Recently, Chelsea have been linked with big money moves for some star names. Some of those include Colombian star James Rodriguez, and Southampton centre back Virgil van Dijk. Obviously, they are very quality players that would help the Blues a great deal but I don’t think Chelsea need a marquee signing in January especially for the fees that have been reported for those two players.
Areas Chelsea could improve – Centre Back
There is no doubt that Virgil van Dijk is a very good centre half and at the age of 25, would be a great signing for Chelsea. Although I think he would be a great signing, I think that the rumoured fee of £60m is far too much. I also think that Chelsea are not in need of another central defender so I think if they are going to spend big in January, they should look to spend it elsewhere.
Chelsea have four centre halves who are solid and that Conte appears to trust (Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill and Zouma). They also have two who although they are ageing, can do a job if needed in Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry. For cup games such as the one coming up against Brentford, and if Chelsea are in an in injury crisis, they can definitely play their part. They also have the Danish Andres Christensen coming back from loan next season and have recently recalled Nathan Aké so really, is there any need to strengthen in this area in the winter?
In the wing back department, there is however room for improvement. Although both players currently playing in those two roles have been great recently, Moses and Alonso, neither can nearly be classed as ‘world class’. Since moving to the Blues, Alonso’s performances have been good but some feel that is more down to the system than him as a player; perhaps they should consider a move someone like Ryan Bertrand, Alex Sandro or possibly even Patrick van Aanholt. Two former Chelsea players!
Moses on the other hand gives Chelsea a lot going forward that most full backs/wing backs wouldn’t give. Defensively however, he can get caught out as he was at Man City when he lost City winger Leroy Sané, and only Chelsea’s back three reshuffling kept the scores level at 0-0. Someone like Florenzi of Roma who played in that role during the Euros, for Italy, under Conte, would be a good acquisition for the Blues.
The area I think that Chelsea need to improve the most is the role next to Frenchman N’Golo Kante in midfield. Conte appears to favour Nemanja Matic in that role but has used Cesc Fàbregas there recently. Both are great players but neither of their playing styles quite suits the 3-4-3. In a formation with only two central midfielders, there needs to be more rounded players rather than good in just one area.
Spanish playmaker Cesc Fàbregas is brilliant technically but is poor defensively and lacks the physicality you need to play in the Premier League. Serbian Nemanja Matic is great defensively and physically but doesn’t have a great passing range. One of two types of players who would suit the role would be a similar type player to Moussa Dembélé. A strong and very physical who’s brilliant at taking a player on and solid defensively. In future years, that player might be either of two academy graduates Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Nathaniel Chalobah but as neither is quite ready yet, Radja Nainggolan or Franck Kessié – two players both linked with Chelsea before – might strengthen the centre for a latter-season push.
20-year-old Franck Kessié definitely has the physical attributes to play in the role. The six foot tall midfielder is good in defence but his main strength is taking a player on. His take-ons-per-90 is over double that of Nemanja Matic and his chances created numbers are fairly similar. Obviously, he is no where near as good as Fàbregas at passing, nor is he as good as Matic at defending, but he is definitely an all-rounder, the type of player you need for that role and for the reported asking price of £35m – at the young age of just 20 – may well see him become an investment for the Blues.
Another type of player that might suit the role would be a similar player to Marco Verrati. The Italian has a brilliant passing range of passing, much like Fàbregas, but he has better physical attributes. Although it is unlikely that the former Pescara man will leave PSG especially in January, he would be a great capture for Chelsea and if Abramovich is willing to spend big, I think this is where it should go.
Conte currently uses Eden Hazard in this role just behind the striker with one of Willian and Pedro partnering him. As more managers have studied the 3-4-3, the space that these two get has been greatly reduced and they have been less effective. With the closer attention they’ve been getting, injured more with both Hazard and Pedro missing matches with minor knocks. With injuries a genuine possibility with these players, I feel Chelsea should look to add more depth in this area.
Although they currently have the two academy graduates in Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek available, I still think they should add a little more depth in this area, but when I say add more depth, I don’t mean go out and spend £60m on someone like James Rodriguez. Yes, he is a very talented player and a move away from Real Madrid looks likely but I don’t think that is the right place to splash the cash for Chelsea.
Even though his form has been very average for the last season-and-a-half, maybe Chelsea should target Ross Barkley. As his form has been poor, they might be able to get him on the cheap. If they can get him for anything under £35m, I would sign him. As we have seen before, the talent is there and at the age of 23 he has room to improve. As Conte has said before, Chelsea need more home grown talent so if they get the right price, they should look for the out-of-form Evertonian. Look at how Conte’s confident style has converted Pedro and Hazard from down-and-out to cornerstones of the side: imagine the effect it could have on Barkley.
Even without splashing the cash in January, Chelsea are still favourites to win the league. The Blues have quite a talented squad but many would argue that both Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and even Tottenham have a better squad based on talent. With no European Football, arguably the best manager in the league and a five point gap, they should be able to see it out. A couple extra additions in January will put Chelsea even higher favourites in the betting markets than they already are.