Midfield A Priority
The areas for improvement in Tuchel’s otherwise impressive squad are clear.
A priority is in the centre of the park, where the absences of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic have caught up with the Blues and loan signing Saul Niguez has been a disaster. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s unexpected revival has been welcome but he alone cannot plug the gaps in midfield.
Wing-back is another area of concern for the Champions League holders. While first-choice duo Reece James and Ben Chilwell have excelled – particularly in their goalscoring and creative output – deputies Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso leave something to be desired.
Both are Stamford Bridge stalwarts and boast plentiful experience. However, age is clearly catching up with Azpilicueta, who looks more comfortable as a right-sided centre-half then when asked to play in the high intensity wing-back role.
On the left, Alonso remains an attacking force but his defensive deficiencies are a problem for the Blues – particularly with Chilwell sidelined for the foreseeable future.
In terms of potential arrivals, Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt is one option to solve their centre-half issues, with motormouth agent Mino Raiola saying: “He is ready for a new step. He thinks that too.”
Sevilla’s impressive French stopper Jules Kounde has also been linked – a deal which makes sense with Antonio Rudiger out of contract in the summer.
The German international has plenty of suitors, including Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid – all of whom will be able to open negotiations on January 1 without having to pay a transfer fee. Manchester United are also keen but would need to agree a price with the West Londoners.
Talks over a new contract have been ongoing for some time but a lack of progress suggests the 28-year-old will take this opportunity to secure a last lucrative deal of his playing career.
Contract Renewal For Silva And Christensen
Less valuable but equally pressing is the future Thiago Silva. The 37-year-old continues to defy his age and former club PSG, who did not want to retain their captain two summers ago. His contract renewal should be considerably easier for Chelsea to tie up, but will be no less important given his quality as a leader.
Other players linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge in January include centre-back Andreas Christensen who is also out of contract. The Dane continues to hold talks with the Blues after recently being dropped, in a bid to get the 25-year-old to put pen to paper on new terms.
In fact, Christensen is one of several players linked with a switch to Barcelona. The cash-strapped Catalans are desperate to improve their options for Xavi by any means and Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are two other, somewhat optimistic, Blaugrana targets.
The January transfer window is typically a difficult time for big clubs to do business. With the impact of Covid-19 and a World Cup at the end of 2022, getting deals done will be even harder for Chelsea. For those reasons, holding onto their main men will represent a good window at Stamford Bridge.