All we seem to be talking about right now is players who are potentially joining Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea.
Yet, all we have seen so far is a goalkeeper who has not played since 2017 in the former England international Robert Green.
One of today’s stronger rumours is that of Juventus defender Daniele Rugani and, as our headline suggests, “the interest is there from Chelsea” according to Rugani’s agent, Davide Torchia.
Do Chelsea need to strengthen their defence? Well, possibly.
With Sarri almost certain to shift from a Conte back three to a flat back four, there is an argument to say that they need central defenders more adept at playing as a two.
Let’s look at some of the Chelsea centre-backs last season using Squawka’s matrix and compare them to the Juventus defender.
Typically, last season Antonio Conte lined up Chelsea with three out of the four players above in the defence. Cesar Azpilicueta was almost ever-present, is he ever anything else? Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger all had spells on the sidelines, mainly depending on their form.
The ‘lazy’ analysis last season was that Gary Cahill was tailing off – his stats were on a downward spiral from the season previous. As you can see here, he ranked third out of the four defenders on his defence score coming in at 7.53 and his total score was 17.98.
Has Cahill declined?
Well, if you compare to him to the title-winning season then yes, he has clearly.
Andreas Christensen was finally recalled to the Chelsea first-team fold following several seasons out on loan. As you can see in the first image, his first season in the Premier League was decent. His defence score of 8.30 was higher than a seasoned campaigner like Gary Cahill, although not as high as Cesar Azpilicueta who ranked a defence score of 10.26. Christensen’s debut total score was 21.53 whilst Azpilicueta’s total score was 24.58. Again, for the young man, this was a fine start to his Premier League career.
Anthony Rudiger, the German international signed from AS Roma, was also playing his first season in England. As you can see above, he struggled like many have before him coming into the English game.
Compare this to the Chelsea target, Daniele Rugani and you can see why Maurizio Sarri might be interested at the right price. Rugani’s Serie A defence score was 9.39 and his total score was 24.55.
What does that actually suggest?
Firstly, there is a gap between Rugani and Azpilicueta when it comes to the defence score – both were playing regularly in a back three, both were playing regularly on the right side of the three. We can argue that Juventus did not have to defend as often as Chelsea as they went on to win Serie A, but that is based on opinion rather than hard fact. However, it is the total score that is interesting. Despite the defence score being clearly lower than Azpilicueta’s, the total score is almost the same suggesting that there is more to Rugani’s game than Azpilicueta’s.
Now, this is where it could get interesting for Chelsea.
Do not forget, a large source of goals last season came from Azpilicueta breaking forward into a pocket of space from that right-sided centre-back position and putting in an accurate cross for Alvaro Morata and, less frequently, Olivier Giroud to head home. If Rugani is adding more than that to his all-round game, then it could be money well spent.
There is a caveat though. It is unlikely Azpilicueta will be considered to play centrally in Sarri’s back four. He is almost certainly nailed on for the right-back berth, ahead of Victor Moses who might be versatile but he is not that versatile. This would leave Sarri with just three options for the two central positions – Cahill, possibly on his way out; Christensen, untested in the Premier League in a two; Rudiger; again more comfortable in a three as we saw in his recent German performances.
Finally, let’s have a look at where Rugani ranked overall in Serie A last season.
Oh. Granted, at least three players in the top ten there are full-backs, but still.
The interesting piece here is that Koulibaly, de Vrij and Nkoulou are forever linked to a move to the Premier League and, arguably, would be available at a better price. Koulibaly, of course, played for Sarri last season at Napoli so would be au fait with the tactical expectation.
With this knowledge, it suggests that Rugani, at any price, is not the best option available to Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri. Admittedly, it could be argued that he would represent an upgrade on Rudiger and Cahill but there is better value in the market right now.