As soon as news broke out that Chelsea were going to proceed with their appeal against the ban, normal service has been resumed with regard to transfer rumours. The hearing has been scheduled for the 20th of November, whose outcome will determine whether we can register new players in the winter window commencing in January next year, or will have to wait until the summer.
Should the appeal have a positive outcome, our key areas definitely need reinforcing. While it is widely known that we need a world class winger as well as fullback, another position which we must invest in is the heart of the defence. Chelsea are strongly linked with academy graduate Nathan Ake who’s currently having an excellent season with Bournemouth, while also linked to the usual big names such as Kalidou Koulibaly. Fans have also thrown in their suggestions in the form of Ruben Dias of Benfica and Alessio Romagnoli of Milan. However, if we do sign another centre back, it is pretty evident that one of our current four first team centre backs is going to have to make way. So who is most vulnerable to being chopped off?
All our defenders seem to more or less be of a similar quality, and I will be analysing each of their strengths and weaknesses throughout the course of this article leaving it to you to form the ultimate opinion. In no particular order, let’s begin.
1. Fikayo Tomori
Not one soul, not even Tomori himself would’ve expected to be such an integral part of the first team so early into the season. The English defender was tipped to spend another season away from Stamford Bridge to gain experience. This decision, however, was reversed once David Luiz decided to join our North London rivals Arsenal. One of the best cases of whatever happens, happens for the good. While Luiz has been defensively suspect on many occasions for his new side, Tomori has adjusted to life at Chelsea as smooth as a pebble and has hit the ground running. A few rookie mistakes in an otherwise flawless season so far from the youngster. In my opinion, his future at this club is secure, with talks reportedly ongoing for a new long term contract at Chelsea.
2. Kurt Zouma
Coming back from an impressive season away at the Toffees last campaign, the French defender was expected to form a part of this Chelsea side regardless of our transfer embargo. He did have somewhat of a rocky return to Stamford Bridge, but has formed a good partnership with Tomori since. He is an absolute beast in terms of physicality, very strong, very good in the air as well. He sometimes also makes driving runs from the defence as he did against Ajax. But, a concern expressed by many prior to the beginning of the campaign was his distribution and technical attributes. He seems very comfortable against teams that play with a low block, but is sometimes pressured into giving the ball away against sides that press aggressively. He has managed to put his horrific knee injury behind him and move on, which is always great to see. Still only 25, he could still become a key figure at Chelsea in the near future.
3. Andreas Christensen
This Danish centre back earned accolades in his two year loan deal at German side Borussia Monchengladbach, while also receiving high praise from one of the greatest defenders of the PL era, none other than John Terry himself. He was integrated into the team by Antonio Conte (due to his fallout with David Luiz), but has arguably not improved since. Without a shadow of a doubt our most technical centre back, the 23 year old must definitely up his game in order to be at the club, after falling out of favour with former manager Maurizio Sarri. His composure is often disrupted by his errors and nervousness. After getting injured early into the season, it should be seen whether he can break the Zouma-Tomori partnership, who have put in some solid performances recently.
4. Antonio Rudiger
Our most experienced defender following the departure of David Luiz, the 26 year old centre back was expected to step up and quench the thirst of leadership which was so evidently required at the back. His injury struggles from the back end of last season have continued to persist this season too, limiting his playing time. He was a regular starter under Sarri last season, and put in good performances except on a few occasions. A problem faced by many defenders, that of inconsistency, is an issue with the German. He possesses blistering pace and physicality, while also having the ability to provide a pin point long ball from the defence. However, another important aspect which we must consider is his injury history. After suffering from knee problems at Stuttgart, he ruptured his cruciate ligament while at Roma apart from several other muscular injuries. A defender at a top club like Chelsea cannot afford to miss such a massive number of games in a season. Hopefully he can get rid of his nagging injuries and contribute significantly to the season ahead.
So there’s the list. Four centre backs of our current campaign. Each have their own unique strengths, balancing it out with their lack of certain abilities just like a see-saw. Only two can start every game, and only three can remain at Cobham (assuming we do sign another centre back). As long as they are Chelsea players though, each and every single one of them will have my unconditional support, as they should have all of yours.