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Which Centre Back Should Chelsea Sign?

Chelsea’s defensive frailties have been a huge topic of debate ever since captain, leader, legend John Terry laced up his boots. Terr...

Chelsea’s defensive frailties have been a huge topic of debate ever since captain, leader, legend John Terry laced up his boots. Terry was the first and only major youngster to make the step up from academy to the first team until this season. The captain epitomised what it meant to be a true Blue. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was a true Chelsea warrior. In truth, you won’t find many modern-day centre-halves like Terry who are willing to put their body on the line for their side. After making his debut at the age of 17, Terry went on to become Chelsea’s most triumphant captain, collecting a total of 14 major trophies. At the heart of Chelsea’s defence, the captain was the focal point of many successful sides that competitively challenged on Europe's illustrious stages. 

Ever since the departure of Terry, Chelsea’s centre-halves have struggled for consistency in performance. Whether it was the error-prone and hot-headed David Luiz or the inconsistency of Chelsea’s backline this season, centre-half is an issue that needs amending long term. 

As Frank Lampard's young and vibrant side look to emulate the boss’s playing style, it’s the free-flowing attacking football that has caught the eye. However, this has its flaws. Throughout the season, Chelsea have been susceptible to being cut apart by teams on numerous occasions. 

The constant rotation between the central defenders has meant they’ve never been able to gather rhythm as a partnership. Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori began to establish a solid connection as they played a pivotal role in helping the team win seven league games on the bounce in October.  However, the form of the two pacey defenders dropped, and Lampard issued rotation to the backline. Fluctuating between the central defenders has caused uncertainty for some and hindered momentum for others, leading to Chelsea’s defensive problems being exposed yet again.

The Blues lack a real composed leader at the back who can organise and orchestrate the defence, reminiscent of club legend, Terry. With the summer transfer window looming, Chelsea will certainly be in the market for a centre back as they look to build a squad capable of taking them back to the top. The question is, who may Lampard trust in consolidating his leaky defence?

Dayot Upamecano 

Dayot Upamecano is a French U21 defender who plays his trade in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig. He has built a reputation for being a powerful ball-playing centre half, who displays a high level of awareness when in the defensive phase. Pacey and strong in the tackle, Upamecano is being coveted by a host of top clubs in Europe, including Chelsea. With a rumoured 60 million euro release clause (c. 55 million pounds), the young French international represents good value in today's market, especially being 21 years of age. The exciting talent has also made it clear he wants out of Leipzig in the summer window, putting multiple clubs on alert. 

Although regarded as an all-round defender, Upamecano’s stand out trait is his ability on the ball. His great passing range and dribbling ability allows him to break opposition lines with ease, immediately setting the German side on the front foot.

Essentially, Upamecano would be a great fit for Chelsea. He’s quick, strong, defensively sound and great on the ball which could be a great weapon for Lampard's side. The youngster boasts an impressive 90.5 % pass rate from open play. The Blues could benefit from having a defender who is so calm and composed on the ball, someone able to play through the opposition's lines. 

However, some would say Chelsea already have centre backs with a similar playing style to Upamecano in their ranks. Zouma, Tomori and Rudiger are all fast, strong in the tackle and can play out from the back, however maybe not to the standard of the young French international. 
With Chelsea’s squad being young, Upamecano, 21, may not represent the experience and leadership required to help push this team onto greater things. 

Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake, a 25-year-old centre back who represents South coast side Bournemouth, moved to England at the age of 15 when he joined Chelsea from Feyenoord. Ake made his way through the youth ranks at Chelsea, before deputising at the age of 17 for the first team. The youngster made a substitute appearance in a Premier League fixture against Norwich City, replacing Juan Mata. Following his debut, Ake was limited to only seven first-team appearances, leading to the youngster being loaned out for consecutive seasons to Watford and Bournemouth. After a successful loan spell with Bournemouth, the Cherries made the move permanent in the summer of 2017, as a £20,000,000 fee was deemed acceptable by the Blues.

Ake has turned into a well established Premier League defender after departing for Bournemouth. The abundant first-team opportunities have helped aid Ake’s career progression immensely as most of the top six clubs are circling in the hope of securing his signature. Chelsea lead the race, as their past connections with the player and a £40,000,000 buy-back clause give them the advantage over other rivals.

Ake, an extremely versatile defender, can be deployed on the left of a centre-back pairing or even at left-back. Ake displays great prowess in one on one defending, rarely diving in or being dragged out of position. His left foot is also something to be admired, as his ability to play between the lines and switch play is a key asset to his game. With some defenders there is any uncertainty about playing out from the back,  this not being the case for the Netherlands international. Ake shows great technique and composure when bringing the ball out of defence,  as he looks to engineer many attacks for Bournemouth. 

At 25 years of age, Ake represents an experienced figure, something which could be extremely useful for Lampard's side. With such a young and inexperienced squad, Lampard could do with an older head to lead the backline. 

Being left-footed, Ake could offer Chelsea something much different, potentially speeding up various passages of play for The Blues. Having a left-footed centre-half can massively help a side open up play. Receiving the ball off the other centre half or the full-back, means a left-footed centre back can create different angles and support in different positions. First time passes can be played into the midfield or out wide to the full-back, creating much more time and space for the player receiving the ball. This could be vital for Lampard’s side as it would help speed up the free-flowing football that The Blues have developed this season. With a £40,000,000 buy-back clause, Ake could be a good option for Chelsea.

Milan Skriniar

Milan Skriniar, a Slovakian international, plays at the heart of Inter Milan’s back five in central defence. Standing at 6 foot 2 inches, Skriniar personifies an imposing powerhouse. The Slovakian is an extremely dominant centre-back, whether it’s in the air, on the ground and in most duels. Skriniar has a no-nonsense defensive style, throwing his body on the line of most shots, reminiscent of Stamford Bridge icon, John Terry.

Like Terry, Skriniar offers great leadership skills, whether leading by example or commanding orders to his teammates.  The 25-year-old is also very cool-headed when carrying the ball out of defence and finding his teammates with his passing; an aspect crucial to the success of a modern-day centre-half. 

Skriniar could be the perfect acquisition for The Blues. Like Virgil Van Dijk at Liverpool, Skriniar could help to transform Chelsea’s backline with his experience, leadership, defensive mastery and last but not least, his all-round presence. Chelsea’s inexperienced squad could value the Slovakian as a leader and complete captain, someone who they could follow by example.  

Upemecano would bring vast amounts of speed, physicality and ball-playing attributes, whilst Ake would offer Chelsea something much different; a tenacious left-footed centre-half. However, Lampard may look to Skriniar’s experience to revamp his young side. With his bullish and no-nonsense defensive style, Skriniar could be the one to finally go some way to emulate Terry’s currency in defence and become a firm favourite with the Chelsea fanbase.

Written by – @haz_williams00
Edit by - @KristenPulisic

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