Chelsea have made a couple of really good additions this summer in N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi, but there’s certainly more work to do if they are to win the league this season.
Recent reports have linked the club with the signing of two defenders. The first, Kalidou Koulibaly, depending on what report you may or may not believe, he would cost between £50million-£60million. His club Napoli do not need cash after Juventus activated Gonzalo Higuain’s £78million release clause. Napoli do not want to lose Koulibaly and if they do, it will be for a lot of money. The club have also been linked with a £22million move for Switzerland and Wolfsburg full-back Ricardo Rodriguez.
If the signings of Rodriguez and Koulibaly came off, Conte’s tactical options would be far greater. It would enable the Italian to play with his favoured 3-5-2 formation. Why can’t they do it now you ask? Well in Azpilicueta they only have one attacking full back, Ivanovic would not be capable of playing in such an advanced role due to the athleticism required. In Rodriguez Conte would acquire a left back that loves to attack and can do a lot of damage with his left foot. This would also enable Axpilicueta to play on the right-hand side.
Chelsea have Zouma, Cahill and Terry but in Koulibaly they would acquire a central defender that can link the defence and midfield seamlessly. He loves to carry the ball forward and averaged an incredible 62.86 forward passes per 90 last season, this compared to Terry’s 33.20 and Cahill’s 26.72 highlights the different dimension Koulibaly would add to the defence. When you play with three central defenders you cannot afford to have three players that can provide nothing going forward. Koulibaly’s pace and strength make him the all round perfect defender for a system like this and for me, it is no surprise to see him valued in excess of £50million. If John Stones is valued just shy of that amount, the Koulibaly certainly warrants such a mighty valuation. He may take time to settle into English football but if he can replicate the form he managed last season for Napoli, Chelsea could gain a central defender that will soon be considered amongst the very best, and he is still young at just 25.
When comparing other statistics between the three defenders you can see Koulibaly’s strengths too, he won 2.15 tackles per 90 last season, this was substantially more than Terry (0.77) and Cahill (0.83). He’s not quite as strong as Cahill (3.08) in the air, but he did win a respectable 2.52 aerial duels per 90 last season, which was marginally more than Terry (2.17).
It is worth noting that these signings would not force Conte into a change of formation. Koulibaly could simply play alongside one of Zouma, Cahill and Terry and form a very strong partnership. Rodriguez could slot in at left back and Azpilicueta then on the right. Rodriguez is an attacking left back though so if Conte sticks with the 4-2-3-1 we saw against West Ham then he would likely demand more security from Hazard to be defensively secure, as we know Conte loves to be.
Of course these two signings would require significant investment and there is no way you can be sure that one or either of the players will be joining Chelsea. Conte has publicly spoken of how prices are through the roof this summer and without significant backing from the chairman, the club will not be able to make these additions. But as the club look to enter a new generation, they need to ensure that Conte has the finances to make the changes he deems necessary to lift the squad to the next level. In Koulibaly and Rodriguez, I think Chelsea would be much more prepared to go full Conte.
You could quite rightfully question whether investing such a large amount into two defenders would be a good idea – but I think Chelsea need it. Since Baba Rahman left on loan, Chelsea only have two full backs and one of them is the ?? Year old Ivanovic. A left back is essential in my eyes and at around £22million, Rodriguez is good value.
In central defence, Terry isn’t likely to be around much longer and injury problems continue to disturb Zouma’s career. We haven’t seen the best of Cahill in the last 18 months either, so the club would certainly benefit from adding an elite defender like Koulibaly.
With so much attacking talent at the club with the likes of Hazard, Willian, Oscar, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Michy Batshuayi etc. if Chelsea could add a defensive duo of such quality, then it would be hard to look past them as title favourites.