Chelsea suffered a major blow to both the remainder of this season and the start of next season’s campaign after FIFA placed a ban on any further player registrations at the club until January 2011. Chelsea is deemed to have induced French winger Gael Kakuta to break a contract with Lens in order to join the west London side. Kakuta has demonstrated his talents in the youth team becoming both the top scorer and academy Player of the Year in 2007/08. However the promising starlet has been handed a four-month ban for his actions in the transfer. The club have described the sanctions as “totally disproportionate to the alleged offense”. With Kakuta unable to feature for several months, the club are concerned his progress will collapse. Gael has a bright future ahead of him according to the Blues who insist the former Lens player will be pushing for the first team in no more than two years. Chelsea is adamant to take the strongest form of appeal available to them in order for FIFA to reconsider their accusation.
So, how will the ban affect the remainder of this year’s campaign?
The ban is likely to hinder any potential challenge for the Champions League this year – a tournament Roman Abramovich has plunged millions into winning, although to-date in vain. With Chelsea supposedly missing out on a number of well-documented possible signings in the 2008/09 summer transfer window, the club can no longer look to strengthen in January. Didier Drogba has started the new season on top-form with three goals and three assists already. Despite these encouraging signs for Chelsea fans, the Ivorian striker will leave the Blues for the African Cup of Nations. The tournament – controversially held during the European club season – will see many players leave Stamford Bridge this January including Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien.
With both Chelsea’s defensive midfield options in Mikel and Essien leaving for a month’s worth of fixtures, it is likely Ancelotti will redevelop an individual to compensate for this inadequate cover. Ancelotti notoriously redesigned Andrea Pirlo as a defensive midfielder after previously accommodating a more attack-minded role at former club Milan. This sort of footballing renaissance is likely to see Michael Ballack adopt the role of the defensive shield in Ancelotti’s favoured Christmas tree formation. Nicolas Anelka will now be likely to occupy the lone frontman role so successfully undertaken by Didier Drogba before him. Furthermore Deco will, in January become Ancelotti’s Manuel Rui Costa in the Christmas tree formation. Rui Costa was promoted to a role linking off the Milan attacking force when Pirlo shifted to the shielding role. Chelsea, this summer did acquire the signing of versatile Russian Yury Zhirkov who will flourish in a depleted squad as his ability to multitask in formations will provide Chelsea with the cover they so dearly require.
In order to deal with the ban imposed on them, the club must maintain the squad Ancelotti previously described as strong enough to compete for all competitions. Therefore the glowing news that both English defenders, Ashley Cole and John Terry have signed new long term deals with the Blues will delight many. Ancelotti is said to have welcomed the move, stating the importance of Ashley Cole in his future plans for the club. The new deal follows the intentions of Flourent Malouda, Mikel, Drogba and Terry who also penned contracts earlier this summer.
But will Chelsea be accused of arrogance in their reluctance to strengthen a squad that failed to achieve Premier League or Champions League glory last season? Chelsea may now start to regret a seemingly quiet transfer period, possibly having to recall young loan players Scott Sinclair and Jack Cork to fulfil positions over a busy Christmas period/depleted January phase. The punishment implemented by FIFA may go further than the facts of Chelsea’s inability to add future players, with the reprimand on the club may inspire a gloom filled atmosphere which could potentially lead to a string of poor results. This may seem slightly dramatic, after all Ancelotti is an experienced manager, although he would not have faced a punishment quite like this before. Chelsea has achieved a perfect start with their current squad and despite this setback they are likely to remain on course to challenge for all four competitions in this campaign.