I think most Chelsea fans can agree that Frank Lampard’s first season as manager has been a success. He has shown that we can be very dangerous in possession, especially using it in the offensive phase. But, being dangerous in one end of the pitch does have its issues. There’s no denying that in defence we have been vulnerable this season and it is shown by the fact this Chelsea side have conceded most goals out of the top seven teams in the Premier League. So, should Lampard be looking to target a centre-half in the transfer window?
The issue that Chelsea currently have
Although Chelsea currently has many central defenders at the club, the question remains if any of the current crop have the exact quality needed to play for this club. Assuming all our centre backs are fully fit, our strongest partnership is Fikayo Tomori and Andrea Christensen, with Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger as replacements. Rudiger is the most experienced out of the four but continues to lose concentration and makes unnecessary decisions in big matches. Zouma is a proven Premier League defender with loan spells at Stoke City and Everton before returning to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
His best attributes as a defender are his strength and power which is vital as a defender. Even though he has shown signs of progressing as a Chelsea centre-half, he lacks ability on the ball and that comes into Lampard’s consideration on how he wants his teams to play. This has led to Zouma being dropped for several matches this season. Christensen has all the making of becoming a Chelsea first-team regular under manager Lampard, but lacks the mentality and doesn’t seem aggressive enough in the centre-back role. If he were to rectify the errors in his game, he has the potential to be a successful, long term option at the club. As for Fikayo Tomori, he has shown similar signs to Christensen where he also was a first-team regular with Zouma where their partnership blossomed. At such a young age, he lacks Premier League experience. Let’s not forget this is his first full season in the Chelsea first-team and Lampard knows all about how good Tomori can be following a successful loan spell at Derby County last season, where Lampard was in charge.
Will the club stick or twist?
As previously mentioned, Chelsea does have four accountable centre-backs at the club who all bring different qualities when they are in the Chelsea XI. With all that in mind, and now that our transfer ban has been lifted, Lampard can either look at possible targets or continue using the four he currently has. But, this is an area of the pitch that needs fixing before the start of next season.
Furthermore, if targeting players is Lampard’s wish then there are two centre-halves who I believe Chelsea should consider signing. They will establish the defensive solidarity and take us to the next level.
This name will bring joy to Chelsea fans and has been a bedrock of RB Leipzig’s defence and helped shutout Tottenham in the Champions League this season. At 21 years old, people have already seen Upamecano as a younger version of Koulibaly. Like Koulibaly – who the club have been linked with countless times, the French defender thrives off aggressive challenges and his pace. Most defenders this season have found it hard to surpass him and he is a solid distributor of the ball. With an 87% passing accuracy, a trait that is essential in Lampard’s defence and the RB Leipzig defender isn’t afraid to use his ability to play a long pass out wide.
It is hard to see if Upamecano would be an instant success in our defence, but, there is no doubt of the ability and the potential he has. Also, the time it will take Tomori and Christensen to hit their peak, Upamecano would develop at the same time if he were to make the move to West London. The 21-year-olds contract at the German side comes to an end next summer, meaning Chelsea could be facing strong competition to sign the highly-rated French centre half. A player that will develop thoroughly at the club and I think he would push one of Rudiger or Zouma out of the club.
Like Upamecano, Dias is relatively young. At the age of 22, Dias is no stranger to success. With his club side Benfica, he has won the Primeira Liga last season, beating arch-rivals Porto to the title. He also was an integral part of the Portuguese national team that won the Nations League last summer.
Again he is similar to Upamecano as he is more of an aggressive type centre back who makes tackles that stop a direct attacking threat from the opposition. One player who would benefit playing alongside Dias is Christensen. The Danish international has the quality to sweep up through balls, which would allow Dias to exemplify what he does best, be aggressive in the tackle stopping the opponent attacks.
Our defence has struggled on the ball this season in the defensive phase, but if we were to sign Dias in the summer, this issue will be rectified. Dias has exceptional ability on the ball which we have been missing since David Luiz’s departure to Arsenal last summer. His passing range would suit Lampard’s style of play from moving across from one side of the pitch to the other. Another great inclusion to our defence if Lampard is looking for a young player who already knows how to win and offers the current centre backs a potential stable partner.
Play it safe or time to gamble?
In terms of potential signings coming in, Lampard has already shown that he wants a left-back, striker and potentially a centre-back if options are available. Both of these potential targets will cost big money in the region of £55m for Upamecano and no more than £40m for Dias. But, if you can move one of Zouma or Rudiger on, the money that is received will be funded to bring a replacement in.
Nevertheless, the Chelsea boss might stick with the four that he has where he attempts to get the best out of them. However, if he were to choose this option and the issue remains during next season, Lampard will be frustrated with himself by not bringing a better option in.