As soon as Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Manchester City is done and dusted, Chelsea will immediately be switching their focus to next season in an attempt to conjure up a plan for how they can make themselves an even stronger unit.
After finishing the Premier League campaign in fourth place for the second season in a row, the Blues, who limped over the line on Sunday afternoon after losing 2-1 to Aston Villa at Villa Park, will be looking to strike lucky third time around and challenge the likes of City and Manchester United for the title.
Even though Chelsea have suffered a wobble over the past fortnight, losing three of their last four matches, there is plenty of optimism in and around Stamford Bridge after the impact head coach Thomas Tuchel has had since he took charge towards the end of January.
Considering he has achieved what he has with players that weren’t his, he deserves big amounts of praise. However, it is only natural that any head coach would want to add his own players to the squad at the first opportunity possible.
That is exactly what the German will be hoping to do this summer, with one or two areas in need of bolstering. Chelsea’s main aim is to lay their hands on a consistent source of goals, with Timo Werner’s below-par maiden season in England and the fact that Jorginho ended the Premier League campaign as the club’s top scorer with seven proving just how desperate they are to sign a new striker.
No shortage of proven goalscorers have been linked with a summer move to Stamford Bridge in recent weeks and months, including Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur ace Harry Kane.
If Chelsea are to cast their eye on signing either of those two it is almost certain to use up a huge chunk of the transfer budget made available to Tuchel. Should that prove to be the case, and the Blues, who will be looking to secure their first Champions League title in nine years on Saturday evening, do start next season with Haaland or Kane leading the line, it could mean that Tuchel will have to box clever in bolstering other areas of the team.
One area that could be in need of addressing this summer is at centre-back. Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger have all played formidable roles in transforming the Blues’ defensive standards since Tuchel came in, but changes will be needed in that department before too long.
Silva turns 37 towards the end of September, while Azpilicueta, Christensen and Rudiger are all out-of-contract in just over a year’s time. Strengthening at centre-back is poised to be another one of Tuchel’s priorities this summer, with Bayern Munich ace Niklas Sule and Raphael Varane of Real Madrid having been heavily linked with moves to Stamford Bridge in recent months.
But if Chelsea spend more than £100million on Haaland or Kane, for example, they could find it difficult to fund a deal for either Sule or Varane, leaving them to face a potentially tricky situation in defence.
However, while Chelsea and Tuchel have been storming their way to the Champions League final in the last few months, two of their very own centre-backs have been earning plaudits themselves out on loan.
The duo in question are Malang Sarr and Marc Guehi. Sarr joined Chelsea on a free transfer last summer following his exit from French club Nice and was almost immediately sent out on loan to Portuguese giants Porto to continue his development. Guehi, meanwhile, has spent this season on loan at Championship promotion hopefuls Swansea City.
The 20-year-old, who has been on the Blues’ books since 2007, has been nothing short of outstanding for the Swans, who are just one game away from securing a return to the Premier League, as they face Brentford in the Championship play-off final on Saturday at Wembley.
Although both of them are still relatively young and have more learning to do, could they be the ideal candidates to break into Tuchel’s plans next season and offer him food for thought, even if it is just to provide cover for the likes of Silva, Azpilicieta, Christensen and Rudiger?
Sarr, 22, has made 27 appearances for Porto this season, playing in both the Primeira Liga and the Champions League. As well as that, he has also been learning from one of the most experienced central-defenders still playing in the form of Portugal legend Pepe.
Guehi, on the other hand, has been nothing short of phenomenal for Swansea, playing a key role in Steve Cooper’s side’s quest to earn promotion. As well as racking up 44 appearances in all competitions, he also scooped the man of the match accolade following both legs of the Swans’ recent Championship play-off semi-final victory over Barnsley.
Considering both games featured moments of individual brilliance at the top end of the pitch, it speaks volumes about Guehi’s defensive standards.
In the second leg he won nine of his 11 duels, made three tackles and made seven clearances. He has also averaged a very impressive 1.6 interceptions, 1.7 tackles and 2.7 clearances per game this season, which prove his statistics are outstanding to say the very least.
Admittedly, he may only be 20 and the Premier League is a step up from the Championship, but with his performances proving to be so promising it could be perfect for Tuchel to have a good look at him over pre-season and make a decision on whether he stays at Stamford Bridge next term, fights for his place or is sent out on loan again.
Swansea will almost certainly try and re-sign him if they earn promotion, but Tuchel could make a costly mistake if he allows him to leave, especially on a permanent deal.
In conclusion, the signs that both Sarr and Guehi have shown this season should sway Tuchel’s decision to keep hold of them and integrate them into the first-team fold next term.
With signing a striker the top priority, making the most of Sarr and Guehi’s talents could be the wisest move possible in a bid to save the club some money and, potentially, allow them to bolster other areas of the squad either in the summer or future windows.
Source by Football London