Throughout spells with Juventus and the Italian national team, Conte prided himself on creating sides with water-tight back lines and expert organisation throughout. It’s still early days for the Italian at Stamford Bridge, but his current Blues squad is clearly failing on that front; they’ve kept just one clean sheet this season – against Premier League whipping boys Burnley – and have conceded nine times in their last four games, two being defeats to mooted title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.
As a consequence, The Daily Mail claim Conte is ‘expected’ to phase out right-back Branislav Ivanovic and centre-half Gary Cahill, who have both been culpable for incredibly costly individual errors over the last few games. At the same time, David Luiz’s starting berth is said to be under threat already, despite only returning to west London last month, and John Terry will turn 36 before the end of the year – retirement is calling.
Here’s where things get more interesting. Kurt Zouma is on the mend and should be available before the end of the month; he not only appears capable of succeeding Cahill but perhaps even Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.
But outside of the club, The Daily Mail claim the Blues are keeping their eyes on Burnley’s Michael Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson, echoing similar reports from the same publication and Mirror Football earlier this month. Both are English and aged 23, suggesting Conte is looking at a very specific type of defender to bring in – namely young and homegrown. Here’s how the duo have compared to Chelsea’s current defensive options this season, courtesy of our mates at Squawka.