Marina Granovskaia £87m Chelsea act undermines Thomas Tuchel after Maurizio Sarri revelation


Marina Granovskaia was widely praised during the 2021 summer transfer window having generated nearly £100m from the sales of talented youngsters. At the time it was framed as the Chelsea director's genius ability to recoup fees for unwanted players, getting the best deals possible to then finance a large part of the club-record move to sign Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.

Now in January, with Chelsea winning just three of their previous 11 Premier League games, the European champions not only appear fatigued but limited in key areas that have been impacted by injury. On Tuesday night against Brighton, Thomas Tuchel used his recently implemented 4-2-2-2 formation, something that had shown signs of promise in the two-legged Carabao Cup triumph over Tottenham.

But the decision to opt for Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso in the full-back positions only brought home a broader point on Chelsea's recruitment and squad planning over the last three years. Tariq Lamptey's dynamic display caused Alonso all sorts of issues. His 59th-minute yellow card from Kevin Friend feeling like an inevitability as soon as the lineups were announced an hour before kick-off on the south coast.

With Azpilicueta struggling to contain the unrelenting threat of Marc Cucurella, it felt telling that all of Brighton's best attacking moments came from wide areas, with Cucurella's smart cutback prior to Alexis Mac Allister's deflected shot leading to the corner that resulted in Adam Webster's equaliser. Lamptey, who was sold by Chelsea to Brighton for £2m almost exactly two years ago, offered a level of energy Tuchel has been unable to find since the injuries to Ben Chilwell and Reece James before Christmas.

The use of both Alonso and Azpilicueta - both of whom are over the age of 30 - in full-back positions brought me back to frustrations felt under Maurizio Sarri in the 2018/19 campaign in the Italian's 4-3-3 system. At the time, both of their limitations were criticised, Alonso defensively and Azpilicueta creatively. Three years later and the same frustrations are being felt. James and Chilwell offered internal and external solutions post-Sarri but the inability to provide suitable backups for the English duo is hurting Tuchel.

In the case of both Lamptey in 2020 and Tino Livramento in 2021, both cases were framed as ones where Chelsea had no choice but to sell, either given the strength of James or the players rejecting contracts. But flipping perspective, why did those players feel their only choice was to leave? Why didn't Chelsea tie those youngsters down to long-term deals earlier to prevent such a dilemma? This extends to the Marc Guehi situation too, sold to Crystal Palace for £20m last July.

This season has shown the value of having a bigger squad with ever-more intense scheduling and positive Covid cases only adding further pressure to current injury issues. And if the only option is to sell, why haven't a club with the finances of Chelsea moved to find alternative backups?

The context of last summer's youth exodus also pertains to a Covid-impacted market where clubs were naturally more hesitant to spend so liberally as they once did. And the value of a Livramento or Tammy Abraham meant much more than a Danny Drinkwater, Emerson Palmieri, Tiemoue Bakayoko or others that Chelsea have held onto for far too long.

Recouping an estimated £87m (via Transfermarkt) for Lamptey, Livramento, Fikayo Tomori, Guehi and Abraham might have looked good on a spreadsheet, but did that correlate into the most efficient squad for Chelsea's wealth and expectation?

Granovskaia's tough negotiating has made her a respected figure in European football, though you have to question whether the clamour to keep ahold of unwanted players in search of the right price is actually helping the club anymore, as those assets depreciate to a very low value.

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