For me, this first season under Frank Lampard has been a success. We’ve shown a very clear sign of how dangerous we could become in possession, however, there’s no denying that defensively we have been subpar, which has been proven by the fact we’ve conceded the most goals out of the whole top seven this season. So, I’ve decided to create a list of centre backs who I feel Chelsea should target which would hopefully elevate our defence and take us in a positive direction defensively.
If you’re looking for a centre back who’d elevate our defence the same way Van Dijk elevated Liverpool’s, Koulibaly is your man. At the experienced age of 28, the Senegalese centre back has shown season after season why he’s up there with the worlds best. He possesses an unbelievable amount of pace and strength which allows him to make recovery challenges if needed, along with a very underrated reading of the game, which allows him to make any challenges before the play has developed and turned into a large chance. The Naples defender also has previous experience playing in a very strong possession based system under Maurizio Sarri, meaning he has the ability to frequently dribble the ball forward and pressurize the defensive block to create space for his team-mates.
His sometimes rash decision making can be his downfall, however, with him occasionally being caught sleeping out of possession which has led to the opposition being gifted big chances. The Napoli chairman, Aurelio De Laurentiis is likely to squeeze every euro possible out of Koulibaly, meaning he could be sold for upwards of £90M, which for a soon to be 29 year old is an extraordinary amount of money.
At 21 years old, I’d like to think of Upamecano as a young version of Koulibaly. Similarly to Koulibaly, the RB Leipzig warrior thrives himself off aggressive challenges and his pace, meaning attackers usually find it very hard to surpass him. Upamecano is also a very solid distributor of the ball, with an 87% passing accuracy across the season. Upamecano is a player who’s not afraid to play a long pass out wide, which is something we’ve missed since the departure of David Luiz last Summer.
Personally, I don’t think Upamecano would have an instant impact on our defence, and we’d have to wait at least three seasons for him to hit his peak, meaning he’d be another player (like Tomori and Christensen) who’d take time to develop into the centre back we’d rely on. Upamecano’s contract comes to an end in the Summer of 2021, meaning Chelsea could be facing some strong competition to grab the signature of the highly rated French centre half.
Francisco “Ferro” Ferreira
Perhaps the lesser known of the two Benfica centre backs, but one who certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. At 22 years old, Ferro is on the path to becoming the dream centre back in a possession-based system like Frank Lampard’s. Not only does Ferro possess a very strong reading of the game, he’s also one of the best ball distributors and passers I’ve seen (from centre back). He’s able to punch the ball with pace to break the lines of defence which would be a massive asset, especially with strikers like Abraham and Giroud up front.
Unfortunately, Ferro has found to be error prone at times, but I believe it’s simply down to his age and lack of experience playing at the highest level.
If Lampard is looking to acquire a cheap centre back (Ferro has a market value of below £30M) that would massively suit his ideas, he should seriously be looking at Ferro.
The rumours of an Aké return to Stamford Bridge have held some weight for quite some time, with Chelsea currently evaluating whether to trigger the £40M buy-back clause labelled on the Dutchman.
As I mentioned, Aké is no stranger to SW6, after spending multiple years out on loan before being sold to ‘The Cherries’ in a July 2017.
Nathan, like most centre halves that I’ve spoken about in this article, is a composed centre back with plenty of experience in a high intensity Bournemouth under Eddie Howe. Aké is usually looked at as the main outlet when playing out from the back, proven by his 989 passes at 89% accuracy this season.
Don’t let his offensive stats fool you into thinking he’s a pretty and soft centre back, as he’s quite the opposite defensively. The Dutchman is an absolute warrior, someone who’ll stick his head on any incoming cross or put his body in the way of any shot. He also holds a very strong positional game, with Aké not having to make a single last ditch tackle so far this season.
£40M for someone nearing his prime is a very good option, and if I had to put my money on who I think Lampard will opt for in the Summer, I’d have to say Aké.
Romagnoli is another defender who specialises in sussing out danger before it has even began, with the Italian heavily focusing on interceptions and tackles high up the pitch to prevent the opposition developing play further down the pitch.
Similarly to Koulibaly, the AC Milan defender is very fond of picking the ball up and dribbling into the space ahead of him in order to break the defensive lines of the opposition. This attribute would be massive in a fast pace and energetic Frank Lampard system.
At 25 years old, Romagnoli also possesses real leadership attributes, something I feel we massively miss from our current centre backs at the moment. Romagnoli is the type of defender that would come into the backline and massively improve it due to his communication and leadership qualities alone, that’s without even mentioning his on and off the ball ability.
As Romagnoli is 25, it’s clear he’s at the age where he’s yet to fully hit his prime, but he doesn’t lack inexperience in the big games and won’t be phased by dangerous Premier League opposition. I believe Romagnoli would cost slightly more than £45M if AC Milan we’re looking to sell in the Summer, which is still a very good price in this current market for a centre back who’d vastly improve our defence.
So, tell me what you think. Who out of the centre backs I’ve mentioned would you like Chelsea to sign in the Summer? Are there any centre backs who I’ve missed that you’d like us to sign? Let us know @TheChelseaSpot!