Ben Chilwell had three assists (Whoscored) in the first 24 minutes of England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro. The Leicester left-back would be one of the easier transfer targets for Chelsea to integrate.
The possibility of Chelsea being able to purchase new players in January pending transfer ban appeal next week has the transfer wishlists almost at normal pre-holiday season levels. The Blues still have a few positions where they could use an immediate infusion of quality despite the current high performing players – or where they could use depth while avoiding redundancy.
Marcos Alonso and Emerson are as polarizing as ever, but the pair leave common ground for Chelsea fans: whichever you prefer, however vehemently, the Blues can do better than both.
Emerson started the season as one of the team’s best players. He was the most reliable defender during those opening few games when everything about Chelsea’s defensive structure – from wingers pressing and tracking back to centre-backs holding their position as the last line of defence – needed serious improvement.
Emerson’s influence became less noticeable as the Blues found the necessary patterns of play. Once Cesar Azpilicueta was no longer the only person doing any defensive work on the right, he did not look deficient in comparison to his counterpart on the left.
Without taking too much away from Emerson, he may have been the best only when Chelsea were at their worst. He may have thrived in the chaos of a young team under a new coach whose previous team also struggled with defensive structure.
Marcos Alonso replaced the injured Emerson in the 15′ against Liverpool, having played one complete game and a one-minute substitute appearance over Chelsea’s first five Premier League games. Alonso quickly returned to his form of the last three seasons. How you evaluate that statement pretty much shapes which of the two you prefer.
Emerson played his first game back against 20th-place Watford, and when Alonso started three days later against Ajax in the Champions League, It seemed to confirm the Spaniard atop the depth chart. But Alonso had an exceptionally (or, again depending on your perspective, typically) poor first half and came off for Reece James at halftime. He was not in the squad to face Crystal Palace as Emerson and James started.
The persistently unresolved argument over the two left-backs is an argument in itself for a third option. The fact that both sets of partisans seem willing to compromise on Cesar Azpilicueta as that third option, with Reece James on the right, argues for a fourth option via the transfer market.
With Leicester City vying with Chelsea to be the England feeder club of the future, Ben Chilwell is the obvious transfer target. Chilwell is at the top of most transfer watchlists, not just Chelsea’s. Valued at €35m as per Transfermarkt, he also seems a “humble” option considering prices going around in the current transfer market. His performance on Thursday for England – never mind the opponent, he still excelled amongst his teammates – reinforced the season he is having at Leicester.
Chilwell would not need much time in training to earn a start ahead of Emerson or Alonso, and would not need many starts to become the regular starter.
The Blues would be able to sell either Alonso or Emerson, perhaps even basing their decision on which player attracted higher offers and which was more or less willing to be Chilwell’s back-up. Alonso has had three years as Chelsea’s starter and may not be willing to take that step back. Emerson has spent most of his career in the deputy role, but is now the age Alonso was at when he jumped from being a journeyman to a Premier League star and multiple trophy-winner.
If neither were satisfied with the new arrangement and both could be sold for high values, Chelsea could be in need of a stop-gap, late-career left-back to cover for and mentor Chilwell. This player could bridge the gap until Ian Maatsen was ready to enter the rotation with Chilwell.
None of the other positions where Chelsea need reinforcing have such a clear-cut picture of how a new top-line signing would integrate into the team. Chelsea need at least one other striker. They need an impact sub that Frank Lampard is willing to use (unlike Olivier Giroud), and a capable starter on the same level as Tammy Abraham in case he is injured or Lampard wants a tactical variation.
Left-back is the one exception, though, where the Blues have two satisfactory options who could both be superseded at the stroke of a pen.