Chelsea squandered the opportunity to trigger the reported buy-back clause in the contract of Bournemouth and ex-Blues defender Nathan Aké, which has allowed Manchester City to race into pole position and land the Dutch international.
Aké made 17 senior appearances in all competitions for the Blues and was part of the side that won the Europa League in 2013, and the EFL Cup in 2015. He also made one appearance in their triumphant 2015 Premier League campaign and two in their 2017 success, before joining The Cherries permanently for £20 million.
The defender played an integral role in the heart of Eddie Howe’s defence for the three years of The Cherries five-year stay in the English top-flight, which ultimately came to an end July 26, acting as the catalyst for The Citizens transfer interest.
The move appears to have an element of Déjà vu, with Aké the latest in the line of ‘got away’ former Chelsea players to have joined a direct Premier League title rival, following the likes of Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne.
The Stamford Bridge club could have done with the Aké aquisition to bolster their defence, which conceded more goals than any other top-half side this season, setting a club milestone for the worst defensive record since owner Roman Abramovich took over. In fact, it was the club’s second-worst defensive showing since the inception of the Premier League.
Frank Lampard has already brought in two terrific attacking players in Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, but The Blues need to focus on making some defensive changes in personnel if they want to have any chance of challenging for next season’s Premier League title, let alone the top-four.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Napoli
Kalidou Koulibaly has been a formidable part of the Neapolitans’ defence since joining in 2014, helping to keep an impressive 89 clean sheets from 238 competitive appearances in all competitions – approximately 37% of his games.
The centre-back is quick, technically good with his feet and his towering 6′ 1” height gives him an aerial advantage, especially from set-pieces. The defender has previously played in a back three and would fit well in Lampard’s wing-back system.
The Senegal international also has European pedigree with Napoli in the Champions League and Europa League and won the Coppa Italia this campaign.
Ben Chilwell – Leicester City
Ben Chilwell impressed at left-back for Leicester City this season and has caught the eye of several teams including Chelsea and Manchester City. The defender had been consistently solid for The Foxes, prior to missing the latter stages of this campaign through-injury, scoring three goals and providing three assists in 27 league games.
He is a quick player and not afraid to get forward, displaying his attacking prowess with dangerous crosses and goals, including one against Chelsea. The 23 year-old would certainly be ample competition for wing-back Marcos Alonso, who despite his terrific attacking ability from set-pieces, lacks the defensive capabilities to recover on the counter-attack.
Leicester may however, need to consider a replacement for the full-back, should the defender ultimately decide to leave, but with youngster Luke Thomas deputising excellently in matches against Sheffield United and Manchester United and the experienced Christian Fuchs in reserve, the Foxes look more than equipped to manage without him.
Lucas Digne – Everton
Lucas Digne has been one of the most reliable players for Everton, having joined two seasons ago. The full-back has performed admirably – contributing to 18 goals (scoring five and providing 13 assists in his two seasons) while helping to keep 11 clean sheets in all competitions this campaign.
Like the aforementioned Chilwell, the Frenchman likes to get forward on the left-flank and would certainly test Alonso for a starting place as a left wing-back for Chelsea. As well as having the ability to take on players, deliver great set-pieces and take freekicks, Digne is assured defensively and is known for his positioning, getting into the right areas to win possession and start counter-attacks, as well as making vital last-ditch challenges and recovery tackles, which would be ideal for the attacking style of football that Chelsea play.
Having played in France, Italy and Spain, it would also enable him to communicate reasonably well with the other foreign contingent at the club, especially those of compatriots N’Golo Kanté, Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud.
However, with the retirement of Toffees left-back Leighton Baines, prying the Frenchman away from Goodison Park may be a challenge for the west London outfit.
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