson-Odoi registered 0.41 xG+xA, often while playing as a wing-back for Tuchel. It has been clear for some time that the German wants more from his homegrown young winger, from whom he regularly demands a run of high level performances, whilst injuries have also curtailed the development of a player once coveted by Bayern Munich, now set to spend next season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen. Much the same could be said of Christian Pulisicanother natural attacker who was deployed deeper by his manager last season.

In a club with an established football back office, Tuchel might well be challenged to make use of the players he already has before a further £60m is invested by a team that has led the way in expenditure already this summer. Indeed, in years gone by at Stamford Bridge the idea that a head coach might hold such sway over recruitment would have been considered laughable; players endured but managers were disposable. Not anymore. Chairman, part owner, interim sporting director and relative ingenue to the intricacies of the European football market Todd Boehly is backing his coach’s judgment to the hilt.

One might ask similar questions about the pursuit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Here is a player whom Tuchel holds in the highest esteem from their time together at Borussia Dortmund and one who recovered his form significantly at Barcelona after his last Premier League stint ended decidedly with a whimper. By the end, Aubameyang was a player who struggled mightily in the Premier League Arsenal. Perhaps that was due to Mikel Arteta’s tactical constrictions and the ever changing positions in which he played his club captain, but is spending €25m or more on a 33 year old with four open play goals in his last 23 English league games any more of a gamble than dropping more on a player such as Jonathan David or Myron Boadu, who are more than a decade younger? Or indeed, why not ditch the pursuit of Gordon as well and put funds for both players into Rafael Leao, the superstar that AC Milan may be forced to sell to balance their books?

It is arguable as to whether Aubameyang, Gordon and Raheem Sterling represent a major upgrade on what Chelsea had last season with Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner gone, Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech likely to follow them. Equally it is unclear that it would allow the head coach to construct the Goldilocks front three he has been searching for.

Sixty games into his Premier League tenure Tuchel still seems far from settled on how his forward line should work. The second half of his tenure has brought exactly as many goals (52, not particularly close to the return for a title-winning team) as the first but the number conceded has doubled from 17 to 34. In part that is reflective of injury issues at the back end of the pitch but it also points to a Chelsea team that have attempted to attack more with no great upswing in returns. In 60 games only three players have reached double figures for goals, Jorginho through sheer weight of penalties, and Kai Havertz and Mason Mount who have had one goal every three games players. It is too early to assess Sterling’s time at Chelsea but aside from an early flurry of opportunities against Leeds he has looked like a player who needs to adapt to complex demands. An interweaving, fast-moving frontline might be the utopian ideal at Stamford Bridge, but at some stages players need a fixed reference point (not that that worked in Lukaku’s case).

Something of course has to happen to shake up a Chelsea attack that is faltering on the pitch with reserves that don’t want to be there. But it is fair to question whether giving Tuchel his way in every facet of building a frontline is the right course of action especially given that, despite the team’s success, he does not seem to have hit the right formula just yet.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *