As we approach the beginning of the new Premier League season, the rumour mill is rife with speculation. As Chelsea fans, it is no secret that one of our largest areas for improvement is our defence. Since Mourinho first took charge back in 2004, Chelsea have been known to have a solid back line and being defensively sound, but over recent seasons that has become a thing of the past. Under recent managers we have tried to implement a more attractive style of football with varying degrees of success. In the 18/19 season under Sarri we conceded 39 goals in the Premier League and in the season just gone, that number increased to 54. Compare that with the 04 season where we conceded just 15 goals, it is clear to see that improvements need to be made.
So where does that put us now? It was a recurring theme throughout our most recent campaign that Lampard could not decide on a consistent back line. We saw several different centre back partnerships over the season utilising a host of different players. Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori & even Cesar Azpilicueta all played in the CB position at one point or another. With highs and lows throughout the campaign, I think it’s safe to say that CB is one position we need to strengthen. Often times we were caught out at the back, individual errors cost us dearly and from my point of view, I rarely felt confident that we could keep a clean sheet whoever the opposition was. You could always feel like there was a mistake in us.
Everybody knows defending corners was our Achilles heel and that whenever the opposition won a corner against us, Chelsea fans were sitting on the edge of their seats or hiding behind their sofa! Of course this doesn’t all fall on the shoulders of the centre backs. There is the goal keeper, the fall backs and the team as a collective. However, for the purpose of this discussion the centre backs are our focus.
Brighton defender to solve these problems?
One player that is being linked with Chelsea right now is one Lewis Dunk from Brighton & Hove Albion. I think it’s fair to say that this speculation has been received with mixed opinions from the Chelsea fan base. There seems to be a sense of snobbery from some supporters that Lewis Dunk isn’t a big, flashy name to splash across the twitter headlines. A marquee signing to sing from the rooftops. Others have met the rumour with quiet reserve, waiting to see how it unfolds, aware that the defenders stats are not to be sniffed at. Regardless of your view on this, there is one important part to remember. Until it’s official, it’s nothing more than a rumour so don’t jump to any conclusions! For the sake of speculation let’s take a closer look to see how he could fit into our set up. Here are some of his key stats from the 19/20 season.
- Kept 9 clean sheets (equal to how many Chelsea kept)
- Scored 3 goals and provided 3 assists
- Won 99 aerial battles and made 53 headed clearances
The reason I highlight these stats in particular is because I think it is relevant to some of the key areas we need to improve. Dunk has shown that he is competent defensively, in a side that would be expected to concede more often than Chelsea. He can provide some support in an attacking sense, even as a CB, most likely from set pieces. Most importantly, in my view, the man is effective in the air. We’ve already looked at the fact that Chelsea have struggled to defend corners and set pieces this season, so his presence in the air could be a big boost to our back line.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Rudiger, Christensen and Zouma are our three main CB’s. Compared with the three key points I listed above, none of those three can boast more clean sheets than Dunk, none of them have scored as many goals, none of them have provided any assists and only Zouma has proved more dominant in the air. What about playing from the back? Well, Dunk made 2,251 passes across the season with an average of 62 passes per match, the number of passes made being greater than any of the three main CB’s we have right now. Now, don’t get me wrong, Brighton will approach games very differently to how we do & the type of football we play requires a different mind-set.
But those are just the good things and I would be remiss to ignore the potential pit falls with a signing of this nature. He’s 28-years-old, which in our squad is nearing the older end of the spectrum, and limits the amount of time he has left to play at this level. He isn’t the quickest player on the scene and as the game develops, pace is becoming more and more important. We tend to play a high line which means teams try to catch us on the break & we need pace at the back to keep on top of the quicker players. He received more yellow cards than any of our main CB’s, which over the course of the season, can be a risk.
Even so, the stats show that he has certain qualities that could really bolster our defensive options. In summary, Dunk is a strong, effective centre-back who can play the ball, dominate in the air & provide solidity at the back. Is he the answer to the problems we have right now? Probably not, but one player isn’t going to solve that anyway! Could he add some peace of mind & defensive solidity? Yes, I think he could. But for all this, it is just a rumour right now. We will always be linked with players, fans opinions will always be divided and you can’t always believe what you see online.
Anyway, I think I speak for everyone when I say that when we sign a new player, whoever they might be, we should give them our full support & urge them on to succeed.