Our defence this season has been atrocious at times, and this is no secret. While Lampard can be assigned some of the blame for his poor defensive structure, several of the goals we have conceded are based purely on the incompetence of our defenders. Lack of positional awareness coupled with recurring errors has made us fans question whether our current options know the basics of defending. The absence of an experienced leader at the back has not helped our cause either, with Rudiger being the oldest of the lot, and he is 27. The requirement of defensive reinforcement is evident, but Lampard is reportedly content with his current options as per Matt Law, who is very reliable when it comes to Chelsea news.
Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but I am certain we will not sign a centre back unless one of our existing four options departs this window. Regardless, a host of names continue to be linked to Stamford Bridge. It is understandable that the club is prioritising the goalkeeper and left-back position once the Havertz deal gets over the line, but a centre-back signing is of paramount importance before the new season kicks off. The names that are currently on the shortlist (reportedly, of course) are Lewis Dunk, Jose Maria Gimenez and Declan Rice. Let’s take a look at them.
Lewis Dunk (Brighton and Hove Albion)
The first thing that pops up from Dunk’s career is the fact that he is a one club man, and formed a part of the Brighton squad ever since they were in the third division. Having completed three seasons now in the Premier League, the 28-year-old might be on the lookout for a move to a top side. Dunk stands tall at 192cm, and plays predominantly on the left side of the defensive duo. However, he is right footed. The Englishman averages 1.1 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game, which is a good figure. He makes 3.4 clearances per game, which is a consequence of Brighton’s style of play where they have to clear the ball in dangerous situations. Dunk also wins 57% of his ground duels which is a promising figure. He’s also attempted a whopping 2192 passes with 87% accuracy, which is a phenomenal number for a side generally in the lower half of the table. Lewis Dunk ranks 1st in the league for successful pressure percentage this season, indicating he could thrive under Lampard’s system of relentless pressing. In the 2017/18 season, he ranked 4th in blocks made and 6th for interceptions. So far, so good.
The first cause of concern is the number of times he gets dribbled past per game, which stands at 0.5 and this figure is higher than all our current options. He also successfully tackles the opposing dribbler just 31.7% of times, which is once again lower than all our current options, and we can infer that he commits to a challenge easily. Another concern is the fact that he wins just 65.6% of his aerial duels; which is a high number but for someone who stands at over 190cm, this is pretty average. He possesses several intangibles though- he’s experienced in the Premier League, and is the club captain which means he could be the one capable of organising our defence. He could also be the vocal leader Lampard craves. Lewis Dunk is also a Chelsea fan, and idolised John Terry growing up. His pet dog, Didier, is named after our legendary striker Drogba. This signifies that he cares for the club, and would give it his all if he were to sign for us. With Ben White having a promising season with Leeds, it would put Brighton in a very sticky situation, and they might be forced to sell one of their centre-backs, and should Dunk be made available in the market, Chelsea could be all over him. He wouldn’t be my ideal signing, but an upgrade on our existing options.
Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Declan Rice, who formed part of our academy, has recently been linked with a return to Chelsea. The 21-year-old had an excellent season with West Ham, and is courted by several top clubs. Chelsea have reportedly made a 50 million pound bid for him, but could have to make a significantly higher one in order to procure his services. However, it is interesting to note where he will feature in our starting line-up, having played as the defensive midfielder for West Ham all season. Reports circulating state that Rice could feature in the centre-back role, but my personal opinion would be to play him as the defensive midfielder, where he has shone this season. Nonetheless, let’s find out his stats and compare them to our current options.
His stats may be inflated playing as a midfielder, as he ranks 3rd in interceptions made and 7th in successful pressures. He also ranks 1st in minutes played by outfield players, and leads the board in tackles won as well. These figures are inflated due to West Ham’s style of play, but are promising at the same time. Rice also stands tall at 186cm, and wins 61% of his aerial duels. The young Englishman seems comfortable with both feet as well, as he’s made 19% of his total 1717 passes with his weaker foot. He also has a 86% pass accuracy, which is decent, considering his job doesn’t have too much to do with his technical ability. Once again, this player gets dribbled past more often than all our options with 1.3 times per game, and is a cause of concern should he play as a defender. Rice also successfully tackles only 33.7% of opposing dribblers which is a low figure. However, as I mentioned earlier, these stats cannot be compared to that of a defender as he played in defensive midfield throughout the course of the season. While I’d be delighted to see Rice in a Chelsea shirt next season, I believe it should be as the defensive midfielder, and not in the centre-back role.
Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico de Madrid)
The Uruguayan centre-back currently plies his trade in the La Liga under Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid. The 25-year-old has been linked to Chelsea this season, but not concretely. He’s been restricted to just 21 appearances this season, hence we will use per 90 stats for even comparison. The standout attribute of his is aerial duels, as he wins 76.4% of them, and ranks 2nd in La Liga. Gimenez averages 1 tackle per game and 1.1 interceptions, which is once again a decent figure. However, he gets dribbled past just 0.2 times per game, which is better than all our options- the current ones as well as the ones we’ve been linked to. He doesn’t rush into challenges, and wins 71% of his ground duels, while also tackling the opposing dribbler successfully 57.1% of times. He is, in true definition, an attacker’s nightmare.
Moving away from his promising defensive stats, the passing ones are comparatively disappointing. He’s attempted just 853 passes this season, which comes up to just 43.7 per game. Despite him completing 88.3% of those, the figure is ridiculously low- several defenders who play for the lower ranked sides in the Premier League attempting more passes. This could be down to Simeone’s aggressive no-nonsense style of football, but having played there for his entire career so far, it is interesting to see whether he could cope with a different brand of football, and whether he is capable of beating the press and playing out from the back. Regardless, he would add steel to our defence, and would be an opposing attackers nightmare- which we have missed this season. Would Atletico be willing to sell is a different question altogether, and our interest in him at this point also seems limited.
That brings us to the end of this article. Several other names have also been thrown into the mix including John Stones and James Tarkowski, which I have not looked into detail owing to the unreliable sources of the information. Should we look for short-term fixes, Jan Vertonghen and Thiago Silva are available on a free, and could be signed on a one or two year deal if we cannot afford to splash on a world-class option. My personal choice (and mine alone, with absolutely no links whatsoever to the player) would be Duje Caleta-Car, whose scout report you can read here. Whatever the case, we must sign another centre-back before the new season kicks off in just over a month, or else our attacking prowess will count for nought.