Anthony Gordon would be a ‘did we miss something?’ signing for Chelsea. What do they know that we don’t?
Anthony Gordon is Frank Lampard’s boy. As he did with Mason Mount at Chelsea, Lampard has used the academy product as a young role model for the rest of the Everton squad and a means of bringing the fans back onside. This lad knows what it means to play for this football club – look at his heart, effort and desire etc etc.
Back in May, Lampard said: “I love working with him [Gordon], love him as a player. There are things he wants to improve and he can improve and that’s absolutely normal in terms of development. But what he’s doing for us at the minute, he’s an absolutely huge player.”
The 21-year-old – who has started all but two of Lampard’s 20 Premier League games in charge – was key to Everton avoiding the drop last season, becoming a fan favourite as he refused to shirk responsibility like many of his teammates, and is now the subject of serious interest from Chelsea.
Reports claim Blues owner Todd Boehly has seen two bids rejected by Everton and is now preparing a third close to £50m. Gone are the days of the Chelsea hierarchy making bids without the manager’s say-so; if Boehly is chasing Gordon, Thomas Tuchel is on board.
The question Chelsea fans and football followers in general will be asking is simple: Why?
Gordon was in the top tenth percentile for combined tackles and interceptions and ranks highly for pressures and passes blocked among his peers in the Premier League last season. Off the ball, he’s excellent.
You also get the sense that he would score highly if you were able to measure the immeasurables. He’s hard-working, committed and appears mouldable. He will leave everything on the pitch, attempt to carry out the manager’s instructions to a tee and do everything possible to make the most of his ability. It’s easy to see why Lampard loves him.
But that can’t be enough for Chelsea.
The problem is, little of what we’ve seen of Gordon suggests he has the quality to play Champions League football. He’s a strong but unskilful runner with the ball, favouring a kick-and-run approach which results in him being fouled a lot (only ten players were fouled more per 90 in the Premier League last season) which is obviously a positive, but he offers little attacking output besides.
He’s got four goals and eight assists in 62 games for Everton and is in the bottom quartile for shot-creating actions, xG assists and progressive passes among peers in the big five European leagues. Chelsea need forwards to either create or score goals; Gordon, at the moment, does neither.
It means Chelsea would essentially be spending £50m – the same fee they paid for Raheem Sterling – on a willing runner, in the hope he can drastically improve the weaknesses which are echoed by the current Chelsea team. This move is mainly about potential.
Nobody can have watched the dramatic 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and thought what Chelsea need is someone who’s going to press, win the ball back and defend from the front. Sterling, Mount and Kai Havertz were brilliant at doing just that, but created nowhere near as much as their dominance and control of the game merited.
Either because of Tuchel’s system, Chelsea’s lack of success in signing forwards, or likely both, the attack is still unproductive. It would make sense to sign a player to remedy that problem now, rather than Gordon, whose creative stats would likely improve by virtue of playing in a team with more of the ball, but not to the extent Chelsea require in the short term.
Interest in Raphinha made sense, as does a move for Wilfried Zaha. There’s a degree of certainty to those players that there isn’t with Gordon.
It would be a deal, as is the case with Carney Chukwuemeka and a seemingly imminent deal for Inter Milan midfielder Cesare Casadei, with an eye to the future. That’s commendable, but the bigger the outlay the quicker the Chelsea fans will expect to reap some reward.
Few expect Chukwuemeka to feature all that much this season, but had he cost £50m rather than £20m that wouldn’t be the case; he would by vying for Jorginho et al for a midfield spot in the minds of Chelsea fans, which increases the pressure on the player, the manager and the club.
You can also send a £20m player out on loan for the season – it was almost a surprise when Boehly said Chukwuemeka would be staying – but it would be an incredibly bold move to do the same with Gordon. If you had told any Chelsea fan that the club, given the need for attacking quality, would buy a £50m forward this summer before sending them out on loan, they would be very upset.
A circa £50m forward who doesn’t do anything at Chelsea for two seasons is considered a flop, as Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech are well aware. And Gordon, no matter the extent to which Tuchel and Boehly harp on about potential rather than immediate impact, will be tarred by the same brush, with the flop police paying no mind to age or circumstance.
Chelsea are already being jeered on social media, and you can bet your life Gordon will be inextricably linked to his price tag the moment he steps on the pitch for his new club. He wants a move to Stamford Bridge, presumably for a combination of more money and the chance to play at the highest level. But with those perks comes huge pressure, even more so for him, with an awful lot to do to prove to the public that he is indeed worth that amount of money.
People will say it’s a move he can’t turn down, but he definitely can, and he may well be better off at Everton, where he’s already loved, plays every game and will be given the space to develop.
Gordon is a ‘did we miss something?’ signing for Chelsea. What do they know that we don’t? Because what we see is a talented but very limited footballer playing at a level that suits him, ill-equipped for the two to three levels above Chelsea will need him to be playing at.
While Sterling was heralded as a signing to suit all parties when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, a deal for Anthony Gordon suits nobody – not him, not Everton and definitely not Chelsea.