Koulibaly: Chelsea and their shifting age policy

Chelsea don’t give out long-term contracts to players over the age of 30. At least that’s what we thought. With Roman Abramovich’s 19-year reign coming to an abrupt halt this summer, it seems that their may be a shift in transfer policy under the stewardship of the Boehly-Clearlake consortium.

The Londoner’s were once famous for a lack of sentimentality. Club legends John Terry and Frank Lampard were left waiting every season to find out whether their stay at Stamford Bridge would be extended by a year. Ashley Cole and David Luiz were disposed of in blunt fashion as their desire for long term deals could not be satisfied by the club. In fact, over the entirety of the Abramovich-era, only one outfielder seemed to break the one-year-contract-to-over-30s rule: Willian. The Brazilian finished the COVID-hit 2019/20 season in fine form, helping drag the Blues to a top-4 berth. His efforts were rewarded by a 2-year contract extension being placed on the table, only for Arsenal to tempt Willian away with the promise of an extra year on top of that…we all know how that turned out.

Koulibaly soaking in the Las Vegas sights after penning a 4-year-deal at Chelsea. Photo Credit: Football Italia

All of this brings Koulibaly’s rumoured 4-year contract into context. It could be deemed a risky move by new ownership, handing out lucrative deals to players the wrong side of 30 is widely considered dangerous. Years of clocking up 40+ games leads to player’s being more effected by little knocks as well as losing a yard of pace. However, with captain Azpilicueta potentially joining Rudiger and Christensen in the departures lounge at Heathrow this summer, it was important for the new owners to act decisively to shore up a thinning back-line. Many fans would have preferred it if the Senegalese centre back arrived when he was perennially linked with the Blues in the late-2010s (something the man himself commented on when arriving at his new club), however this is a story of better late than never. With a full pre-season ahead to get used to the demands of Tuchel’s new system, the £31 million signing could prove to be astute come the end of the season.

Koulibaly will bring experience, leadership and quality to Chelsea’s backline. The Senegalese defender is not an aggressive defender with insane tackles and interception numbers (averaging a combined 2.5 per 90 minutes of league action since 2020/21) but a high-level reader of the game in the ilk of Virgil Van Dijk (1.4 tackles and interceptions a game last term). The two are both 31 year of age and will both play a huge part in their respective side’s title aspirations next season, so long as they can both stay fit and healthy.

A glance at Koulibaly’s injury record could be a cause of concern for overly cautious Chelsea fans. The centre back missed a combined 19 league games through 6 separate muscles issues over the previous 3 seasons. The worry might be that with age these issue will only get worse, with each knock keeping him on the side-lines for a longer period than before. However, there is a perfect case study to quench any injury fears over Koulibaly in Thiago Silva. The timeless Brazilian himself missed 20 league games through 5 separate ailments between the ages of 28 and 31 (2013-2016). Since arriving at Stamford Bridge, however, the fan favourite has sat out of only 8 league matches (just 1 last season), despite edging closer to 40 years of age. The mixture of careful game management and world-class injury prevention staff have enabled Silva to play on at an incredibly high-level despite being previously labelled an injury-prone player. There is therefore reason for optimism when it comes to Koulibaly and his future at the club.

Koulibaly is set to wear the number 26 shirt during preseason, could he be a John Terry like figure for the Blues? Photo Credit: goal.com

There are a couple of other factors working in Koulibaly’s favour when it comes to making a seamless transition to life in England. The African Cup of Nations Champion is confident speaking both English and French, which will help him communicate with a backline comprising of speakers of both the former (Chalobah, James, Chilwell) and latter (Mendy, Silva, Azpilicueta). He also has prior experience playing alongside Jorginho at Napoli, where the two were close, a relationship which could be vital when swiftly playing out of the back from centre back to tempo-setting holding midfielder – a vital part of Tuchel’s system.

Finally, this move could be looked back on as an exception not the rule in ten years’ time. Tuchel is under immediate pressure from new owners to demonstrate that he can close the gap on the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. Chelsea’s demand for centre backs is huge and bringing in a world class defender for only £31 million who also offers the leadership – as captain of his national team – to offset that lost by the potential departure of Azpilicueta is a quick fix to what was becoming a huge issue. Now another one or two centre backs look set to follow Koulibaly through the door at Stamford Bridge, before potentially a new number 9 to replace the outgoing Lukaku. It is one thing purchasing a 31-year-old defender in a back three system which, as proved by Thiago Silva, does not require blistering pace to function. It is a whole other ball game to stock Tuchel’s midfield and attack with ageing talent, such as Ronaldo or Lewandowski, who would struggle to adapt to the aggressive counter-pressing demands of the system, the same issue that Lukaku was unable to solve last season.

Tuchel, who has a large part to play in recruitment until a director of football is found, will feel that the qualities that Koulibaly brings to West London outweigh the negatives of his age and injury record. For the first time in decades, Chelsea are putting their faith fully in a manager, in the style of Liverpool and Manchester City with Klopp and Guardiola respectively, believing this to be their best option at closing the gap on these two elite sides. The German manager has made a gamble in straying from the buying young players with huge sell-on potential model (Havertz, Pulisic, Hazard etc.) of the Abramovich era and now needs the results to justify him doing so. If all goes to plan, maybe seeing veterans of the game pitching up at Stamford Bridge on sizeable contracts may not be so rare in the future. Until then it’s up to Koulibaly to impress and show that age really is just a number.

Daniel New

Kurt Zouma’s Time At Chelsea Coming To An End? And His Special Relationship With Jose Mourinho

According to Téléfoot Kurt Zouma is expected to leave Chelsea this summer. Wolves, Tottenham, his former club Everton and Roma are all interested in signing the Frenchman. No potential fee has been reported by any trusted sources but we can expect Chelsea to demand quite a large sum of money for the 26-year-old. Zouma’s age means by typical standards he is just entering his prime which increases his stock quite a fair bit. His contract also lands Chelsea in a great place in terms of demanding a higher fee as his current deal is signed until 2023.

Kurt ‘Happy’ Zouma arrived at Chelsea from Saint-Étienne for a fee of around £13m. However, this fee was quickly justified with loan spells to Stoke and Everton which come with fees adding up to around £14m. Frank Lampard utilised Zouma especially well in his back four approach where he become a great goal threat from set pieces. Unfortunately Zouma has found it hard to find a regular starting spot under Thomas Tuchel. Kurt has been able to step in whenever injury occurs to Tuchel’s favoured back three and this is a testament to his skill and ability as he has been able to perform at the highest level without a lot of minutes to his name.

Zouma has reportedly declined Wolves approach and that leaves possible moves to Everton, Tottenham and Roma still on the table.

Everton have been interested in Zouma ever since his 2018/19 loan spell at Goodison Park. Zouma featured in 32 Premier League games for The Toffees and has been liked by the club ever since. The opportunity for Everton to snatch up the centre back has now arrived and Everton are definitely interested. No official bid has been recieved yet from Chelsea but due to their previous knowledge of Zouma’s ability we can assume Everton will be ready to splash the cash. A partnership with Ben Godfrey and Zouma is a top class defensive pairing that would cause any striker in the world a few problems and could be the answer to Everton’s defence that conceded 48 goals last season.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s arrival at Spurs has come with a lot of noise around potential strengthening of their defence. Tottenham have been linked with Maxence Lacroix, Takehiro Tomiyasu and now Kurt Zouma this summer and it seems apparent that Nuno will be backed leading into the upcoming season. As Chelsea fans we would like to assume that Zouma would not transfer to North London and to a direct rival of Chelsea’s.

Roma are also in the mix for a Kurt Zouma deal, with their approach seemingly centered around a Gianluca Mancini swap deal. Marina Granovskia is reportedly a big fan of the £27m rated defender and is hoping to pounce upon Roma’s financial troubles by bringing the 25-year-old in. The express has also reported Jose Mourinho’s stance on Chelsea potentially making a move for Mancini by saying “Jose Mourinho will request Kurt Zouma + £10m” for the Italian.

Another report surrounding Zouma is from RMC Sport who say that Roma want Zouma on a loan with an option to buy, but Chelsea have absolutely no intention of loaning him out. This same source claims that Chelsea want €30m (£25.6m) outright for Zouma. Italian clubs and asking for loans before a permanent deal is a tale as old as time and was also present in the Fikayo Tomori deal.

Mourinho has been a long time admirer of Zouma since 2014. Zouma was played in numerous positions in the 14/15 and 15/16 campaigns, including centre back, right back and defensive midfield. Mourinho brought 19-year-old Zouma to West London and didn’t hold back in his criticism of the promising youngster.

Zouma benefiited massively from Mourinho calling him “rubbish” in a private chat after a 3-1 defeat. Many youngsters complain about being used incorrectly by Mourinho and complain about his brash and brutally honest approach to trying to win, however Zouma refused to fall into this category.

In 2015, Zouma called Mourinho “the best coach in the world”. Mourinho’s high expectations for such a young man trying to adapt to the ways of English football propelled Zouma into the player he is today.

Kurt Zouma featured in 49 games in 2 seasons under the tutelage of the ‘Special One’. The trust Mourinho put in Zouma was exemplified when he was utilised as a defensive midfielder in a League Cup final against Spurs in 2015. Zouma even managed to register an assist in this game, leading Chelsea to their first trophy of the season.

Many people may remember John Terry and Kurt Zouma’s partnership throughout the 15/16 season and although it was Chelsea’s worst season in a long while, it showed the beginning of a great defender only just entering his 20’s.

After the transfer ban scandal when Frank Lampard and the club were scrambling about to find a defensive solution, Mourinho chimed in on the debate and spoke well of Kurt Zouma. “I just give an example: Chelsea needs a centre-back – Kurt Zouma! You don’t need to buy, you don’t need to spend. Zouma!”

Zouma going to Serie A would follow in the footsteps of his former teammate Fikayo Tomori and would immerse the Frenchman into a defence orientated league. Zouma is just entering his prime as a defender and Serie A + Mourinho would only help to enhance his defensive capabilities.

Zouma has found himself out of favour towards the ending of the 20/21 season, but the selling of Zouma would be very saddening to many Chelsea fans that have seen him grow as a young teenager into a top centre half.

The biggest catalyst to Zouma leaving Chelsea is not apparent yet but a deal could be on the cards if Chelsea formally approach Roma for Gianluca Mancini.

Written by Frankie

Levi Colwill – The Cobham Commander

Levi Colwill first came into the spotlight (for Chelsea fans who can only watch broadcasted matches) when he was starting in the FA Youth Cup at just the age of 16. He impressed (the game against Bradford City comes to mind) and not long after found himself starting development squad games, still at 16 years old, when Marc Guehi and Clinton Mola became unavailable. Simply – if you’re starting at this high level in the Chelsea academy at such a young age, there’s a decent chance you’re a special player. Hudson-Odoi really broke onto the public scene when he was 16 and became the star man in the FA Youth Cup run, with his top bins goal against Manchester City springing to mind, and more recently we have seen Charlie Webster and Jude Soonsup-Bell feature at this age too – the two standout players in their age group, along with by Harvey Vale.

There is just something about a left-footed player, but I can’t really describe it in words – they seem as if they play with such elegance, which Levi certainly does. He’s just turned 18, meaning he can still play in the FA Youth Cup this season, and with Lewis Bate, Tino Livramento, Myles Peart-Harris and Soonsup-Bell beside him, they certainly will be looking to get the trophy back after last season’s heartbreak loss to Manchester City in the final.

I was thinking this the other day, and without hyping him too much, Levi kind of has the perfect build for a centre-half. When you go on Pro Clubs or Football Manager and try and build a defender, it’s actually very similar to him. He’s tall (self proclaimed as you can see in the tweet below…), quick, strong, composed and has got leadership skills as shown by captaining the Chelsea academy sides on multiple occasions – I mean what else do you want?

I guess the thing which most people are interested in is how does he compare to the likes of Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori? Well, this certainly isn’t easy. I was a fan of Marc really early on and saw the potential when most were talking about Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin, and Fik was one of my favourite players at the club when he featured under Frank Lampard. Without trying to overhype him too much… I genuinely believe Colwill has a higher ceiling than both, and I’m not saying that lightly. Although, there’s a very good chance this may be completely wrong, as no one knows at all the way someone transitions from academy football to men’s football.

I think one of his best qualities is his game management and the way he opens up space on the pitch. Due to his composure on the ball, he has zero problems in running past the pressing attackers and then he’ll lay it off to the midfielders like Lewis to do their magic. Colwill –> Bate –> Livramento –> Soonsup-Bell is a play we’re hopefully going to see A LOT in the future. Something which I have loved about this Chelsea side under Thomas Tuchel is the way the defenders know when to hoof the ball up for Werner to run onto, and when to play it out of the back into the midfield, with this being significantly seen in the games against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid. Levi is PERFECT for this. He plays inbetween the lines brilliantly, and also has his ‘signature’ move where he shifts the ball onto his left foot and just waits a few seconds before playing it up towards Bryan Fiabema or Soonsup-Bell, who normally end up with the ball at their feet. He’s got a very similar passing range to Antonio Rudiger, and as I said before looks extremely elegant on the ball. Not that it really matters how someone looks with the ball, but for some reason fans of the game now are obsessed with aesthetics and hence think Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma aren’t good players.

Ever since John Terry left the club we have always tried to compare one of our academy products to him. We did it with Jake Clarke-Salter who has had some success out on loan but will probably never appear for Chelsea again, and Andreas Christensen who has been involved a lot more, but still has failed to hit the heights which were once described for the Danish defender. Can Levi be that person? The English defender certainly can be, with their natural defending instincts and ability on the ball being pretty similar, but that’s such a big comparison I’m in no way making yet.

In the last two seasons, he’s mainly played as a Left Centre-Back for the Blues. Left footed defenders are certainly admired in the football market, and it is one of the reasons there was such strong interest in re-signing Nathan Ake before he went to Manchester City. Chelsea lack a left footed centre back in the squad at the moment, and that could be a trait which gives the nod to Colwill ahead of the others around him. In the last U23s game against Manchester City we switched to 4 at the back where he started next to Dujon Sterling who is much more of a RB/RWB, and despite conceding a very unfortunate goal due to a wicked deflection, in the last few minutes of the game he scored a brilliant goal from a set piece to make it level.

I don’t actually think I’ve mentioned his defending enough. After all he’s a defender and that’s the main thing he should be good at – and he’s brilliant. He reads the game extremely well – knows when to go into the tackle or back off. His big structure allows him to get into challenges strongly and he wins a lot of headers, in both boxes. Despite being 6’3, he’s quite quick and is definitely able to make recovery tackles. Making vital interceptions is also a big part of his game, something he’s done a lot of at LCB.

For me, and many others, the games which confirmed that he was good enough was his performance in the EFL Trophy group stage, where he defended brilliantly against League 1 and League 2 forwards. He completely translated his game from the development squad into professional football, and like we’ve said with Tino Anjorin many times, he looked and played like an experienced player on the pitch at the age of 17.

You can watch some of his incredible defending in the EFL Trophy in the first part of this video…

My thoughts on the defender can pretty much be summed up in this tweet by @throwaway1297. The fact is that Premier League 2 is too easy for him at the moment and to really develop he needs to be challenged and move out on loan. The Secret Scout reported a few months ago that he potentially would be involved in first team training next season, although at the moment this seems very unlikely with us having four centre backs and Azpilicueta all playing regularly at the moment and enjoying life under Tuchel, while the likes of Guehi and Tomori could return from their loan spells and stay at the club from this Summer. So what next? He wouldn’t want to delay himself and wait around, so a loan deal for Levi seems very likely. If Swansea don’t get promoted, perhaps they could be an option and he could follow a very similar pathway to Guehi, or he may even look at Tomori’s success at AC Milan so far and see a foreign loan as a viable option. His future this Summer is one to keep an eye on, with his contract running out in 2023, so he’ll be looking for a clear plan for his entrance into the first team picture before potentially signing a new deal.

His character is also great. He seems someone who’s shy and humble, but on the other hand got that aggression to him. If someone goes in for a hard challenge in him in training or a senior player tries to let him know who’s boss, then bet you know that he’s not going to sit down and he will be squaring up.

I’ve written reports on Billy Gilmour, Tino Anjorin, Henry Lawrence and Lewis Bate quite early on, and since then they’ve all developed hugely, so I really hope the same will happen with Colwill. Like I say each time, although this may sound extremely hypocritical, it’s very important not to overhype them too much as they’ve all still got a lot of work to do and football is a very ruthless sport in that sense. But on the other hand, people need to start trusting our academy players, because as we’ve seen with Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham – they’re our best players and that’s because we’ve got an elite academy.

Written by Paree

Can Marc Guehi Break Into The Senior Team Next Season?

With the imminent departure of Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea, the lack of young defenders from the academy ready for first team football is sparse. The likes of Xavier Mbuyamba and Dynel Simeu have been proven at the U23 level, however their lack of first team football and senior experience greatly reduces their chance at featuring for the first team in any capacity. Chelsea have four centre backs in the senior squad for now and the formation we are now playing in seems to include three centre backs. Azpilicueta has been featuring in the right centre back role, which sums up how much Tuchel trusts his centre backs to do a job. A player with experience at a fairly high level and with bundles of talent could be the spark needed to encourage performances to improve.

Marc Guehi fits the spectrum of this kind of player perfectly. The 20 year old is currently on loan to Swansea, who impressively sit 3rd place in the Sky Bet Championship. This season Marc has played 25 times for Swansea in the league (starting all of these 25 matches). Helping the Swans to 12 clean sheets as of this moment. Guehi has also amassed 1.7 interceptions per game, 1.8 tackles per game and 2.8 clearances per game. The Englishman is unlike the other loanees from Chelsea in the championship regarding minutes. Compared to Jake Clarke-Salter, who is also on loan in the Championship with Birmingham, Guehi has played over 1600 minutes more. Guehi only featured twice for the senior blues before his move and he started and played 90 minutes in both of these appearances. Although these games were in the EFL Cup last year, he proved he could perform at the highest level as he played admirably against Manchester United in a controversial 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge.

Guehi is on the shorter side of centre backs in comparison to the rest of the Championship and for most leagues in general. Standing at around 5″10, Marc definitely is not known for his size and aerial abilities. However, for what he lacks in height he certainly makes up for it in speed, anticipation and versatility. His concentration and awareness are main parts of his game and severely outweigh his lack of aerial dominance.

Marc’s tactical versatility and ability to play anywhere across the backline could be of massive benefit to Chelsea. At just 20 years old, the range of different positions Guehi has featured in throughout his career is astounding. This season, Guehi has been featuring mainly as a left sided centre back in a 3 at the back formation. This is impressive as Guehi feels comfortable and is trusted enough on the left side of the defence, despite being right footed. Being able to play a wide variety of positions is useful to everyone and proves that he has the ability to play right at the top level.

At Swansea, Marc is being managed by Steve Cooper. Steve was Guehi’s manager for the infamous England U17 World Cup winning team in 2017. Cooper has a great understanding of Guehi’s ability and puts a lot of trust in these skills. Guehi also scored the final goal in a 5-2 drubbing of Spain’s U17 in the final to secure the trophy.

Having played 28 times this season in the Championship, Swansea have conceded the fewest amount of goals this season at just 15 and also have the most amount of clean sheets, also at 16. A whopping 57% of Swansea’s matches this season in the championship have resulted in a clean sheet for Swansea. There is no doubt that acquiring Guehi on loan this season was tremendous business by the Swans as he has helped massively by starting in over 88% of their Championship matches.

Guehi has played with numerous different players within the two other centre back slots this season. Steve Cooper is very indecisive about his defensive options and struggles to pick the same three centre backs consistently. However, Guehi has solidified his place in the starting lineup due to his impressive performances. Guehi’s defensive partner at the start of the season was Joe Rodon. He found a move away from the Swans to Chelsea rivals Tottenham. Rodon has found himself on the brink of starting and has featured in the Premier League 7 times this season. Marc has also featured alongside other Premier League veterans in Ryan Bennett and Kyle Naughton during his ongoing spell at Swansea. The experienced gained from long time professionals and defenders with Premier League game time could be vital to Guehi’s development and future as a Premier League defender.

Marc Guehi will be coming back from Swansea with a wealth of great experience and solid minutes in a tough league under his belt, hopefully gearing him up for fighting for a place in the Chelsea team. Many people seem to think that Marc Guehi is “the best defender in the Championship” and it will be an exciting challenge I’m sure he’s ready for, to compete in the biggest league in the world.

We can assume that Ethan Ampadu, currently on loan at Sheffield United, will also be returning to Stamford Bridge along with Guehi and I personally think they have a high chance of playing some regular football next season. Ampadu has also been utilised in the left side of a back 3 (similarly to Guehi) this season after a dip in performances in the defensive midfield role.

Tuchel has already proven 3 games into his reign that he is not scared to play the youth and introduce them when he feels they are ready. Tuchel was a main part of Christian Pulisic’s uprising at Dortmund and hopefully he can utilise the talent that Guehi evidently has and turn him into a great Premier League centre back. Guehi’s ability on the ball could also be a driving factor in the amount of minutes he plays as Tuchel has made it obvious that he is not a fan of Zouma’s technical ability, especially on the ball.

It will be important for the club and Guehi himself that we avoid another Fikayo Tomori situation. Losing another young, promising centre back that excelled in the championship could be a big blow to a whole range of factors. Many of the centre backs coming through the ranks in our academy will feel that they are not going to get the chance to play for the first team regularly if we fail to incorporate Marc into our first team setup, following the demise of Tomori at Chelsea.

Guehi’s loan at Swansea expires at the end of the season, hopefully giving him the chance to adjust to Tuchel’s philosophy throughout pre season and get used to his team mates. If Chelsea fail to sign Upamecano, Boateng or fail to recall Tomori, Guehi should definitely be given the chance to prove himself in the Premier League.

Written by Frankie

Can Returning Loan Army Soldiers Reinforce a Stellar Summer Window?

Chelsea have been the talk of the football world this summer following an extremely ambitious, decisive period of transfer signings. Over the past calendar year, the club welcomed Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic to the fold permanently, and followed that up with Hakim Ziyech putting pen to paper in the late winter just 3 months after THAT comeback against Ziyech’s Ajax. Of course, Frank Lampard and Co. then kicked off summer with a bang, bringing Timo Werner aboard and in recent weeks finishing off long-rumoured signings Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz as well as a cheeky Thiago Silva stop along the way. The club were put in a position to bring these players in however due to the impressive form of a handful of academy debutants, who played a major part in a 4th place finish. That was just the tip of the academy iceberg though, as this offseason we welcomed back another handful of young players loaned off to the far stretches of Europe. Can they have a similar impact to their counterparts and take Chelsea even further this year?

It’s no secret that Chelsea’s 2019-2020 campaign was impressive, but at the same time it was also unimpressive. The team regularly lacked a central defender with either positional awareness, aerial ability, the ability to actually make a tackle or all three – arguably bar Kurt Zouma. With Antonio Rudiger’s football agent talents on full display this summer, he is sure to have added another year onto his Chelsea lifeline at the very least despite the number of ghastly high profile errors he made last season. However, Rudiger’s friends Timo Werner and Kai Havertz aren’t the only talents coming from the Bundesliga to Chelsea.

Enter Ethan Ampadu, who for the third consecutive offseason has been pegged by Chelsea fans as a potential breakout star in defence and in midfield. This time however, Ampadu has yet again found himself out on loan, this season at Sheffield United with manager Chris Wilder running the show. Besides Ethan Ampadu in defence, returning are Jake Clarke-Salter and Matt Miazga. Who? The soon-23 year old and 25 year old center halves each made their senior debut in that 2015-16 season under Guus Hiddink, and only Miazga played in any senior Chelsea match since then (just one additional appearance). With 3 senior Chelsea appearances between them in 4 seasons, it’s probably a make or break time as the Loan Army XI is going to be welcoming some new faces. Miazga filled in for Cahill and Terry pretty admirably for a then 20 year old from the MLS, and Terry pegged the younger Clarke-Salter as his potential replacement and also remarked that he was a vocal player. While that could still happen, Clarke-Salter is now buried behind Zouma, Silva, Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and even Fikayo Tomori.

In addition to our defensive struggles, Frank Lampard has also had to battle with inconsistency in the midfield from time to time. With some ho-hum impact-less performances from Jorginho and N’golo Kante either injured or at times giving his best headless chicken, the base of the midfield is in a tepid situation at best. With this summer bringing about Declan Rice rumors, West Ham have been sure to protect their young star with a hefty rumored £80 million price tag. While Rice is a promising midfielder with the versatility to play at the back as well as the intangibles of a captain, the price tag does not suit a team who have already spent a fortune since the late winter while upgrading the team much more than Rice ever would. Chelsea might have better luck trying out other local options, which include the returning Tiemoue Bakayoko and Conor Gallagher, injury prone Ruben Loftus-Cheek or the recovering Billy Gilmour as understudies to either Kante or Jorginho. It seems highly unlikely that Frank Lampard would trust young midfielders to command the base of the midfield in such a promising and high pressure second season at Chelsea, although Conor Gallagher does have much more experience than the higher regarded Gilmour. Bakayoko isn’t a sexy option by any means and hasn’t always looked the part in a Chelsea shirt but hasn’t really played under tactics that fit his style. And, when comparing his 16/17 metrics to Rice’s 19/20, there isn’t a whole lot that separates the two. With the addition of Kai Havertz, a pivot of a more disciplined and refined Bakayoko and a healthy Kante could still be devastating to play against. With a move to Milan on the cards, he might not be seen in a Chelsea shirt again but I maintain that he’s at least worth a shot if he stays with us longer than anticipated. Additionally, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is more known for his power and offensive prowess, but giving him a try at the base of a midfield with some coaching might be a good move for him at this stage in his career in a bid to stay healthy and still play. The oft-injured midfielder would bring size and more technical ability than Kante and Jorginho combined and perhaps give Chelsea a little more kick in the final third, as well as someone who can win in the air and on the ground.

It’s been an exciting and also unnerving period for us fans after all the transfers and newly lofted expectations along with the uncertainty of some of the others on the current squad. However, it’s important to remember that even the greatest managers, such as our own Special One, and some of the greatest sides ever, never won without a little bit of experimentation along the way.

Despite our defensive woes, we still need Kai Havertz.

Edit by @ACParee

Frank Lampard and Chelsea still want to improve on the attack for next season, despite the signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, and generational talent Kai Havertz is one player who is certainly on the list. Matt Law of The Telegraph reported that Chelsea will step up their interest in the upcoming weeks. Fabrizio Romano, the transfer guru, reported that Havertz would not have any problem in joining the Blues due to Lampard’s project, and that he is just waiting for Leverkusen to accept an official bid from Chelsea.

However, recent shambolic defending against West Ham, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United brought up the question again – do we actually need Havertz? The answer is a complicated one. For me, it’s no and yes. Simply, it will not be the end of the world if we do not bring in the German international, but with the way the club are looking forward, it would be a crime to miss out on him when the opportunity is very much there… but let’s get into some more details as to why have to secure the German international.

Image
Some shambolic defending against West Ham United provided Chelsea fans with the question on whether we should be going for Havertz or not…

I think one of the main reasons fans are against the signing of Havertz is due to the squad depth we already have in midfield. Those supporters are certainly not wrong, with us having a large list, as I explained in huge detail in a previous article. ‘Kovacic, Kante, Jorginho, Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Ziyech, Barkley, Gilmour, Ampadu, Gallagher and Anjorin.’ But my question is – where has the ambition gone? Chelsea have been one of the biggest clubs in the world in the last decade, and we must continue to keep that status up, and that can only be done by improving in every single department possible. Unfortunately, the way football is, business must be done in the best way and although that may mean some good players have to leave on the way, we always need to be looking forward. This means that although it is harsh for players like Barkley who have performed much better as of recent times, he probably needs to move on as he is struggling to show the potential he has on a consistent level. This also is the same with Jorginho, who’s story at Stamford Bridge is remarkable as to how he changed the opinions of Chelsea fans in Stamford Bridge, but with our new tactic and the way Lampard is looking forward, he will definitely struggle to get many minutes next season and would only be seen as a leader in the dressing room.

We all know Frank likes to rotate and keep players hungry, but imagine if he can do that with brilliant players in comparison to the mediocrity we have in some places at the moment? The level of the team would certainly increase vastly, with there being a good chance that one of Mason Mount or Loftus-Cheek would be left on the bench if Kai did come in – two outstanding players who will be very important to Lampard’s plans for the future. But the way we want to move forward, like Liverpool and Manchester City, we need to have high quality in depth, across all positions. It will be instrumental as Chelsea will be in four competitions next season, and it’s even the reason Lampard still wants to get Benrahma if Willian does leave the club, despite having Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, Werner and Ziyech all as options out wide. If you look at Manchester City’s bench, it’s just filled with players who would fit in almost every other team in the world, and that should be the sort of ambition and level we are aiming towards.

We’ve had a look at how he would fit our squad and what it would mean for other players, but let’s delve into his actual qualities. The word ‘generational’ for young players gets sprung around quite a lot on social media, but I truly do believe Havertz is one who can come under this complicated word. At just the age of 21 he is one of the best players in the world, would be arguably the best player in our team if he was to join Chelsea, and puts up stats which many midfielders in the world are struggling to keep up with. The man with some of the best movement football has seen, a brilliant eye for goal and on top of that elite technical ability, makes him one of the most exciting prospects in the world, and it’s clear to see why he is linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Five ways Timo Werner could line up with Kai Havertz in Frank ...
Will Werner convince Havertz to join the best club in London? (IMAGE SOURCE: FOOTBALL.LONDON)

While writing this, I have just remembered that fellow The Chelsea Spot Writer Danny wrote a scouting report on Havertz about a month ago and all his qualities, so I won’t go into that but instead you can have a read here. On top of that article, all I’d like to say is that he’s there to finish off the chances which Ziyech will create, and there to also provide them for Werner. I saw a couple people saying that we have already signed two attackers so why do we need a third, but for example against a low block, Ziyech will be used as that creative option and we will need someone like Kai to finish off them chances, and against a high line a player like Havertz will be the one linking up with Werner who will be running in behind in all the space. All three could create some special chemistry between them, and as expected, world class players play so much better with great players surrounding them.

Another argument is that Chelsea should be signing a defender instead. Wrong. We CAN get both, as many journalists have reported. It is set in stone that Chelsea will be buying a left-back in the Summer, whether that is Chilwell, Tagliafico or Telles, due to the strong possibility of both Alonso and Emerson leaving the club. A centre-half is also looking possible, with the most recent name linked being Declan Rice, leaving the chances of Tomori going on loan or Zouma leaving high in the sky. Chelsea have a big budget this Summer after the transfer ban and the sale of Eden Hazard, and it’s clear that Roman Abramovich won’t be afraid to splash the cash if needed to bring back quality football at the Bridge, and to back the one and only Frank Lampard.

The Gaffa has made it clear that he wants to play attacking football at a high intensity, and next season it genuinely may be that attack is the best form of defence. We see teams like Liverpool and Manchester City score 4-5 goals a game sometimes against the worse opponents, and if Havertz joined next season we probably could start to see those numbers. Next year there’s still a good chance we will be conceding many goals, but we could try and outscore most teams and I do have some confidence that with a new Left-Back and the return of the Zouma-Tomori partnership, as well as a new Goalkeeper, we will be much much stronger in defence.

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma praises Fikayo Tomori ahead of Ajax ...
Is Zouma-Tomori our best partnership at the back? (IMAGE SOURCE: METRO)

One other thing is that there isn’t really an obvious choice for a Centre-Half available on the market. Nathan Ake still has his buyback clause of 40 million pounds which runs out this summer, but the Dutchman isn’t a huge improvement of what we already have, but I would not say no to him. Declan Rice would cost close to £60 million and there would definitely be some tension in the Cobham buildings as it was Chelsea’s decision to release him at the age of 15 for free. Then, players like Kouliably and Upamecano, are looking likely to join Manchester City and Arsenal respectively in the Summer, leaving us with not many standout options.

Here, is when it is important to have some patience and wait for the right player to pop up. We saw Liverpool wait for Van Dijk, and after good research and patience to find the perfect Centre-Back for their style of play, he is now comfortabley the best defender in the world and has improved the Scouse club’s defence drastically. Considering there isn’t an obvious option on the market, we may as well spend on the likes of Havertz when we can, and improve on the other areas when we can. After all, we certainly do not want to be repeating the mistakes of rushing transfers and buying the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Morata and Kepa, who had such big fees yet all three players haven’t really helped the club in the slightest.

Finally, Havertz fits the plan of the club. He fits the plan of wanting to play attacking football, being young, and is already at a very high level, making him perfect for any club in the world, and if Chelsea can snatch him up then we could be looking at one of the best deals in history. Signing the German would also attract many other players to our club, as like I said, the best want to play with the best.

This investment would show that Roman is more ready than ever to take the club back to the highest level and back to winning multiple trophies a season. As Alex Goldberg says, something very special is happening at Chelsea Football Club.

Written by Paree

Scout Report: Ben Chilwell

Despite the news cycle currently revolving around the attacking options linked to Stamford Bridge (more specifically, German attacking options), it is evident that Chelsea have struggled defensively this season. While centre-backs who are an upgrade to our existing options are not available in the market in abundance, another position which has been suspect this season is the left-back. We are in luck in this regard, as several left backs such as Tagliafico (Ajax) and Telles (Porto) have all but confirmed their desire to leave their respective clubs. However, the player that continues to be linked with us is Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell, who is highly rated by one of the greatest LBs of the Premier League era, Ashley Cole. In fact, he has publicly claimed that he would love Chilwell at Chelsea. To add to this, Chilwell has also publicly stated that Ashley Cole was his idol growing up. It looks like a match made in heaven; a question of when and not if. The only roadblock in what otherwise seems like a smooth sailing move for all parties involved is the massive fee which his club will command- reports emerging that Leicester would be unwilling to part ways with him unless they receive a fee around the whereabouts of 80 million pounds, which Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire a year prior. But, who is Ben Chilwell and what are his strengths? And is he really an upgrade on our current options? Is he better than Telles and Tagliafico who are available for a significantly lesser fee? Let’s find out.

I think he’s quality and I’ve heard he’s a Chelsea fan, too, so I would like to see him here.

– Ashley Cole on Chilwell in December 2019. Source- Talksport

Benjamin James Chilwell is a product of the Leicester City youth academy, and was awarded the academy player of the year in 2015. He got his first taste of Premier League action under ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, and hasn’t looked back since, going from Fuchs’ understudy to replacing him entirely in a short span of two years. The 23-year-old’s stellar rise to the top has been commendable, and is a driving force behind Leicester’s impressive season as they sit third in the table. Despite his tender age, he is just five Premier League appearances shy of hitting the 100 mark. Chilwell has also cemented his spot as the first choice left-back for the England national team.

Style of play

Ben Chilwell, in short is a well-balanced full-back. He has contributed to two goals and four assists in all competitions this season, which is a reasonable figure for a left-back, particularly one who is not on set piece duty. Apart from this, Leicester rely more on the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison for attacking threat, hence excluding Chilwell from playing in a very advanced position. His best performance of the season was in the 9-0 drubbing of Southampton, where he grabbed a goal and two assists. Chilwell also scored against us in the 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium, which could turn into a bittersweet moment for him if the move to the opponents of that game materialises.

Source- Football Slices

As we can infer from the above graph, he completes 0.83 dribbles per game with a 36% success rate, and attempts about 61.7 passes per game with a completion rate of 78.3%; however, he completes just 69% of his passes in the opposition box. He gets dispossessed 1.4 times per game, controls the ball poorly 1.9 times per game, and concedes possession 21.7 times per game. His cross completion rate stands at 19% and he whips in just 0.7 crosses per game, which is a very low figure for the full back of a top side. For the purpose of comparison, Alexander-Arnold accurately completes 2.3 crosses per game, while Reece James completes 1.1 crosses per game, and Emerson stands at 0.9 (to level the playing field- Trent is on another level).

Moving on to the defensive aspects, Chilwell wins 1.6 tackles per game, with a 58% success rate. He makes 1.1 interceptions and 2 clearances per game. He also gets dribbled past one time per game, and has committed two errors leading to shots, none leading to goals. On an average, Chilwell wins 46% of his ground duels, and 61% of his aerial duels, which is impressive. The following image shows his heat map for the season, and we can establish that he is all over the left hand side of the pitch, signifying his intent to gradually advance with the attack.

Comparison

If we do compare our current options, Alonso and Emerson, to Chilwell, we can derive the following conclusions-

  • Alonso evidently leads in the attacking aspects of the game such as goals and shots per game due to his advanced positioning.
  • Emerson leads in the number of dribbles completed per game
  • Emerson also concedes possession the least number of times, and has the fewest bad touches per game while also getting dispossessed fewer times than Alonso and Chilwell
  • Chilwell leads in the defensive aspects of the game, attempting more tackles while also boasting the highest tackle success rate. He also leads in clearances and aerial duels won.
  • Interestingly, Emerson boasts the highest duel winning percentage, with 68%. He also gets dribbled past significantly lesser than the other two options (0.4; for comparison Chilwell- 1 and Alonso- 1.1)
  • Chilwell has the lowest passing as well as crossing accuracy among the three.

The players linked to the club have not been taken into consideration. For in depth analysis of Tagliafico, click here.

Credit- Talksport

Verdict

Despite Emerson seeming the best option, it is interesting to note that these are merely per 90 statistics. He does have a long injury history, and keeping him fit for a consistent period of time could be a challenge. Alonso is very poor defensively. Hence, Chilwell is a stable and balanced option when compared to both. However, the fee Leicester are reportedly demanding is an exorbitant figure, and could hence prevent this transfer from going through. With cheaper alternatives available on the market, Chelsea could pressurise the club to sell for a lower fee. Even if the Englishman commands a slightly higher fee to these alternatives, he boasts invaluable Premier League experience, and could be worth the extra chunk. Despite the naked eye and statistics painting a picture not favouring Chilwell, Lampard and Cole seem to admire him. And as former professional footballers, I am certain they have a better understanding than us, and it is our job to back their choices.

Chelsea’s centreback dilemma: Who should leave?

Chelsea are facing an important summer. After last year’s transfer ban and the winter transfer phase without a new arrival, Chelsea have been forced to step up their efforts in the summer to keep up with the clubs’ rivals. One of Chelsea’s problem areas it its central defense, as we saw this season. Chelsea are conceding way too many goals and this problem has appeased for a number of seasons now. The days when Chelsea were known for its strong defensive capabilities are over and this must change as soon as possible if Chelsea want to compete for titles. A change in the defence is therefore a must. In this article I want to show who I believe has a future at Chelsea and who should leave the club.

Andreas Christensen:

Christensen was under criticism at the beginning of the season but after the new year he was convincing and fought his way into the starting eleven. With his qualities he impressed in recent matches and is in my opinion currently the best centre back at the club. At only 24 years of age he still has room for improvement and is already a great player, he should definitely stay at Chelsea.

I recently wrote an article about where I go even deeper into his qualities and where I justify my high rating for him: HERE

Verdict: STAY

Fikayo Tomori:       

Tomori is one of the surprises of the season. Before the campaign began, he was expected to be loaned out to a Premier League club, but David Luiz’s departure ensured he remained at Chelsea. The fact that Lampard had allowed David Luiz to leave without a replacement is a testament to his confidence in Tomori, whom he coached at Derby County, where he became player of the year last season.

Tomori had to wait three games for his first appearance in the league. Against Sheffield United he got his chance and he impressed immediately, establishing himself in the team. This was followed by many games in the league until December when he suddenly lost his place in the side with Rudiger reaching match fitness. For me, it was surprising that he didn’t play much anymore. He had strong performances including the game against Liverpool in the league but he sometimes shows insecurities and he still has a lot to learn. For example, he sometimes loses the ball very easily in his own half and his positional play still needs to be improved. On the other hand, it must be said that he is still young (22-years-old) and his potential is visible.

He’s definitely a man for the future and he should stay at Chelsea.He was even the best centre back for a while this season and that shows very well what Lampard will think of him. Unfortunately he couldn’t convince recently, being out of the side, but I’m sure that he will develop into a great player.

Verdict: STAY

Image Source: Getty Images

Kurt Zouma:

After a strong season at Everton, Zouma returned to Chelsea in the summer. According to media reports, Everton were so pleased with him that a possible transfer was in the offing. But this idea became unlikely as Chelsea got a transfer ban, David Luiz left the club and Ethan Ampadu left on loan (Red Bull Leipzig). He played many games this season but he recently lost his place in the team to Christensen and Rüdiger.

I have mixed feelings about Zouma. In my opinion he is a good player but sometimes shaky. With his style of play, he doesn’t really fit in with Lampard’s football philosophy. When he gets under pressure, he usually just shoots the ball forward and can’t build up the game properly, that’s a big minus point. But I also see strengths in him. He is fast and physically dominant to many players, exactly what our defense lacks. He is also an experienced player in our team and has shown that he is a good footballer. At just 25-years-old he still has the best years of his career ahead of him and I would like to give him the chance to get back in his best form, like before the serious injury in the 15/16 season.

A new centre back wouldn’t hurt Chelsea, it would even help the rest of the players to get back into their best form and challenge them more. That’s why I would like to keep Zouma for the next season. I certainly see him as a better and more stable player than Rüdiger and I hope he will return to his old strength.

Verdict: STAY

Image Source: Getty Images

Antonio Rüdiger:

Finally we come to Rüdiger. Since his move from AS Roma in 2017 he has played many games and integrated well into the team. This season he missed most games due to his injury but he was in the starting eleven immediately after he was fit again. Lately he has been under criticism as Chelsea have conceded too many goals due to mistakes made by the German.

To be honest I’m not a big fan of Rüdiger and I realized pretty soon that he can’t solve our problems in the defense. He is a fast player and a leader but he doesn’t convince me on the pitch. With him in the defense I have the feeling that our team isn’t stable, that’s why I prefer for example Zouma in front of him. It has to be said that he still had good games but unfortunately not many. He has been shaky in many games and that brings insecurity to our defense. Just to give you an example, the last-minute goal against Newcastle was his fault as he didn’t cover his player. Although he is tall, aerial duels are not his strength as well as tackling. To be fair, one of his great strengths is his passing. But overall I see him as the worst centre back at the club and I would definitely sell him as I see Christensen, Tomori and Zouma as the better player than him.

Sky Sports reported that he is in negotiations with Chelsea to extend his contract that would possibly make a sale harder. It was also said that Bayern München and Dortmund are interested in him. If an offer comes in for him I would let him go and get a replacement with this money. I just don’t think that he is good enough for Chelsea.

Verdict: SELL

Image Source: Getty Images

If I could choose who should leave of our four centre backs to make way for a new player it would be Rüdiger. He couldn’t convince me during his time at Chelsea and he showed his weaknesses more often than the others. Whether he really goes seems currently unlikely and I guess and fear Zouma will leave Chelsea.

What would you do with our centre-backs? Is keeping all four an option? Let us know on our social media platforms!