Enzo Fernandez is set to become Chelsea's 18th signing of the season and bring their spending to a total of £600m across the last two windows following Todd Boehly's consortium's takeover; Graham Potter has the support of the Blues' owners - but what is his best XI?
Wednesday 1 February 2023 10:35, UK
With Enzo Fernandez set to become Chelsea's 18th signing since the summer - and bring their spending to a staggering total of £600m - the Blues have dominated the headlines during the past two transfer windows.
The Premier League side hogged the headlines right up until the end of the month, with their agreement with Benfica to sign Fernandez only being reached just hours before the deadline of 11pm on Tuesday, January 31.
But while the stunning spending spree has captured supporters' attention and generated countless headlines, it has also left Graham Potter to solve the issue of what his best XI actually looks like...
Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Gabriel Slonina, Marcus Bettinelli
Defenders: Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile, Trevoh Chalobah, Kalidou Koulibaly, Bashir Humphreys, Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella, Lewis Hall
Midfielders: Enzo Fernandez (deal agreed), N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Denis Zakaria, Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Carney Chukwuemeka, Andrey Santos
Forwards: Mykhailo Mudryk, Kai Havertz, Joao Felix, Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Noni Madueke, Armando Broja, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hakim Ziyech, David Datro Fofana, Omari Hutchinson
Potter's taste for tinkering is well established, but he has appeared to settle on a system since the World Cup, with Chelsea lining up with four defenders in six of their seven matches since the club season resumed.
Potter's decision makes sense, given the January signings of wingers Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Maduke, although it will leave at least five defenders scrapping for just two roles at centre-back.
Despite the presence of both Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy in his squad, the goalkeeping position is probably the most settled in Potter's side.
Mendy's form and fitness have nosedived over the past 12 months and the Senegal international eventually lost his place when Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel in September.
Mendy's only starts under the head coach came when Kepa was injured and the Spaniard is undoubtedly Chelsea's No 1, conceding 0.91 goals per 90 minutes in all competitions this season compared to Mendy's 1.43.
Among the many factors that have contributed to Potter's stuttering start to life in the Chelsea dugout are the numerous injuries that have robbed him of various first-team players - an issue that has been particularly prevalent in defence.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell have both faced extended spells on the sidelines - a huge blow for Chelsea given they have won 80 per cent of the games the duo have started together this season, and just 35 per cent when both have been absent.
James has played just once since October but is back in training and is sure to resume his place on the right of the defence once fit. Malo Gusto will not arrive until the summer, meaning Potter's options beyond James are limited until then.
Cesar Azpilicueta - established as a legend in west London after 13 years of service - is the other natural right-back in the squad, but is far less dynamic than his younger team-mate and has even seen Trevoh Chalobah being preferred in the role in recent weeks.
Like James, Chilwell is closing on a return and is pretty much guaranteed to retake his position on the left of the defence - particularly after Marc Cucurella's struggles since his summer arrival that have seen him lose his place to Lewis Hall.
The real debate is at centre-back, where Potter now has five options to choose from. Wesley Fofana is likely to be a starter when fit - although he has not played since October due to injury - while 38-year-old Thiago Silva continues to defy his age by playing more minutes than any of his team-mates this season.
Benoit Badiashile has made a strong impression since his £35m signing from Monaco this month, helping the Blues to two clean sheets in his first two games, and Chalobah remains part of Potter's plans, having signed a new contract in November and started three of the last four matches.
That leaves Kalidou Koulibaly, who currently looks to be the fifth choice among Chelsea's centre-backs. The 31-year-old has lost his place in the team and, in truth, has failed to impress since his £34m arrival from Napoli last summer.
With Chelsea set to spend a Premier League-record fee on Fernandez, it's safe to assume he and Mason Mount will be the main figures in midfield. Fernandez figures to be a successor to Jorginho, who joined Arsenal on Deadline Day, while Mount is second among all Blues players for minutes played this season.
N'Golo Kante would likely be a regular were he not sidelined with a long-term hamstring injury that has limited him to just two appearances this season, but questions remain over whether he will renew a contract that expires at the end of the season.
Andrey Santos - signed for £18m this month - has not been handed a squad number and Carney Chukwuemeka has just one start since arriving from Aston Villa last summer, with both teenagers signed with one eye on the future.
That leaves Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Conor Gallagher and Denis Zakaria as frontrunners for any remaining vacancies in Chelsea's midfield.
Gallagher has missed just three games this season but has interest from numerous Premier League sides ahead of the window shutting, Loftus-Cheek was a regular starter before the World Cup but has not featured since due to injury, while Kovacic has missed just six games in all competitions but, remarkably, has been on the losing side in all of his last six starts.
Zakaria impressed in starting the first three matches after the World Cup, but succumbed to injury earlier this month and is currently set to return to Juventus once his loan deal expires at the end of the season.
Chelsea have 10 forwards but several can probably be counted out as key contributors in the second half of the season.
David Datro Fofana - signed this month from Molde for £10m - was another brought in for the future rather than the present, while Armando Broja is likely to miss the rest of the season through injury.
Christian Pulisic has started just eight games in all competitions this season due to struggles with his fitness and form, and is again sidelined with injury, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not started since November - and hasn't scored since October - and Hakim Ziyech was allowed to leave in January.
Noni Madueke is another of Chelsea's January signings - arriving for £29m from PSV - but expecting him to make an instant impact seems harsh given he started just four times for the Dutch side this term due to fitness troubles.
That leaves Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz, plus January arrivals Joao Felix and Mudryk. Havertz has played more minutes than any other Chelsea forward this season and his ability to play across the frontline - as well as a No 10 - means he should continue to command a regular place.
Felix provides similar versatility to Havertz and Potter will surely be keen to see more after his hugely promising display against Fulham - a debut that was admittedly cut short by a red card.
Mudryk sparked similar excitement with his performance off the bench during his debut at Liverpool. That appearance was the Ukrainian's first competitive game in nearly two months and, given he was signed for £88.5m, Mudryk will surely occupy a regular starting berth once he is match fit.
The signings of Mudryk and Felix could spell trouble for Sterling, who is level with Havertz as Chelsea's top scorer this season but has struggled for consistency since signing from Manchester City last summer.
Potter clearly rates Sterling, who was left out of the starting XI just four times in all competitions before suffering his current injury, but it will be interesting to see how quickly he returns to the starting XI - and if so, who he replaces - once he is fit.
If Chelsea line up in a 4-3-3, here's what their starting line-up could look like...
While a 4-2-3-1 would only require some minor tweaks...
Don't discount the potential for Potter to revert to a three-player defence, though - which would spell good news for one of their centre-backs...
Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window opens on Sunday January 1, 2023 and closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.
Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.