Chelsea’s pursuit of a tall forward fits Antonio Conte’s approach

January has seen several exciting transfer sagas unfold with Virgil van Dijk signing for Liverpool for £75 million, followed by the sensational swap deal involving Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Now it’s Chelsea’s turn to join in the fun with the club working tirelessly on a double deal that would see the Blues secure the signing of both Emerson Palmieri and Edin Dzeko from Roma, two players who excelled in the matches against the London club in this season’s Champions League group stage.

What has accompanied this deal though is repeated links between Antonio Conte’s team and a variety of strikers on the market, all of whom having a shared physical characteristic.

Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Ashley Barnes, Richmond Boakye and latterly the former Manchester City forward. They are all over six feet in height, with it having been made abundantly clear that the Italian coach desires a tall forward in the winter window.

His attempts to sign Fernando Llorente on the summer deadline were dealt a blow when Tottenham Hotspur and Mauricio Pochettino stole a march with hours to go, it’s obvious that this is an area where Conte has desired reinforcement for some time, especially given the lack of trust he has in Michy Batshuayi.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise however, Conte has always preferred to have variety in his forward line, even stretching back to his hugely successful time with Juventus, the stereotypical ‘big-man’ has almost always been a feature in his teams.

In his debut season as coach in Turin, he had Mirko Vucinic arrive at the club in his first transfer window; he fulfilled the role for that season.

Then in 2013 Llorente arrived at the Juventus Stadium along with Dani Osvaldo who arrived six months later in January on loan from Southampton.

During his spell as Italy’s national coach, Conte struck gold when he introduced Graziano Pelle into the squad, another tall forward, the former Southampton goal-scorer would then score twice at Euro 2016.

There is a fine balance to be struck in a forward line and with Alvaro Morata hitting a poor run of form after some outstanding moments in the first half of the season, it’s obvious Chelsea need additional support.

For all the widespread scoffing as names appeared to be pulled from a tall footballer rolodex, a move to sign Dzeko appears very sensible indeed.

Despite being 31 years old, he has excelled in the Italian capital and has enjoyed two fantastic goal-scoring seasons out of three at the Stadio Olimpico. In 2016/17 he scored a grand total of 39 goals in all competitions and is well on his way to repeating such a feat with 12 in all competitions already this term.

Chelsea have a strict policy with regards to players over the age of 30, whether they are incoming signings or players already at the club getting renewed deals, the club prefers to only offer a one year contract.

It keeps the club flexible and there are options if the player’s form drops, however in the case of Dzeko he would be a marquee signing to a certain extent, there is absolutely no way the Bosnian would agree to such a short deal when his current contract with the Italian giants runs until June 2020.

What is a more interesting point in terms of looking to the future is the fact that Chelsea are placating their coach and delivering, at least in terms of profile, a player he has requested.

Many expected the Italian’s time at Stamford Bridge to come to an end once the 2017/18 season draws to a close, especially with Carlo Ancelotti waiting in the wings for a job. Yet with Chelsea seemingly doing their utmost to support their current coach, albeit six months too late, it could well be a sign that relations between the former Siena coach and his employers are improving.

This will be music to the ears of Chelsea supporters, the job Conte has done since arriving in London has been brilliant, he gets the absolute best out of the players he trusts enough to use regularly and has transformed the dressing room culture at a club that had seen multiple managers lose the support of the players over the past decade.

In footballing terms the team will improve too, Morata has struggled to shoulder the responsibility of leading the line alone for the entirety of this season; additional support will do him no harm, especially from a high calibre forward like Dzeko.


Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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