Are Chelsea’s foundations starting to creak?
According to a famous old saying, ‘offence wins games but defence wins you Championships’. Said statement has stood the test of time, across a number of sporting fields, and rings as true today as it has ever done. In an era where eye-watering sums of money are invested in prolific strikers and playmakers with match-altering ability, success will always need to be built on the sturdiest of foundations.
Find a reliable goalkeeper and a collection of no-nonsense centre-halves and you will not go far wrong. In recent times, Chelsea have been able to tick all of those boxes, allowing them to reap the rewards of some well-sewn recruitment.
The Blues may not be contenders in the 2021-22 Premier League title race, but they are 13/2 shots for Champions League glory in betting on football markets and will not surrender that crown without a fight. Thomas Tuchel’s side are also well fancied in football predictions focused on another quest for FA Cup glory, with a team that has graced four of the last five finals in that competition priced at 4/1 to get their hands on the oldest piece of silverware available in the English game.
The immediate future for west London heavyweights appears rosy, but are some alarming cracks starting to form at Stamford Bridge? Edouard Mendy looks to have a long-term future between the sticks, but change is on the cards in front of him. How sweeping that is remains to be seen.
Three members of Chelsea’s defence – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are all proven performers at the very highest level and have taken in over 800 appearances for Chelsea between them – winning just about every major honour available along the way.
There is, however, a very real chance that no member of a distinguished defensive triumvirate will still be on the Blues’ books next season. As things stand, all three are preparing to dive head-first into a free agent pool this summer.
Ordinarily, such a situation would be no cause for serious alarm as one of the biggest spenders of the modern era looks to throw more money at any problems which arise. Questions are being asked, though, of how big a collective budget will be once ownership batons are passed on behind the scenes.
Funds are unlikely to be in short supply whoever calls the shots, but replacing three senior stars who have been an integral part of Chelsea’s defence in recent years within one window – with focus narrowed on a single position – would be a big ask even for a club of Chelsea’s stature.
Thiago Silva has committed to a 12-month contract, but he is not getting any younger and cannot be expected to play every minute of every game on multiple fronts. Assistance for the Brazilian will be required, either from those already at the club or new additions drafted in from afar.
Ripping the heart out of an established defensive unit would be far from ideal for Tuchel and Co, with important keystones being removed from a structure that could collapse if suitable repair work is not carried out.
Chelsea have worked hard to put foundations of further trophy challenges in place, but they are starting to creak a little and could buckle under mounting pressure if don’t work towards bringing in new players to fit in their defence.