Jury is still out on Chelsea's dealings as the transfer window closes
As the clock ticks through the final hours of the January transfer window, Chelsea will be working feverishly to conclude some key business before the window closes. The club have certainly tried to be active during this period, though it is difficult to know what to make of their efforts just yet.
On the one hand, should the deals for Roma's Emerson Palmieri and Arsenal's Olivier Giroud be completed, Chelsea could look back on the past month with a reasonable degree of satisfaction. The squad has been crying out for genuine competition, or at least some cover, for Marcos Alonso at left wing-back, and the £18 million signing of Palmieri should provide that.
Antonio Conte has also been desperate to add a proven striker to his options, and Giroud has extensive Premier League experience and is available to play in the Champions League. And with Chelsea having targeted a striker with significant aerial ability but one who will be able to have an impact off the bench, the 31-year-old fits the bill, especially with the price tag reported to be around just £18m.
Add the £15m purchase of Ross Barkley into the mix, and Chelsea will have filled two problematic positions and recruited a young player with tremendous potential.
But before everyone begins slapping themselves on the back, a few questions have been raised in the past few weeks. On the face of it, Charly Musonda's loan move to Celtic can be judged in the context of developing the player for a prosperous future, with the 18-month switch having similarities to the two-year loan deal to Borussia Monchengladbach that so benefited Andreas Christensen.
Yet it seems strange to sanction the departure of a player who is eligible to play in the Champions League, even more so after his decent cameos for the first team this season, when Conte has complained of not having enough options. Equally, the Scottish Premier League is hardly the Bundesliga, so it remains to be seen what value there is in sending a player to "develop" in the Scottish top tier.
There must also be some reservations for both Palmieri and Giroud at an immediate future of warming the bench in the big games and starting in the FA Cup. For all of Conte's qualities, giving decent chances to those on the fringes is not one of them, as experienced by the likes of Kenedy and Michy Batshuayi, the two players ostensibly being replaced. They will both know that they must make an impact when given a chance, or further opportunities will be sparse.
Palmieri has been playing second fiddle to Aleksandar Kolarov at Roma, playing just 15 minutes in Serie A this season. It suggests that he is unlikely to be able to hit the ground running in a new country, where the demands are very different from those in Italy and Brazil. Swapping the substitutes' bench at the Stadio Olimpico for one at Stamford Bridge might represent either the height of his own personal belief or a lack of ambition. The coming months will reveal which.
There are fewer concerns over Giroud, who has shown over the past couple of seasons that he is arguably more effective as a substitute than a starter. His familiarity with London and the league means that any adjustment to his new surroundings will be minimal. But as Michy Bathuayi could tell him, Conte's demands are high and any slight dip will be looked at unfavourably, even if you do regularly find the back of the net.
From a purely financial point of view, Chelsea will surely be pleased that they are set to conclude three pieces of business for a total of just over £50m. From a competitive perspective, however, it pales in comparison to the sums being splashed out by the two Manchester clubs. Man United have spent more than that on securing Alexis Sanchez, despite the Chilean having only a few months remaining on his Arsenal contract. Man City have just signed Aymeric Laporte for £57m and have reportedly bid a similar amount for Leicester's Riyad Mahrez.
While it is admirable that Chelsea are seeking to approach things in a different manner, the purchase of a 31-year-old striker, a massively underused full-back and an unproven young player recovering from a serious injury doesn't send out much of a statement to their rivals. The days of joining the arms race for superstars might be over for Chelsea, but it seems a strange time to keep the purse strings quite so taut, just as Premier League clubs start to enjoy unforeseen riches.
Conte might sound like a broken record when he complains about transfers, but it is impossible not to have any sympathy for a man who has delivered a league title but knows that failure to land any silverware in this campaign might cost him his job. Chelsea might not be able to compete financially with City and United, but it would be unfair to lay any subsequent failing at the Italian's door.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.