When Danny Drinkwater made his England debut on March 29th 2016 he was widely considered to be one of the most influential central midfielders in the country.
He had been a key figure in Leicester City’s remarkable rise to prominence under Claudio Ranieri which would ultimately culminate with the Foxes securing the Premier League title when the campaign concluded in May.
His international call-up was a well-deserved and justified recognition for his outstanding contribution throughout the previous six months.
However, fast forward to the present day and Drinkwater has become the forgotten man of English football.
The 28-year-old secured a £35 million move to Stamford Bridge in the summer as he aimed to fulfil his ambition of challenging for titles and playing in the Champions League on a consistent basis.
Drinkwater was following in the footsteps of his former central midfield partner N’Golo Kante, who had joined Chelsea the previous summer and had thrived as a key component of Antonio Conte’stitle-winningg side, but the England international has failed to make any impact in West London.
Drinkwater has made only five Premier League starts and has been little more than a bit-part figure at Stamford Bridge in a season in which the club has failed to meet expectations.
His last appearance came over five weeks ago against Manchester City and he has had to be content with a place on the periphery of the team.
Things did not get off to a great start when the 28-year-old suffered a calf injury upon his arrival in the summer which meant that he was side-lined until late October.
He quickly fell down the pecking order with Conte preferring to utilise Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas, while his cause was not aided by a number of niggling injuries.
The result is that Drinkwater has experienced a frustrating season in which he has made minimal impact.
Furthermore, he has completely fallen out of contention for England and faces the prospect of watching the World Cup on the TV rather than participating himself.
This was certainly not what the 28-year-old would have envisaged when he agreed to join Chelsea.
He was joining the champions of England and was expected to re-establish his partnership with Kante as the Blues looked to build on the success of the previous campaign.
However, this season Drinkwater will win no medals or trophies and will be left wondering whether he made the right decision to move to West London.
What the future holds for the central midfielder is unclear.
Conte is expected to depart Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and Drinkwater’s future will be determined by whoever Roman Abramovich selects as the Italian’s successor.
However, a change of manager is no guarantee of an increase in game time and Chelsea are expected to make significant investment in the playing squad over the summer.
It may be that, regardless of who the next manager will be, the 28-year-old needs to make a fresh start elsewhere.
He will certainly not be short of suitors and there is likely to be a considerable list of club’s that would be interested in securing his services.
However, Drinkwater must ensure that he makes a move in the summer that will provide him with regular game time so that he can begin to rebuild his reputation.
Failure to do so will leave the 28-year-old as English football’s forgotten man.
Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window
The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.
Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.
The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.
Don’t believe the tabloid hype
The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.
Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.
The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.
Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible
According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.
Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.
Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy
Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.
On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.
In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.
One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount
Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…
Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.
The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.
As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.
“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.
These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.
Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.
His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.
The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.
Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.
Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.
The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.
In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.
Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt
Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.
Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine
The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number
Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.
Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.
Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.
Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.
In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.
During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.
The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.
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