Chelsea is where goalscorers go to die! Brighton prodigy Evan Ferguson could ruin his career by moving to Stamford Bridge

Ireland’s teenage sensation would be mad to swap the best-run club in the Premier League for the worst

Chelsea don’t have a No.9. In any sense. For starters, not a single member of the current squad even dared don the “cursed” shirt. “Nobody wants to touch it,” as former Blues boss Thomas Tuchel said.

Which was hardly surprising, of course. In general, footballers are a superstitious bunch (Tuchel admitted he is too) and one previously prolific striker after another has struggled to score goals at Stamford Bridge. Chris Sutton, Mateja Kezman, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain and Romelu Lukaku have all succumbed to the curse of the No.9 shirt at Chelsea.

Of course, the issue now is not that nobody at Chelsea wants to wear the jersey. The problem is that they don’t actually have anyone to play the role of a No.9.


Despite spending more than £1 billion ($1.28bn) since taking over the club in May 2022, Todd Boehly & Co. haven’t acquired a single centre-forward of any great value.

Both Christopher Nkunku and Cole Palmer are multi-talented attackers with an eye for goal, but neither could be considered an orthodox striker, while Nicolas Jackson has proven himself to be exactly what he looked at Villarreal: a seriously raw talent lacking a killer instinct.

It was inevitable, then, that Chelsea would be linked with proper No.9s as soon as the January transfer window opened. Ivan Toney, who is just about to return from his betting-related ban, has long been touted as the answer to the Blues’ goalscoring problems, while Victor Osimhen is considered the dream signing.

Evan Ferguson Brighton

However, on Friday, the Evening Standard claimed that that Evan Ferguson was also under consideration. It sounds perfectly plausible. We know that the Chelsea owners’ objective is to sign every promising player under the age of 23 to a long-term contract with a view to laying the foundations of sustained success. At least, that’s the supposed method behind the madness we’ve seen at Stamford Bridge.

There’s also every chance that Brighton would be open to doing business with Chelsea. Say what you will about the Blues and their business acumen, but they’re incredibly generous, always willing to pay a club well over the odds for their players (and, in Brighton’s case, their coaches too).

When one factors in the club’s apparent realisation that they might actually need someone capable of taking all of the chances they’re creating, it’s not difficult to envisage the owners sanctioning another nine-figure bid for a Brighton player.

Evan Ferguson Roberto de Zerbi Brighton 2023-24

What’s unlikely, though, is Ferguson even entertaining the idea of joining Chelsea, particularly at this point in time, at this stage of his career. The Irishman certainly does not lack faith in his ability, nor is he afraid of a challenge. This is a kid who made his professional debut in Dublin at just 14 years of age – and has continued to cope comfortably with every subsequent step up in class.

He’s also quite clearly got his head screwed on. He could have signed for Liverpool when he left Bohemians in January 2021, but opted instead for Brighton for two reasons: the club’s stellar reputation in terms of nurturing young players; and, more importantly, the clearer path to first-team football.

It’s clear, then, that both Ferguson and those around him know what’s best for him and his career – so why would he risk ruining it by leaving the best-run club in the Premier League for the worst?

Cole Palmer

After all, there is very little evidence to suggest that Ferguson would benefit in any way from a move to Chelsea, which has long been a graveyard for great goalscorers (Andriy Shevchenko didn’t even have to wear the No.9 shirt!) and is now proving perilous for players of every position.

At the time of writing, the club has made 34 signings since the summer of 2022 – only one (Palmer) could be deemed an unqualified success at this point. Furthermore, Mauricio Pochettino is a good coach who did a job at both Southampton and Tottenham, but is – understandably – struggling to bring any order to a club that has been in a constant state of turmoil for two years.

There’s also no guarantee that he will still be the manager come the end of the season because Chelsea are ninth in the Premier League table and, even more significantly, there have been no signs of progress under their Argentine coach, who is arguably only still in a job because his employers can ill-afford to admit that they have botched another appointment.

For all the lame excuses put forward about injuries and institutional instability, Pochettino is being shown up by the likes of Ange Postecoglou at Spurs and Aston Villa manager Unai Emery. Remember, he was able to field a starting line-up worth £400 million ($510m) against Middlesbrough and still managed to lose 1-0 to a depleted Championship side.

Levi Colwill Chelsea vs Middlesbrough 2023-24

Moises Caicedo’s disastrous decision to leave Brighton for Chelsea last summer was obviously made to look even worse by that embarrassing defeat, but the torrid time endured by Levi Colwill at the Riverside should also serve as a warning to Ferguson and any other young player targeted by Chelsea.

The central defender excelled during his year-long loan at Brighton last season, with his fine form under the brilliant Roberto De Zerbi earning him a first England cap. Now, though, Colwill is floundering at left-back, repeatedly targeted by opponents and in serious danger of missing out on Euro 2024.

While Caicedo clearly should have joined Liverpool rather than Chelsea, given the obvious defensive midfield void to fill at Anfield, Colwill’s career would have been much better served by staying at the Amex – and the same goes for Ferguson.

At 19, he is a year younger than Colwill. There should be no rush to join a supposedly elite-level team, particularly one in total disarray and crying out for a forward. Just look at how fellow teenage striking sensation Rasmus Hojlund is toiling at Manchester United, the only other Premier League club that rivals Chelsea when it comes to wastefulness and mismanagement.

Evan Ferguson Brighton 2023-24

Ferguson must not make the same mistake as the Dane, who was developing nicely at Atlanta before being unfairly cast as Old Trafford’s answer to Erling Haaland after moving to Manchester last summer. As a multi-million pound signing, Ferguson would be burdened just as much by the weight of unrealistic expectations at Chelsea, where Jackson is already getting annoyed by the constant criticism coming his way and January 2023 signing David Datro Fofana is in serious danger of getting lost in the loan system.

Ferguson will eventually test himself at a truly top club, of course. The hat-trick he hit against Newcastle earlier this season underlined his world-class potential. “He can become Europe’s top scorer, ” as De Zerbi enthused back in September.

But Ferguson still has plenty to work on, meaning he needs patience rather than pressure right now; support instead of scrutiny. And De Zerbi knows that, which is why he doesn’t start the Irishman in every game.

There is obviously no getting away from the fact that Chelsea sorely need a centre-forward – and Ferguson fits the bill. But while the curse of the No.9 shirt is pure superstition, the incessant uncertainty and instability at Stamford Bridge is very, very real.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that Chelsea is not a safe place for a striker; it is where goalscorers go to die.


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