When this transfer window opened, the big and bothersome question for Chelsea was whether Roman Abramovich was still at all interested in his club.
There was a lot of commotion at the time about the Russian owner being denied a UK Visa and what that might entail for the future, but the merciful development for supporters at Stamford Bridge is that it did not necessarily hinder business at the club. In fact, Chelsea have enjoyed arguably their most proactive window since 2014.
They’ve signed precisely the lynchpin midfielder that Maurizio Sarri requires for his style in Jorginho, while beating Manchester City to the player’s signature in the process. That has been followed by the purchase of the most expensive goalkeeper in history in Kepa Arrizabalaga and a promising loan deal for Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic. Most significantly, they’ve kept hold of Eden Hazard.
The Belgian mentioned in May how important it was Chelsea make competitive signings, and he can at least encouraged by what they’ve done, if not bowled away.
His international teammate Thibaut Courtois has finally left for Real Madrid, and while some would suggest his replacement marks a downgrade, it’s not that simple.
There has always been debate about Courtois at Stamford Bridge and whether he actually makes many saves he shouldn’t, not to mention his commitment to the club given his family situation. There was never the connection there that Petr Cech had.
Kepa meanwhile doesn’t have the experience that Courtois has, but he is a hugely dependable and talented goalkeeper, and not prone to mistakes.
That doesn’t represent that much of a change, really, and Chelsea have probably strengthened overall.
There are some who have worked with the club hierarchy, though, who still question the overall strategy and the fact the squad is now loaded with midfielders while lacking elsewhere.
There is still the problem of Alvaro Morata’s profligacy and current absence of confidence.
The big question is where the goals are coming from, beyond Hazard? But then this points to the big new dynamic regarding Chelsea.
Sarri’s coaching is such that you can effectively write off an individual’s past because the Italian does have the capacity to transform them. The sudden upsurge in Dries Mertens’s shooting and Kalidou Koulibaly’s reliability at Napoli represent the best evidence of this.
It may take a while, sure, but Sarri is capable of taking most of that squad in different directions.
There still feels a slight imbalance to Sarri’s Chelsea, especially at full-back, but the genuine fascination there is what the Italian does next, what he can come up with. He is someone who sees himself from the same school as Pep Guardiola, who has long made it seem like his ideal is to fill a team with technical universalist midfielders. Chelsea now have a lot of those. The best-case scenario could be kaleidoscopic movement around Jorginho before the cutting edge of Hazard. The worst-case scenario will be a mess.
We won’t know for some time and, almost more than any other club, it is why Chelsea’s business will be hard to judge.
It right now feels positive, though. And, even more positively, Abramovich has already given them the answer to the most pressing question of all. Business as usual, it would seem.