Chelsea: The Blues plug their defensive trouble as they wait patiently for Stones

The signing of Barcelona winger Pedro was the highlight of Chelsea’s transfer window while Radamel Falcao and Asmir Begovic will provide decent squad options. 19 year old Brazilian striker Kenedy arrived from Fluminese with big potential but Jose Mourinho is likely to rank a summer in which he spent long periods unsuccessfully chasing John Stones and Paul Pogba, whilst being knocked back with a late bid for Paris Saint Germain’s Marquinhos, ultimately a disappointment.

There was a pervasive feeling that having won the title at a canter last season Chelsea were lacking in spark, something that Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado both failed to solve, and Pedro, who made an immediate impact with a goal at West Brom, should provide it much-needed guile in support of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in attack.


Defensive predicament

Mourinho however, almost by surprise given they conceded 32 goals on their way to winning the title last term, the least in the league, has been alarmed by a decay in his team’s defending. 9 goals have already been shipped this term as two defeats, only one less than they suffered in the whole of last season, have already been taken in the opening four games.

In one of them, the 3-0 reversal at Manchester City, the Portuguese, for the first time in his relationship with Chelsea, substituted his captain John Terry and explained his preference for Kurt Zouma to play the second half as a requirement for more pace at the back.

For the first time Terry, who played every minute of the last campaign, was witnessing his longevity being questioned and Mourinho would be aware that he would need to seek other options to ease the burden on his centre-half who turns 35 in December.

Hence the three bids for Everton’s Stones, each one met with a stoic refusal to sell by the Merseyside club despite the 21 year old handing in a transfer request a week before the window shut. Then came two late, deadline-day bids for Marquinhos, between £25-40 million, but PSG were also unwilling to sell.


Late defensive acquisitions

Two defenders were signed by Chelsea on deadline day however, with Papy Djilobodji of Nantes coming in for £2.7 million and Reading’s Michael Hector signing for £4 million only to be loaned straight back to the Championship club for the rest of this season.

Hector is a big, strong 23 year old Jamaican international and has the added bonus of being home-grown, but had to venture out on loan 11 times before making it into the Reading side last season where he improved quickly. He is going to have improve much more however if he is to avoid the fate of Thomas Kalas, Nathaniel Chalobah, Kenneth Ormeru and Andreas Christensen in the glut of Chelsea-owned centre-halves who spend their developing years eternally heading out on loan.

Djilobodji meanwhile is likely to challenge Terry, Zouma and Gary Cahill for a centre-back slot despite not making it into Mourinho’s Champions League squad after seeing their numbers reduced because of a failure to meet their quota of eight “locally trained players”.

26 year old Djilobodji, who has played in Ligue 1 over the past two seasons for Nantes and standing at 6ft 4in fits Mourinho’s preferred billing of a powerful, physical centre-back, is a low-risk acquisition for the money involved and will offer the Portuguese coach numbers in a position he is likely to be gravely concerned about over this international break.


Waiting patiently for Stones

His worries, exacerbated by how vulnerable they looked in defeat to Crystal Palace, will be eased by the numbers now available as they wait patiently for another opportunity to prise Stones away from Goodison Park. Abdul Baba Rahman comes in for £14 million from FC Augsburg and, fresh from an impressive year in Germany where he was nominated for a place in the Bundesliga team of the season, will be an able deputy at left-back.

That possibly gives Mourinho an option to move Cesar Azpilicueta over to his favoured position of right-back in order to take Branislav Ivanovic, who has begun this campaign in wretched form, out of the firing line.

The quantity of defensive options now available to Mourinho’s overriding sense of caution that was present in the blocking of John Obi Mikel’s potential late move to either Besiktas or Juventus. The Nigerian has been resigned to a reserve role as Nemanja Matic and Ramires have both moved ahead of him in the pecking order but, unable to pull off a deal for Paul Pogba, Mourinho decided his defensive discipline could still well be required.


Djilobodji to compete for a spot

Cahill, Terry and Zouma, who still has to mature as his erroneous positional play can’t keep on being bailed out by his rapid pace, are likely to battle it out for the two centre-half slots but Djilobodji, though he remains a unknown quantity, could also have a say.

He will definitely add competition for places which Mourinho craves as he watches his team start this season conceding goals at a rate of two per game.

Stones remains the long-term target but Chelsea will hope they have enough in place to tide them over as they wait for his signature.



Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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