Not since Roman Abramovich first walked through the door at Stamford Bridge nearly 20 years ago has there been such a summer of change at Chelsea. Not only is there a new owner in place at the club, Thomas Tuchel is faced with a comprehensive rebuild of large parts of his team. There is a lot of work to be done before the transfer window closes.
Most pressing is the need for new defenders at Chelsea this summer. Antonio Rudiger has already departed for Real Madrid after running down his contract while Andreas Christensen is already confirmed to be on his way out as well with Barcelona believed to be interested in signing the Dane as a free agent.
Cesar Azpilicueta triggered a one-year contract extension earlier this year, but there is still speculation that the Chelsea captain could also leave before the start of the 2022/21 season. This would see the Blues lose three first team defenders and give Tuchel an almighty task to forge a new backline in the matter of just a few weeks.
Jules Kounde has been linked with Chelsea for over a year and the Frenchman would be a good fit for Tuchel’s team. Kounde is comfortable playing in a back three and would also give Chelsea another option in the right wing back position. His ability on the ball would compensate for what was lost through the exit of Azpilicueta and Rudiger in particular.
Matthijs de Ligt has emerged as a target for Chelsea even if Juventus insist the Dutchman will cost a transfer fee of £120m. Much like Kounde, de Ligt is good on the ball and would give Chelsea a way to play out from the back. There is also potential for the Dutch international to improve further given that he is still only 22.
Torino’s Gleison Bremer enjoyed an excellent 2021/22 campaign and has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs, including Chelsea. Like Kounde, Bremer is accustomed to playing in a back three and would give the Blues a lot on both sides of the ball. He would also be a cheaper option than Kounde and de Ligt.
New owner Todd Boehly has pledged to provide Chelsea with substantial transfer funds this summer, but with expensive moves for Raheem Sterling and Raphinha already in the works there might not be unlimited money to rebuild the defence. This could be a problem for a team Tuchel has built on a strong backline since his appointment.
“Normally in this time of the season you are contacting players, you find out and get a feeling, you meet and have discussions, dialogue and feedback,” Tuchel admitted when asked if the ownership situation had hampered recruitment efforts. “You know who’s committed, you find your targets or you sign your own players and go from there to the next step. Right now we have an idea but unfortunately the guys don’t know that we have this idea, nor do the clubs.”
Chelsea still have Thiago Silva on the books, but the 37-year-old can’t play every minute of every game as he might have done earlier in his career. Trevoh Chalobah has proved his worth under Tuchel, certainly in the back three system, but is still only 22. He’s not ready to be a central pillar of Tuchel’s team.
The need for additions is clear, but Chelsea might have to stretch their budget. A big name defensive signing, like Kounde or de Ligt, might give the Blues some much-needed presence, but shrewd recruitment is required to remould a squad, and a club, that has changed a lot over the last few weeks and months.