Chelsea eyeing Spurs ace – Does this hint at a tactical shift?

ESPN have dropped an interesting transfer bombshell, claiming Spurs’ Ben Davies is a target for Chelsea.

What’s the story?

Chelsea links with Davies have been floating around for a few weeks now. Indeed, The Sun revealed a couple of weeks ago that the Welshman has emerged as a target for the Blues. ESPN have gone into further depth claiming that, alongside his ‘homegrown’ status, his ability to play in the 3-5-2 system Antonio Conte favours appeals to them.

Change for the Blues…

Although primarily a left-back, Davies has shown himself to be a capable part of a back three in a left-central position, chiefly with Wales at EURO 2016. During the Dragons’ staggering run to the semi-finals in France, the 23-year-old played alongside Ashley Williams and James Chester in an effective trio.

Although his inclusion in such a system raised a few eyebrows initially, Davies’ skills acquired from being brought through as a full-back shone on the left side of the trio, where he could pass effectively into midfield and carry the ball forward.

Is Conte losing patience?

Interestingly, ESPN’s claims come in the wake of a mini defensive crisis at Stamford Bridge. Another Gary Cahill error on Saturday evening allowed Alexis Sanchez a clear run for the Arsenal’s first goal, while David Luiz has done little to justify his second coming in the west of London so far.

All of this has the backstory of John Terry’s advancing years – it’s hard to see him remaining an effective Premier League centre-back for 2017/18 – so with long-term planning in mind, a three-man unit makes sense. Conte is a known fan of 3-5-2; his successful Juventus team displayed all the advantages of the system before he carried it into his management of Italy, who were no pushovers at Euro 2016.

Could Davies fit in?

In theory, yes. Although not a ‘glamorous’ addition, Davies and Luiz could be the ball-playing defenders around a solid central option such as Cahill – assuming he can recover his form – Kurt Zouma, when fit, or a ready-made addition during the coming windows. In terms of attracting Davies, the promise of regular football may appeal to the Welshman, who is firmly behind Danny Rose in Mauricio Pochettino’s pecking order at White Hart Lane and has been forced to accept a rotational role.

Left-back or centre-back?

Although we can’t discount Davies being signed as a left-back, it’s hard to see Chelsea’s need for him if that were the plan. Marcos Alonso arrived in a £20m+ deal during the summer while Cesar Azpilicueta can operate in the role. Three options for one position? It seems unlikely. There is the argument that Azpilicueta needs to return to his natural flank, but should Alonso get injured or suspended, he could simply move back across and allow regular No.2 Branislav Ivanovic back into the side.