Over the last few days, West Ham’s striker history under David Sullivan and David Gold has been a hot topic amongst the British press, with The Daily Mail one of a number of publications to report on it. It’s hard to argue with the numbers and West Ham’s are pretty damning; 32 strikers in the space of six years, producing a combined return of just 125 goals in 642 appearances.
But statistics on their own can be very dangerous. Every set of numerical gems needs to be put into some context and with that in mind, FootballFanCast have decided to examine West Ham’s stats with the rest of the Premier League’s – including the focus for this article, their London rivals Chelsea.
At least throughout the Roman Abramovich era, Chelsea’s approach has been geared more towards being tough to beat than providing the entertainment at the other end, something that can be traced back to Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge.
Nonetheless, you don’t win four Premier League titles (five if they bag another this season) without getting on the score sheet and some exceptional strikers have graced the west London club under the Russian’s ownership, not least including Didier Drogba, Hernan Crespo and Nicolas Anelka. But how have the Blues fared since January 2010 – when Gold and Sullivan took and shared the throne at West Ham?
During that time, the Blues have signed eleven front-men, with varying degrees of success. Three have gone on to become the club’s top scorer in single campaigns and just shy of half have reached double figures for the club. At the same time, however, only one, Diego Costa, has breached the 50-goal mark, whilst three failed to find the net at senior level.
The average striker signing sets Chelsea back £14million and notches up 14 goals in 46 appearances to produce a near one-in-three strike-rate. And perhaps most interestingly of all, Chelsea fork out around £1million per goal from their centre-forward acquisitions, which seems a little steep – even for the free-spending Abramovich. Now we’ve covered the exact equilibrium, lets take a look at the opposing ends of the spectrum.
The time frame in question is a rather unfortunate one for Chelsea, kicked off by their infamous £50million swoop for Fernando Torres in January 2011. The Spaniard established himself as arguably the greatest forward in world football, certainly the Premier League, at Liverpool, combining two fantastic feet with height, speed, tenacity and a consistent supply of goals.
He was the total package and in eyes of many, a very small risk – even at £50million. But the beautiful game has a knack of surprising us all just when everything seems certain and that was the case with Torres, who went on to suffer arguably the greatest fall from grace ever witnessed in the Premier League. He managed just twelve goals in his first 18 months and the confidence steadily drained out of him as even the simplest of chances were lashed high and wide.
Chelsea were left with the mere shell of the £50million man they’d acquired from Liverpool and after extending his misery for a further two seasons, eventually allowed the World Cup winner to leave in summer 2015. His only real contribution was a nine-goal flurry to help Chelsea lift the Europa League title in 2013.
A lone warrior, prepared to and more than capable of taking on four-man defences single-handed with his physicality, aggression and clinical finishing, if there were such a thing as a South-American-born, Spanish-adopted incarnation of Didier Drogba, it would be Diego Costa.
Indeed, the Spain international was perfect for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea 2.0, encompassing all the ideals of his first manifestation but harbouring more modern attributes in terms of speed and mobility.
Of course, Costa does have his drawbacks – namely a short temper, a knack for kicking lumps out of the opposition rather than the ball into the net when things aren’t going his way and of course, behind-the-scenes bust-ups with his managers, including current gaffer Antonio Conte.
But the numbers speak for themselves and Costa’s already amassed 51 goals for Chelsea, producing a better than one-in-two strike-rate. Not bad for a front-man who cost the west Londoners just £32million through a sneaky release clause.
Torres flopping was a defining moment for Chelsea in the transfer market. Despite fees in general only inflating upwards, especially for centre-forwards, the Blues haven’t come close to putting that kind of money on the table again for any player. Instead, Abramovich has been keeping the purse strings as tight as possible – and it must be said that Chelsea have done a fantastic job of keeping costs down by subsidising their strike-force with a series of free signings.
In terms of goals, Samuel Eto’o, who spent a single campaign at Stamford Bridge in 2013/14, had the biggest impact, laying on twelve in 35 appearances across all competitions to ease the burden on the aforementioned Fernando Torres. He’s still remembered fondly by the Blues faithful, if not for the above celebration alone.
But perhaps their most significant free signing (or should that be re-signing) was Didier Drogba, who returned to the club to support Diego Costa as Chelsea marched to the Premier League title in 2014/15. He only mustered up seven goals but made 40 appearances despite being well into his 30s and acted like the Blues’ second captain, leading them through difficult games from the front and applying his customary time-wasting tactics when need be.
Propping up the free signing rear, meanwhile, is Bertrand Traore, although a compensation fee was seemingly involved somewhere down the line. He’s very much a diamond in the rough and is currently out on loan, but showed enormous potential at the tail-end of last season, notching up four goals in 16 outings. In a few years’ time, he could prove to be the shrewdest acquisition mentioned in this article.