Could Chelsea’s lack of depth impact trophy hunt?

by Dean Mears

Above: Chelsea have a lot to work out over the coming months. Photo: 90min

In the summer of 2022, Chelsea Women brought in six new signings ahead of the defence of their third consecutive league title. Their unspoken main goal, however, has always been to win the Champions League.

In the final group game last season, away to Wolfsburg, Chelsea needed to avoid defeat by more than two goals to seal their progression into the next round. Before the tie, they lost goalkeeper Ann Katrin Berger and midfielder Drew Spence to positive Covid-19 tests, and in the 51st minute, lost captain Magdalena Eriksson to an injury that would keep her out for the next three months.

The game finished 4-0 to Wolfsburg. It was a humiliation for Chelsea who had contested and lost the previous season’s final against Barcelona by the same scoreline.

So, despite league and cup success, the summer transfer activity that followed, reflected that bitter disappointment as multiple Champions League winner Kadeisha Buchanan joined along with Jelena Cankovic, Eve Perisset, Katerina Svitkova, Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd, and youngster Lucy Watson, who soon moved on to Charlton Athletic on a season-long loan.

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan on her WSL debut for Chelsea at Liverpool. Photo: The Guardian

It appeared that Chelsea’s transfer business had done the trick, the team ended the year top of the WSL and through to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League after topping Group A with nineteen goals scored and just one conceded against PSG, Real Madrid, and Vllanzia.

Speaking at a press conference in December, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was full of praise for her new signings:

“What I will say about the players that came in over the summer is that every single one of them is a super-professional. You can have a large squad and it doesn’t mean you have good quality, but we’ve got both, we’ve got a large squad and top quality.”

But the January transfer window has now closed and the question has to be asked: Have Chelsea undone all the good work they did in the summer?

Transfers in

Despite being linked with a big money bid for Arsenal defender Katie McCabe, Chelsea’s only winter signing was highly rated teenager Maika Hamano from INAC Kobe Leonessa.

The 18-year-old, who caught most people’s attention during the FIFA U19 World Cup, immediately joined Swedish side Hammarby IF on loan, where she has already scored three goals.

Transfers Out

Above: Former Chelsea star Beth England pictured on her Tottenham Hotspur debut. Photo: Suvadeep Biswas for Impetus.

Chelsea’s first sale of the January window had felt a long time coming as Bethany England moved across London to Tottenham Hotspur for a reported £400,000 fee. England had found herself become Chelsea’s second-choice striker following the arrival of Sam Kerr in 2020, and after not featuring at all during the Euros. She obviously needs regular minutes if she’s going to convince Sarina Wiegman that she can replace the now-retired Ellen White as England’s number-nine at the World Cup this summer.

The second departure was a loan deal for young Dutch defender Aniek Nouwen, who moved to Serie A side AC Milan. Nouwen, like England, had been struggling for minutes following the arrival of Buchanan and with that World Cup on the horizon, would have also been worried for her place in the Dutch squad for the tournament.

Chelsea also had recalled Charlotte Wardlaw from her loan at Liverpool and sent her to Championship side Lewes instead.


Chelsea lost three players at the end of the 2021/22 season – Drew Spence, Ji So-Yun, and Jonna Andersson – but brought in five first-team players to take their squad to 25 players, the departures of Bethany England and Aniek Nouwen have reduced this.

However, they are currently without Pernille Harder to a long-term injury with no return date yet in sight, meaning in theory, Chelsea’s squad is really down to just 22 players, less than the number that saw them struggle with injuries during December 2021, a period in which they lost to Reading in the WSL and fail to win their final two Champions League group games against Juventus and Wolfsburg.

Chelsea now find themselves with only one recognised striker: Sam Kerr. She may be the club’s second-highest goal scorer but there is a real risk of burnout if Emma Hayes needs to rely on her too much.

Kerr is currently tied with Fran Kirby on six goals in the WSL as top scorer this season. Alarmingly, Harder is still third on that list with three goals, despite playing just 254 minutes this season.

Above: Sam Kerr is presently facing a lot of work for both club and country. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

The loan deal for Aniek Nouwen has also had a knock-on effect for Chelsea’s defensive setup, with captain Magdalena Eriksson finding herself on the bench as Hayes continues with the centre-back partnership of Millie Bright and new signing Buchanan.

Eriksson had been deployed as the left back, with Nouwen and Jess Carter on the bench as backup, but the departure of the Dutch international has seen Carter become Chelsea’s first-choice left-back, with Eriksson as the back-up central defender, coming on as a sub, as she did last Sunday at half time when Buchanan picked up a knock.

The left-back position is another concern for Chelsea, who, having let Jonna Andersson go, found themselves without a natural option. Eriksson, who is left-footed was a more natural fit than Carter who finds herself either coming in field or going backwards.

It is noteworthy that the three games that Carter and Guro Reiten have been together on Chelsea’s left-hand side, the Norwegian hasn’t produced a goal or assist.

Carter’s backup will likely be either Eriksson moving back across, or Niamh Charles switching sides, however, the switch has also impacted Alsu Abdullina’s place in the squad.

Time will tell if Chelsea will live to regret not signing a left-back or a proper backup striker for Kerr, but as the schedule gets even busier, with rearranged fixtures still to fit in, it won’t be long until we find out.

One thought on “Could Chelsea’s lack of depth impact trophy hunt?

  1. Can’t believe you didn’t mention Lauren James. She is stunning on the ball and is starting to be more of a team player and work those fantastic one touch Chelsea combinations. Also Reiten scored against Tottenham and is always a threat. Cuthbert can score from anywhere approaching the box as well.


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