After an exasperating knockout on penalties in the Carabao Cup against Spurs and an equally frustrating 3-3 draw at the weekend against West Bromwich Albion, it’s fair to say Chelsea fans needed a pick me up. The real gift we all wanted was a decisive win against Palace, and we duly received it in the form of a four goal thrashing.
The Champions League group-stage draw provided a little lift too. Chelsea were drawn into Group E with Sevilla, Rennes & Krasnodar. We should certainly proceed with caution remembering a group we should’ve won last season and only just scraped out of. Sevilla are a brilliant team with proven European pedigree, albeit predominantly in the Europa League. Rennes are formidable too, not the least for the written in the stars reunion with our latest signing Edouard Mendy which could give even the strongest Chelsea stomach an ominous sense of foreboding irony. Krasondar may be easy to dismiss, but there are only easy games on paper in football. Even more so when you consider the magic and chaos of European nights that can conjure up all manner of surprises. Travelling all the way to Russia amidst an already congested schedule won’t be easy either.
Nevertheless, there is no escaping Chelsea should be qualifying from that group, if not winning it, and securing an easier knockout game than Bayern Munich last year. We’ll know more about how we stand after the international break with players returning to full-fitness and beginning to gel, but there is another potential positive from the draw other than its alleged ease on paper. Many sources including The Athletic have emphasised how Lampard is especially keen on players he’s seen himself live and extensively, at least initially. Indeed, Hakim Ziyech is said to have left quite the impression in his display across two-legs against us last season. So, with that in mind, let’s look at two stand out candidates to follow in his footsteps and impress when we meet them up close and personal soon.
Ultimately, I would be amiss to start anywhere else than a young man people in football are simply running out of superlatives to describe. Arise 17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga a CM/CDM who plays with all the energy and confidence of a young player, except with the composure and awareness of a seasoned pro. He burst onto the scene around the 18/19 season, following that with an impressive 24 starts in 25 league appearances last season. The Rennes prodigy provided 1 goal and 2 assists alongside an 88% pass accuracy of which 91% were successful in his own half and 83% in the oppositions half. 0 errors leading to a shot or a goal too according to SofaScore, as well as averaging 4 tackles per-game. Talk is hot, as the transfer window draws to a potentially dramatic conclusion, of Declan Rice as the missing jewel in Chelsea’s expensive summer spending crown.
However, if Rice were to not arrive or is preferred at CB, then Chelsea should look no further than Camavinga. With his recent French call-up he became the youngest player to represent France since World War 2. Combative, elegant and at 5ft 10 he’s very much still growing into his frame. Real Madrid amongst others are sniffing around but (like with Havertz) could Chelsea steal a march on their rivals with the ongoing financial uncertainty of coronavirus and talk of a big 3-year transfer plan? Keep your eyes peeled, we will almost definitely be interested already and our rapport with Rennes via Cech and Lollichon was only strengthened by Mendy’s recent arrival. You sense his price could at least double if, as expected, he shows everyone what he’s all about on the biggest stage in European football. Maybe its just wishful thinking but one to dream about nevertheless!
Elsewhere Sevilla could be much happier hunting ground for future signings than they will likely be for an easy result over two-legs. We’ve been linked before with Diego Carlos who I’d personally avoid like the plague. In every game I’ve watched him recently, including the Europa League Final, he’s been rash and calamitous. I don’t think my David Luiz PTSD could take it. He may play in red & white but recently he may as well be zooming across the pitch with a pot-belly, rosy cheeks, 8 Reindeer and a sleigh cheering “Merry Christmas” the way he’s been giving gifts away. He could yet develop into the player teams like Man City (who have sniffed around previously) have admired – but I’d steer well clear.
In stark contrast is his fellow central defensive partner, Jules Kounde, who was thought to be in talks with Manchester City this transfer window had they not signed Ruben Dias. Despite only being just 6ft, Kounde managed to average a relatively impressive 63% aerial duels success rate across La Liga last season and at just 21-years-old could be the keystone of Chelsea’s defence for the next decade. Besides, with the rate that France is producing brilliant young centre-backs at the moment – what’s not to like? Having a look at how he scores on Smarterscout (all ratings out of 99 and weighted to a Premier League standard) is impressive viewing to say the least. Last season he scored 86 for defending quality and 78 in the Europa League. Crucially, for any modern centre-back, he’s just as composed on the ball as he is off it. He averages a score of 87.5 for ball-retention across La Liga and the Europa League last season while SofaScore back this up with an 86% pass success rate alongside completing 86% of his dribbles.
Ultimately, Chelsea’s recruitment process is far more multifaceted and complex to suggest we would sign a player simply because Lampard liked them when we played against them. That would be a lazy and naive assumption, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see us linked with the likes of Camavinga and Kounde should they impress against us in the European nights ahead. Let’s just hope they play well enough to make a statement…but not so good that we suffer as a result!