Football Features

Three ways Chelsea could line up after the transfer window

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:24, 3 June 2024

It’s back to square one for Chelsea.

After showing signs of progress in 2024, securing a sixth-placed finish and a spot in the Europa Conference League, the Blues parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino.

One of the reasons for the departure by mutual consent, according to reports, was the fact that Pochettino wanted more say in the club’s transfers. The board, instead, wanted a manager to work with what they gave him, among other factors such as statistical performance.

Chelsea have already hired Pochettino’s replacement, bringing Enzo Maresca aboard after he helped Leicester win the Championship title and return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. The Italian will be keen to quickly strengthen his squad as he hopes to return Chelsea to the title-chasing pack next season.

The Blues are constantly linked with names, some that you could see happening and others that are surely pipedreams. The question is, how could their squad look come the end of the summer transfer window?


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Dream

One of the biggest problems for Chelsea last season was their finishing, and that was reportedly one of the reasons why the board wanted to part ways with Pochettino. The Blues ranked fourth in the Premier League when it came to big chances last season, having 122 in total. Only Manchester City (124), Liverpool (128) and Newcastle United (134) had more. However, Chelsea missed 73 of their big chances, with only Liverpool (79) missing more.

Nicolas Jackson was the biggest culprit for this, missing 24 of his 35 big chances. He did also score the most non-penalty big chances for Chelsea, and ended the season in good form. But Chelsea are being linked with a new striker, and Victor Osimhen appears to be top of the wishlist. Of course, the Nigerian is top of almost everyone’s wishlist, but Chelsea will feel their need is greater than most.

Despite suffering with injury and then being called up for the African Cup of Nations, Osimhen still finished in the top three goalscorers in Serie A. The Nigerian netted 15 goals in 25 games, averaging 0.68 per 90 minutes. He also averaged 4.07 shots per 90 and 1.85 shots on target. In direct comparison, Osimhen did miss 15 of his 28 big chances, though that is a better average than Jackson.

Another attacker Chelsea are being linked to is Michael Olise. The Frenchman is the hot topic at the moment and it feels as though Crystal Palace have a fight on their hands to keep him. Chelsea’s interest is so high that, according to reports, they planed to sign him no matter who they hired as their new manager. Olise had an injury-hit season but thrived under Oliver Glasner and ended the campaign on a high, with 1.12 direct goal involvements per 90 in the Premier League. Cole Palmer is a guarantee to complete the front three, with his 33 goal involvements the highest of any player in the 2023/24 Premier League.

Moving back into the midfield, the dream is that Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez learn to play together. The pair set Chelsea back a combined £200million and they haven’t seen much return on their investment. They have looked good individually, when the other hasn’t been on the pitch, but they are yet to click as a partnership. Putting them into a trio might help and Romeo Lavia could be an interesting one to play in the holding role.

The Belgian played a grand total of 32 minutes for Chelsea in a season dominated by injuries after he signed from Southampton. But Lavia and Maresca have history. Maresca was in charge of the Man City youth team while Lavia was at the club, and he played as one of the double-pivot as the youth side followed Pep Guardiola’s 4-2-3-1. It’s worth noting Palmer also played under Maresca at Man City.

In defence, Chelsea will be hoping to get a full season out of captain and vice-captain Reece James and Ben Chilwell. Under Thomas Tuchel, the Blues were at their best when James and Chilwell were at their best. Since both started struggling with injuries, Chelsea just haven’t been the same. According to reports, Chelsea are eyeing a new left-back, but there don’t seem to be too many available — even when looking at dream options.

Chelsea are also interested in a centre-back, to replace the outgoing Thiago Silva. None of Chelsea’s centre-backs really shone last season and the one who did most, Trevoh Chalobah, looks set to be sold by the board. One potential name, to partner academy graduate Levi Colwill, is Gleison Bremer. According to reports, Chelsea are considering a £60m move for the Brazilian, who made 84 headed clearances in Serie A and won possession 115 times in the defensive third — the latter the third-highest in the division. At 27, Bremer is still just about to hit his peak while also bringing much-needed experience to Chelsea’s defence.

The Blues are also reportedly in the market for a new goalkeeper, with Jan Oblak one of the names linked. He is the best of those mentioned in a list which also includes Jordan Pickford and Wojciech Szczesny, and a fresh start for the Slovenian could be just what Chelsea need.

Realistic

A more realistic transfer window will see Chelsea utilise the large majority of their current squad, having spent billions on young players last summer. The Blues do also have added scrutiny on their finances now that they are back in UEFA competitions. But that doesn’t mean there still can’t be new additions.

Another name Chelsea have been linked to is Leeds winger Crysencio Summerville. The Dutchman was directly involved in 29 goals for Leeds in the Championship, scoring 20 and providing nine assists. Only Sammie Szmodics and Adam Armstrong netted more goals than the Dutchman, and it was just the latter ahead in total direct goal involvements. Unfortunately, it was also Armstrong who finished on the winning side in the play-off final, keeping Leeds in the Championship. And that may be good news for Chelsea.


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Although Summerville is still only 22, will he want to spend another season in the second tier? Chelsea are among the teams hoping he wants Premier League football in 2024/25, and he can join in their attack alongside Palmer and Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman’s first season at Chelsea was limited by injury but he did show glimpses of what he can do. Although he’s not an out-and-out striker, if Maresca had to pick between Nkunku and Jackson, he’d probably be told to go for the former.

Again, Maresca will have to figure out how to make Caicedo and Fernandez work. But for the third midfield slot, there are other options from within. The most likely could be Cesare Casadei. The Italian spent the first half of last season on loan at Leicester, playing under Maresca, before being recalled. Although he was limited to just 71 minutes in the Premier League, Casadei was among the Chelsea squad and did play 11 times in the league for the Blues.

“They asked me if I was happy to come back and I said “yes” straight away because to come back here to Chelsea was my target. My goal was to be able to be here, to train every day in the first team,” Casadei told Chelsea’s official website of returning to the Blues.

“I wasn’t really expecting the call – I was just doing my journey with Leicester and I was just trying to be focused on that and not think about other things. But when they called, I was really happy and really excited.

“There are so many really good players that I knew that I would be able to learn a lot, even if I didn’t get a lot of time in games. Still, training with them every day makes me improve, for sure.”

Further back, Chelsea look on the verge of completing a move for Tosin Adarabioyo. The 26-year-old is a free agent this summer, leaving Fulham at the end of his contract. He played 20 times in the Premier League last season, missing the start of the campaign due to injury. When he did play, Adarabioyo averaged 4.45 clearances per 90 minutes in the Premier League, alongside 3.17 aerial duels won and 1.39 possessions won in the defensive third. Aerially he would be a big boost for Chelsea, as no player with at least 1,000 minutes for the Blues won more aerial duels per 90 in the Premier League. And only Axel Disasi (69.67%) and Levi Colwill (68.75%) won a higher percentage of their aerial duels than Adarabioyo’s 67.02%.

In goal, it’s interesting that Chelsea are looking for a new man. While Robert Sanchez wasn’t the most solid of first-choice goalkeepers, Djordje Petrovic did perform admirably in his absence. Chelsea fans felt their defence was much more secure with the Serbian in net. So what harm could come from Chelsea giving him another season to prove himself?

Wildcard

How about a bit of a risk? Again, it would be silly for Chelsea to completely throw away what they were building towards the end of the season — letting the manager go was bad enough. So the main skeleton of the Chelsea team will be there, with a few bold moves involved. Nicolas Jackson did improve towards the end of the campaign and should deserve more time to show he can be the man to lead the line. This would be more of a fluid front line, though, with Jackson, Nkunku and Palmer all capable of switching positions to cause opposition defences issues.

In midfield, Caicedo and Fernandez are joined this time by Souleymane Sidibe. That may not be a name many fans recognise, but scouts across Europe have had their eyes on him. Chelsea, Monaco, Liverpool and Manchester United are just some of the teams linked with making a move for Sidibe this summer.

Sidibe is just 17 years old and is the son of former Stoke City forward Mamady Sidibe. That link remained as Sidibe, who was born in Paris, has come through the academy at Stoke. He now plays for their under-21 side, but has made a handful of first-team appearances. Sidibe also represents England internationally, playing for the under-17s and under-18s so far.

While capable of playing as a No.8, Sidibe spent most of the 2023/24 season playing in the holding role for Stoke’s U21 in Premier League 2, with one goal and four assists. And that’s likely where Chelsea would see him. At the back, Chelsea do have other options, with both Malo Gusto and Marc Cucurella performing well in 2023/24. Gusto ensured that Chelsea didn’t miss James as much as they should have and is good competition for the Blues captain, especially when you remember he’s only just turned 21. And Cucurella did well in the final matches of the season as an inverted left-back, slotting into a central midfield role.

Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile represent another potential centre-back partnership, in front of a new goalkeeper. James Trafford is another name linked with a move to Chelsea. The Englishman did well for Burnley despite their Premier League relegation and has a list of suitors chasing him. The risk here is that Trafford is still only 21 and there would be a lot of responsibility on him as first-choice goalkeeper for a big club at his young age. Trafford did make 106 saves in the 2023/24 Premier League, but his 62 goals conceded did come from an Expected Goals on Target Conceded tally of 54.53.

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