Over the next few months, the Chelsea board and management team will be looking to strengthen the squad for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. Various post-match interviews and press conferences from the blues boss Frank Lampard, has indicated that he has learned a lot about certain players this season and knows exactly where to strengthen during the window.
Left-back has been a problem area for Chelsea ever since Ashley Cole left for Rome at the end of the 2013-14 season. Cesar Azpilicueta was consistently deployed there for three seasons that followed before Antonio Conte moved the team into a 3-4-3. Due to the current skipper being played at left-back for a few campaigns, it saw the end of Filipe Luis and Baba Rahman after one season apiece. Marcos Alonso was brought in the summer of 2016, and has proved successful as a left-wing back, but, has regularly struggled when used in a back four as an orthodox left-back. Emerson Palmieri was also brought in during the ‘Conte era’ and has proved to be a streaky player, who has flattered to deceive at times, leading to Azpilicueta filling in at left-back various times this season. This article will look into the candidates that are being touted around for this berth next term, with a more in-depth look at Nicolas Tagliafico.
The 27-year-old Argentinian international, Nicolas Tagliafico, currently plies his trade in the Netherlands for Ajax. He signed for the club in January 2018 from Argentinian outfit Independiente, for £4 million. Since then, he has gone onto to make 99 appearances for the Amsterdam based side, and has formed a great relationship with new Chelsea recruit Hakim Ziyech.
Defensively astute and aggressive in the challenge, a major positive of Tagliafico is that he is great in the air, even though he is only 5 ft 8 inches. This means that the blues wouldn’t miss the aerial abilities of Alonso and also have someone who will be much more efficient in the transitions due to his much greater speed and tackling ability.
The tenacious Argentine could form a great partnership with Christian Pulisic, as the latter prefers to play as an inside-forward, cutting onto his right foot, which will allow the left-footed Tagliafico to overlap consistently. However, this may only be done when club captain Azpilicueta starts, this is due to Reece James being more of a threat, than the Argentine, going forward and possessing vastly better crossing abilities. This will also allow James to utilise his range of passing as he can become inverted as Tagliafico can push on, with less chance of being caught going the other way, due to his tactical awareness and pace. Finally, Tagliafico could be seen as a late bloomer as he only made the switch to Europe at the age of 25, meaning he may want to make the leap to an elite club and project sooner rather than later as this chance may never arise again.
The cost of the transfer could also be a major positive; Chelsea and Ajax have a good relationship after the Hakim Ziyech transfer went so amicably, a deal of £30 million could be easily attainable. This could also allow Chelsea to focus more funds on other areas of the team, such as the goalkeeper and centre-back problems. If I were in the position of Marina Granovskaia, Petr Cech and Frank Lampard, Nicolas Tagliafico would be my first option due to needing to sure up the defence. He would be the cheapest option out of all of the shortlisted players, but with him being 27, there won’t be any resale value if Chelsea were to cash in a couple of years down the line. With a right-back that can already display high attacking output in Reece James, a defensively astute left-back would be the perfect acquisition for the blues moving forward.
There is a shortlist of other left-backs on Chelsea’s radar and these include Ben Chilwell of Leicester City, Alex Telles of FC Porto, Marc Cucurella of Getafe and Robin Gosens of Atalanta. As well as this youngster Ian Maatsen, who made his Chelsea first team debut in September of last year against Grimsby Town, is also in the reckoning for Frank Lampard, as he could look to bring him through into the main squad on a more regular basis. The player Chelsea have frequently been linked to already is the English international Chilwell, who according to the press, Lampard see as the direct Ashley Cole replacement. However, this season wasn’t perfect for Chilwell, with many Chelsea fans against the move, which would be by far the most expensive option.
Being home grown is benefit for Chilwell, as well as having age on his side at 23, which could see him a permanent fixture for many seasons to come. Alex Telles has been linked to various clubs, with his most likely destination being Paris-Saint Germain, another top club with a left-back problem. Cucurella and Gosens are outside bets, but are both more attack minded full-backs, something Chelsea already have at their disposal in the form of Alonso and Emerson.
My final verdict
In conclusion, Nicolas Tagliafico should be Chelsea’s number one target this summer due to the attributes he possesses as a footballer, the ease at which the transfer negotiations should go and the relationships he could already have formed with certain members of the squad. Chelsea have been caught on the counter-attack more often than previous seasons and someone who can help negate that problem should be a priority.
Declan Rice could also go some way to helping solve this problem. Keeping Alonso as the back-up option would be key for Chelsea when they’re chasing games as his goal scoring and attacking threat could be crucial. Inter Milan have interest Emerson, which could see the Brazilian-born, Italian international join the Nerazzurri for around £25 million this summer.
This would give Chelsea to sign Tagliafico and have him be deputised by Alonso until Maatsen is then filtered into the first-team picture. If Chelsea do sign Andre Onana from Ajax, along with Tagliafico, they would’ve signed three of the team that reached the semi-finals of the champions league in 18-19 and the team that had two hard fought battles against the blues this season. The chemistry and link-up could really help them settle into life in London and they could be some of the key components to push Chelsea for a title challenge next season.