Chelsea’s need for a centre-back is up there with Arsenal’s desperation for a centre-forward in the panic station stakes. The Blues watched Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic provide some comedic central defensive performances last season and go in to this season knowing they are going to be waiting a lengthy period for Kurt Zouma to return to match fitness.
The situation Antonio Conte has found himself in is not an unfamiliar one. Last summer, Chelsea made the same mistake of focusing solely on one target (John Stones) and when it didn’t go through they were left out of ideas. This time around it’s Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
The answer? That’s a tough one. It’s hard to know if there is a direct answer to a problem of such magnitude. Chelsea’s addition of N’golo Kante in midfield should at least prevent the defenders being quite so exposed, but it will not cover for the fact that they are living on borrowed time.
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A veteran 32-year-old defender might not be quite what most Chelsea fans have in mind. However, Jose Fonte would certainly add a calm, reassured presence to their too often blood and guts defending. The Saints man will not be wrangled away from St Mary’s easily, mind.
Having arrived to the Premier League later than many players of his calibre would do, Fonte has looked accomplished throughout. His ability to read the game and command younger, less experienced defenders around him bodes well.
Whether alongside Cahill or Zouma, Fonte would take charge and that is something Chelsea markedly lack in the absence of John Terry.
Of all the options Chelsea have, Mustafi is the most ‘ready to go’ option. At only 24, the German’s best years are ahead of him, however, and he could easily remain at the club for the best part of the next decade.
His ability to play in full-back roles will also provide an extra tick in Mustafi’s metaphorical box, as Chelsea look to improve their depth. The Valencia man is a slightly different style of centre half to Chelsea’s current options, as he will look to intercept – he completed 4.4 per La Liga game last season – and tackle a little higher up the pitch.
Talk of a release clause would make Mustafi an easier buy than others and, given his style of play, there is no reason he wouldn’t be an overwhelming success in the Premier League.
Despite knocking Miranda out of the Atletico team a couple of seasons ago, Jose Gimenez is still just 21-years-old. Remarkable, really.
As release clauses are compulsory in La Liga, it’s a case of pay the money and you can get your many. Gimenez will be costly, he will probably smash all sorts of records if he were to leave Atleti, but it would be one of the most wonderful signings in the history of Chelsea.
A hard tackling, tight-marking defender, Gimenez has many similarities to Cahill in his approach. The difference is, many would already suggest that the Atleti man has better judgement of a situation and reading the game in front of him.
They might not seem perfectly balanced just yet, but Gimenez and Zouma could rule the Chelsea defence for years to come.