Since being appointed by Chelsea in the summer, much has been made of Maurizio Sarri’s highly-technical approach to football, more commonly dubbed as ‘Sarri-ball’. Despite their recent 18-game unbeaten run, the Blues have yet to entirely adapt to the manager’s philosophy, as was exemplified in their 3-1 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley.
Despite Sarri’s insistence that he his disinterested by the transfer window, further incomings at Chelsea seems utterly plausible, and re-signing Nathan Ake from Bournemouth could be a step in the right direction for the Blues.
Sarri’s style is focused around ball retention and harnessing players’ creative influence, and while the west London outfit’s creative talents have seemingly benefitted from the freedom that they’re afforded – Hazard has contributed towards 11 goals in 12 league games, the Blues’ defence is still a concern.
Antonio Rudiger has enjoyed tremendous progression since joining the club at the start of last season, and currently, the German is their most important defender. Similarly, David Luiz has been rejuvenated under the guidance of Sarri. The Brazilian had been ostracised by Antonio Conte last season, yet, the 31-year-old has featured in every league game this term.
In comparison to last season, Luiz’s significance has increased notably, and despite their best endeavours, the Chelsea defence have struggled to negate the creativity of their big-game opponents. Against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, Chelsea have conceded eight goals. By contrast, the Blues have only conceded three goals in the other nine league games, which is illustrative of their inability to retain defensive solidity against the league’s most decorated sides.
Interestingly, Sarri has opted against Andreas Christensen as a potential option to partner Rudiger, and with Azpilicueta returning to right-back, Gary Cahill and Ethan Ampadu are the only other options that Sarri has at centre-back.
During his seven years with the club, Cahill has given Chelsea tremendous service, and he has been an integral member during the club’s golden era. Nonetheless, due to his fairly conservative defending, and lack of technical excellence, it appears that the 32-year-old is incompatible with the style that Sarri has been keen to establish. Similarly, despite becoming a valued and significant figure in the Welsh national team, Ampadu has yet to feature for the Blues domestically this term.
Seemingly, Sarri would favour a player that resembles the technical qualities that his system demands and having failed to prize away Daniele Rugani from Juventus in the summer, it’s conceivable that Chelsea would look to bolster their defensive options in January. Coupled with the immediate uncertainty of Cahill’s future, January could welcome another defender to Chelsea.
It’s reported that the Blues included a buy-back option when the Dutchman joined Bournemouth and having shone under Eddie Howe’s tutelage on the South Coast, perhaps Ake is ready to return to Chelsea and compete for a place in their team.
The 23-year-old demonstrates tremendous technical quality, he’s at ease with the ball at his feet, and he is capable of completing impressive passes from defensive positions; all of which are treasured features for the Chelsea boss. From a defensive perspective, Ake exhibits great awareness, and while his height is a limitation when competing in aerial duels, his knack of being in the right place to curtail opposition attacks is certainly valued.
The arrival of a defender isn’t a priority for the West London side, especially as their manager prides himself on improving the players that he has at his disposal. Nevertheless, the arrival of Ake would provide invaluable competition and longevity for a defence that includes two ageing figures in the form of Luiz and Cahill.
While Ake has been positioned at centre-back for each of Bournemouth’s 13 league games this season, he can play at left-back, or further forward at the base of the midfield, too which provides tremendous versatility and adaptability. As we approach the January window, Ake could be one of several players that the Blues target; and rightly so.
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