Chelsea got their main target in a striker this transfer window. Initially targeting Romelu Lukaku, the Blues moved on to Erling Haaland before returning to Lukaku and convincing him to add a chapter to his Chelsea story. The current squad is deep and capable and the Blues would likely be fine without more signings this window, writes the Pride of London.
But, with just over a week left in the window, the Blues won’t stand still. Chelsea could possibly sign a centerback and a midfielder yet, it will just be a case of finding the right deal(s) and threading the right needle(s).
Working backwards, Chelsea already has coverage for centerback and midfield at the moment. Trevoh Chalobah has been given a chance and has taken control of it with everything he has. Thomas Tuchel is aware he can play midfield so, on paper at least, he covers both roles. Ethan Ampadu also remains at Chelsea and though he has not had the best few years, he is still just 20 and could yet rebound to reach the potential he showed under Antonio Conte. Like Chalobah, Ampadu can also play at centerback and in midfield which may be part of why he has been kept around despite a short preseason.
Now, Chalobah has clearly earned his place but Ampadu could likely do with a loan where he can play week in and week out. Furthermore, even with Chalobah staying, there is the chance Chelsea could still sign both a centerback and a midfielder. Tuchel was lukewarm on Chalobah playing in midfield and another centerback wouldn’t be opposed given how many might leave the Blues within the next year or two. But, ultimately, it seems almost everything is pivoting around Kurt Zouma currently.
Chelsea likely could afford to make two more signings without selling anyone. The cash, however, is just one resource. Another, often underrated resource, is space. While no part of Chelsea’s structure is as crowded as the forward roles, centerback could quickly get packed if someone doesn’t depart. Though Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, and Cesar Azpilicueta are all on the bubble contractually, it is Zouma who is most likely to leave due to lack of playing time. The trick will be maximizing his transfer out to maximize transfers in.
Jules Kounde has been the most sourced rumor. He was one of La Liga’s best centerbacks in the past few years and his release clause, while steep, is still reasonable provided he lives up to his potential. He would likely slot into the right side of the defense once Azpilicueta has run his course, pushing Chalobah and Christensen more towards the left. But, while excellent, he would be a bit of a luxury signing and his price tag is a bit steep for the player he is currently (potential not withstanding). The Blues will also need the deal to happen quickly as Sevilla has issued a now or never warning, so much as a club can when a transfer clause takes their will out of the equation.
A cheaper, slightly (but not all that much) less skilled option that likely fits the current needs of Chelsea better would be Pau Torres. Torres has most recently been Tottenham’s back up option for Kounde, rejecting the North London side because of their lack of Champions League. If that alone doesn’t make him appealing, he is left footed which makes him a better fit for the club given Chalobah’s emergence on the right. He would come cheaper than Kounde and the only trade off would be a few extra years and slightly lesser quality.
The question of a fourth midfielder has been a bit of a hot button topic as of late given Billy Gilmour and Conor Gallagher (amongst others) are in the pipeline. That being said, it is unlikely that Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, and N’Golo Kante all remain two years from now. It is also unlikely that all three will be capable of going through this full upcoming season without reinforcements. And finally, it is unlikely that Chelsea plays with just two midfielders forever. Eventually, a three man midfield will return and the club is a bit light as things stand. That’s where a fourth centermid comes in.
Saul Niguez is the strongest link currently, seemingly out of nowhere. Though still important to Atletico Madrid, it does seem as though he has hit a ceiling there. Perhaps the most appealing part of a deal for him is that it may be a loan with a buy option. That would allow the club to have their cake and eat it too as they evaluate Niguez while keeping their options open for Gilmour and Gallagher down the road.
But, perhaps just as quickly as the Nuguez rumors, another interesting idea has popped up. Tanguy Ndombele has, once again, asked Tottenham to let him go. Now, there is a commonly held belief that Spurs won’t do business with Chelsea. Maybe so, but they also want Zouma. Bringing this all full circle, Chelsea could offload Zouma to Spurs and take the Ndombele issue off their hands. Though somewhat injury plagued, the midfielder is still quite excellent when he plays and a swap could benefit both clubs. The main drawback would be that he has a rather high wage for a player that may just be rotational and Chelsea has a less than stellar track record of fixing problem players from other clubs.
Declan Rice rumors have cooled as West Ham has stuck by their transfer fee (for now). Aurelien Tchouameni is a fan favorite suggestion that has barely been rumored at all and he could likely do with more minutes than Chelsea can offer. That’s not to say discount anything in the closing days of the window, but if something hasn’t already started moving it is likely already too late.
Chelsea will be fine without further signings but if they opt for them, they will likely pivot around the fate of Zouma. The Blues have options, but time is running short to get everything done.