Carlo Ancelotti is under even greater pressure to add to his Chelsea squad this month after striker Daniel Sturridge requested to go out on loan this month, with Liverpool among those clubs looking at taking the 21-year-old until the end of the season.
The player, signed on a free transfer in July 2009 from Manchester City, has told the club he is frustrated at his lack of first-team chances and wants a move until the end of the season. There is currently very little chance of Chelsea agreeing to a loan but his disquiet shows the depth of problems Ancelotti has among his strikers.
Once tipped as the best young player of his generation, Sturridge, who sat out his contract at Manchester City for a lucrative Bosman move to Chelsea, has not made the progress that the club hoped. He was signed by Frank Arnesen, the club's director of football, before Ancelotti arrived and since then the Italian has given the player just two Premier League starts in 18 months.
Liverpool would be expected to cover the majority of his wages of £60,000 a week, although whether he would represent a solution to their problems is debatable. In 11 Premier League substitute appearances this season so far, Sturridge has failed to score. His two goals have come in the two games against Slovakian team MSK Zilina in the Champions League.
With Nicolas Anelka searching for form – his last goal in any competition was 3 November – and Didier Drogba still appearing to struggle with the effects of malaria, there is a realisation at Chelsea that they also have to sign a striker in this transfer window.
The 3-3 draw with Aston Villa on Sunday left Chelsea fifth and potentially nine points behind leaders Manchester United. Their next four league games – against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland – represent a good opportunity to get back into the title race but Ancelotti has admitted that he needs new players.
Targets such as Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian prodigy playing at Anderlecht, were regarded as players for the future rather than now. It begs the question as to whether Chelsea could be tempted to look at the Ajax striker Luis Suarez, also a target for Spurs, although he is Champions League cup-tied.
Speaking to Chelsea TV yesterday, Ancelotti said that strengthening the squad this month was a priority. "We are speaking about this," he said. "We have some players injured who we hope will come back and we need to buy some new players. We are able to do this and we are thinking about it."
The original plan had been to augment their poor cover in central defence where Alex's injury has left the club badly exposed following the sale of Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid in the summer. Alex returns from treatment on his knee injury in Brazil this week so that his condition can be assessed by the Chelsea medical staff. Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers and the Benfica defender David Luiz are among the potential targets.
Ancelotti is hopeful that Yuri Zhirkov may be able to return some time this month but he is still without John Obi Mikel and Yossi Benayoun. He has shown no signs of recalling Michael Mancienne from his season-long loan deal at Wolves.
The 19-year-old Jeffrey Bruma, who played against Villa said that Chelsea let their concentration slip in allowing Ciaran Clark to score a last-minute equaliser on Sunday. He said: "Everyone knows Premier League games are always fast, quick, strong, so if we don't play our game then they will play their game and you will see that they will dominate us. It can happen.
"At the end, we were dominating them again and then you saw that we scored a goal. After, I think we should've kept the ball and been strong in the marking because the guy from Villa had a free header."