After taking their foot off the gas, for now, in pursuit of former striker Romelu Lukaku, new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte seems a little short up front ahead of the Blues’ Premier League opener at home to West Ham.
It’s not that Conte doesn’t have options, with £33m newboy Michy Batshuayi battling Diego Costa for the number nine spot at Stamford Bridge, and Loic Remy still kicking around west London.
The problem lies with Chelsea’s overt targeting of mega-money signings up front, with Inter’s Mauro Icardi, valued at £50m after bagging 38 goals in his past two Serie A campaigns, the latest forward linked now Lukaku is on ice.
Furthermore, multiple news sources claim Costa has been offered to Inter and Napoli to make room for whichever new number nine Conte picks up, while Batshuayi is yet to make his Premier League debut and Remy hasn’t managed a top-flight goal since December.
Costa, the likely starter when Chelsea host the Irons, is nothing if not a pro and won’t let the speculation get to him, but questions must be asked about the 2014/15 Premier League champions’ preparedness going into the campaign, compared to their first opponents.
West Ham appear to have solved their problem left-back position, which became an issue after first-choice Aaron Cresswell’s recent injury, by snapping up young Frenchman Arthur Masuaku from Olympiacos, and well-liked forward Andre Ayew arrived from Swansea this week.
Slaven Bilic’s side are also two games into their season already, beating Slovenian outfit Domzale 4-2 on aggregate in Europa League qualifying, and have recent form for causing opening-day shocks across the capital.
The Irons picked Arsenal’s pockets at the Emirates early last August when bagging a 2-0 victory in Bilic’s first Premier League game in charge, with seven of the eleven from that day likely to be involved at Stamford Bridge.
Bilic has had much longer to prepare his side than former Italy chief Conte, and there appears to be far fewer imponderables in the Croatian’s squad, with the absence of injured pair Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini the only negative going into the fixture.
At 9/2 with bwin, making them the second-biggest priced club on opening weekend behind 11/1 Sunderland at Manchester City, West Ham scream value.