Seven minutes into a European Qualifier between Italy and Finland, Chelsea fans were sent into delirium. It was the jewel in this season’s crown in Emerson that picked up an injury, a muscle strain to be precise. For those few hours that followed panic set in, chaos and worry for the upcoming games against Wolves and Liverpool. One injury alone could rarely have a fanbase so disheartened, but this was a step too many on a long injury list.
Before this setback, Emerson had been in great form so far this season, boasting some of the best statistics in Europe for his position. He is arguably Chelsea’s only reliable defender in Frank Lampard’s early days of managing the club, where we’ve seen goals galore conceded. So, what is the purpose of this article? Well, I believe there are a few things we can learn from Emerson’s injury scare.
Firstly, and most importantly, this is not with the previous transfer window in mind, I’m putting it in the rear-view mirror as we were and are under a transfer ban. This is with the summer of 2020 at the forefront. So, with that said Emerson’s form has seen many of us discard the left-back position as an important area of purchase. Judging by last night’s meltdown that can’t be the case. Whilst other areas in the squad need improving, there is no contrast in quality quite like left-back in our squad. Make no mistake, this is due to the fact we only have one senior left-back. Marcos Alonso is a left wing-back, his two impressive seasons under Conte, that saw him make the PFA Team of the Year and earn many fans plaudits and gratitude, was under a completely different position and structure. A structure no longer in existence under Frank Lampard. The last time you would have seen Alonso playing full-back in the quickest, most physically demanding league in the world, would have been at Sunderland and Bolton respectively. Two stints that would have seen you label him as a mid-table left-back at best. Knowing all that, and the clear difference in left-back and left-wing back, that has seen the likes of Victor Moses moved on and not seen as the solution to displacing Azpilicueta, this is clearly an area that greatly needs strengthening this upcoming summer, simply because we are short in the position. Whereas in other areas, we are stacked, just not of the quality many of us would like.
So, here are three targets to fill this role next summer and stop further future meltdowns:
A Solid Premier League proven left-back who’s had steady progression at Leicester since arriving from non-league Rushden & Diamonds in 2010. Now with 7 International caps to his name.
An option that has seen many turn their attention onto other positions due to the expected asking price from Leicester being upwards of 70 million British pounds… That’s a lot of sterling for competition at left-back.
A silky technical full-back capable of replacing those Alonso’s free-kicks many crave, as well as having the pace to get back into position when being countered. He possesses the skill to beat a man and also the awareness to come inside and link up with midfielders. He can also comfortably play an inside role that Pep has tried with the likes of Delph and Zinchenko at Manchester City. Tactical flexibility comes in abundance with a purchase like Grimaldo.
For me, this is my favorite target and would be a real statement signing on the way we wish to play. At the age of 23, he would be long term signing but also still a relatively expensive one, I’d expect him to command a fee of around £50-60 million. This may be too expensive for many so I shall provide a final cheaper option.
Another full-back with reliable end product in the final third which is crucial in the modern game when you look at players like Trent and Robertson excelling for Liverpool. Telles is your more physical option if you’re looking for some combative steel at full-back. Whilst he still possesses the technical attributes and pace to play at the top level. A free-kick taker and penalty taker at times, again the clutch moments void left by Alonso, will be filled. With little time remaining on his contract at Porto, it is likely he won’t sign an extension. Alex Telles is by far the cheapest alternative and would command around £30 million, based on reports of Atletico’s bid that almost brought him to Spain last summer. At 26 years of age, Telles is within his prime and has Champions League experience, he would certainly provide value for money.
If a concern of funds being spread equally among other areas of the squad is at the forefront of your mind, this option suits you down to the ground.
To conclude all these options would provide defensive stability on the left-hand side and also a more reliable attacking output, especially in terms of crossing accuracy when replacing Alonso. Smooth in general play and a threat from set-pieces, there is no reason to not acquire a left-back this summer and have 2 players per position going into the 20/21 season.
“But Liverpool and Manchester City don’t have a quality left-back deputy.”
Liverpool have a versatile player in James Milner who can fill in and do a job when required, a reliable 7/10 performance guaranteed in times of hardship. A less talented Michael Essien at RB if you will. Manchester City? Well unlike us, their focus is far higher on what they do with the ball. Pep has had players in Delph and now Zinchenko that he can trust in possession. As they have such a technical team, it’s rare that they are turned over in possession that would leave their fullbacks exposed. Not to mention they have depth covered in literally every other position so you can forgive them for not having left-back completely covered with Mendy injured. With Cancelo recently signing to add competition to Walker, and able to swap flanks in times of hardship, make no mistake Manchester City will address the issues that see them fall short of winning a Champions League thus far.
What’s the main thing to take away from yesterday? The starting line up won’t always be available throughout the season. So, if you don’t believe in the deputy option there’s a problem.
Last night you got the raw passion and frustration, this morning you get the solution. Signing off.