Reports from sources such as the Daily Mail suggest that Malang Sarr is on the verge of joining Chelsea on a free transfer. The Blues look set to beat off competition from Arsenal and Barcelona to secure the signing of the 21-year-old on a five-year deal.
Defence is undoubtedly a priority for Frank Lampard after his side conceded more goals than any other team in the top half of the Premier League last season.
At the moment it is unclear whether Sarr would stay at Stamford Bridge for the upcoming season or go out on loan. Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke have apparently registered their interest along with a host of clubs in Italy.
Regardless of that, the hope is that the former Nice defender can be the long-term solution to Chelsea’s defensive woes. Let’s take a look at whether he’s up to the task.
Who is Malang Sarr?
Despite being just 21 years old, Malang Sarr already has over 100 first team appearances under his belt.
The French under-21 international broke into the Nice team at just 17 and scored on his debut, becoming the second youngest player in Ligue 1 history to do so.
Unsurprisingly for someone who has been given so much responsibility at such a young age, Sarr has great leadership qualities.
His manager at Nice, Patrick Vieira – someone who knows a thing or two about how to be a commanding presence on the pitch – has spoken effusively about these traits.
“He has the personality of a leader,” Vieira told Sport365 in 2019. “He answers simply and clearly.”
As well as playing at centre half Sarr is also capable of filling in at left-back. This is a position Chelsea struggled in last season with neither Marcos Alonso nor Emerson meeting Frank Lampard’s demands.
Sarr-plus of centre-backs
Regardless of all these positives though, there are factors that mean Malang Sarr is not the right man for Chelsea.
The Blues already have a glut of promising young centre backs, with Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu already on the club’s books.
After spending a season giving youth a chance, signing Sarr is likely to only push these talents down the pecking order.
Frank Lampard can only justify bringing in a centre half is he unquestionably solves an issue they’ve been struggling with.
One such problem is set pieces. Chelsea conceded an astonishing 14 goals from dead-ball situations last season – over a quarter of the goals they let in. Sarr does not fix this.
In his past two seasons with Nice the 21-year-old has only managed an aerial duel success rate of 57% and 58%. Standing at just 1.82m tall, this is not something he is likely to be able to improve on.
Chelsea spending big
Chelsea’s intentions in this window have been clear for months now.
After serving a transfer ban last season the Blues have serious cash to spend on improving their squad.
Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner have already been brought in, while Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell are soon expected to arrive at Stamford Bridge for a combined fee in excess of £130m.
With this in mind it seems strage that the Blues are skimping on buying a centre back. It’s the position they most urgently need to improve.
Malang Sarr is not a bad player by any means, but for a club with pockets as deep as Chelsea’s there is no need for them to take a gamble on a relatively unproven talent.
Instead Frank Lampard should be looking to bring in ready-made stars who will improve the first-team straight away. Kalidou Koulibaly – who has been linked to both Manchester clubs – seems a far more sensible target.
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