Big-spending Chelsea must fix defence: Richard Buxton
High-profile moves for Ziyech and Werner belie problems in the backline
Chelsea's obsession with pursuing shiny things over fixing the brass tacks goes on.
Designs of an assault on next season's English Premier League title saw the west Londoners make early waves in the transfer market for prodigious attacking talents.
Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech's respective arrivals at the same moment their new employers slipped to a 3-2 defeat by relegation-threatened West Ham United yesterday morning (Singapore time) exposed Stamford Bridge's flawed recruitment.
Watching the Blues' defensive disarray at the London Stadium, both players could be forgiven for wondering whether they had been sold a dream under false pretences.
Frank Lampard is nothing if not honest but his admission that the five-goal thriller was an accurate reflection of where his side are at does not augur well for the future.
Not since a home schooling by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 clash in late February have Chelsea shipped three goals in a single match.
Aided by the Covid-19 hiatus, the ex-midfielder this week marked a full 12 months at the helm although little appears to have changed since then.
Forget a title bid, Chelsea will be fortunate to even qualify for Europe's elite club competition at this rate.
A win over the Hammers would have solidified their Champions League credentials by moving them into third place above Leicester City, who lost 2-1 at Everton.
Instead, the Blues' grip on the fourth spot is loosening, with the Red Devils lurking just two points behind.
Lampard's inability to find solutions to an increasingly porous defence has led to his team shipping 44 goals from 32 EPL games this term; an ignominious club record surpassed only by the 47 conceded by the same stage of a disjointed 1996/97 campaign.
That season ended with a major trophy in the form of the FA Cup, which offset an underwhelming sixth-place finish that left them 16 points adrift of champions United.
With Liverpool now occupying top spot, the deficit has doubled.
No amount of attacking potency can mask the ongoing issues at the other end of the pitch with a ragtag backline that failed to cover itself in glory at West Ham.
Leicester's Ben Chilwell appears the most viable candidate to usurp Marcos Alonso in the left-back position.
Question marks, however, abound on the list of successors to the Spaniard's haphazard cohorts, including their elder statesman Cesar Azpilicueta.
More concerning than personnel issues is the team's overall lack of mental fortitude after holding the lead for barely five minutes at the London Stadium.
Had the video assistant referee not intervened early in the first half, any sense of command would have been non-existent.
Excuses about a team in transition no longer cut it for Lampard. A reversal of Fifa's two-window transfer ban means that he is free to again break the bank for players rather than persevering with the necessity of last summer's "make do" approach.
Sourcing an uncompromising centre-back needs to be a greater priority than attempting to add Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz to an already bursting forward line.
Without the former, Chelsea can kiss goodbye to their blue-sky ambitions.