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FEATURE: Chelsea. Who is Antonio Conte targeting for a repeated season of domestic success?

After a Premier League title win for Chelsea where they stormed to the top of the table, Antonio Conte will be looking to lead his team to further success and cope with the demands of European football.

Also the team will be looking to avoid the post-title winning collapse seen in 2015/16, which culminated in Mourinho’s departure and a 10th place league finish – the second worst finish ever seen by a Premier League team following their league title win.

To do this, Chelsea will need to seek reinforcements in the transfer market to improve their squad strength and depth. But who is Antonio Conte looking at to strengthen his squad?

Romelu Lukaku

After an unsuccessful previous spell at the club for the boyhood Chelsea fan, it appears as if Lukaku will be looking to build upon his measly two Chelsea starts in the 2017/2018 season. In what could likely be the leading Premier League transfer of the summer, Chelsea have been looking towards Lukaku to lead their line, and looking into his recent goal tallies you can see why. Since the 2012/13 season, Lukaku ranks 11th for number of league goals scored across Europe’s top five leagues.

Some could argue that this shows him not to be amongst the world’s best, however with this tally being achieved before the age of 24 and in teams who have not been in the top four of their leagues – this is a remarkable achievement. At such a young age still, Lukaku would seem to be an inspired signing.

Chelsea will hope though that the striker has matured in his attitude since his previous spell, where he seemingly struggled to come to terms with the level of competition in the side. With Diego Costa linked heavily to return to Atletico and Everton having signed Sandro Ramirez, this deal seems highly probable.

Alex Sandro

Many were shocked when Chelsea signed Marco Alonso last year, the player known to us Brits as a Bolton and Sunderland left back. However Alonso managed to surpass expectations by proving how much he had developed at Fiorentina.

With the marauding fullback in the side, Chelsea only lost 2 games all season, with a highly commendable 88% win rate being achieved. Nevertheless it seems Conte will not be resting on his laurels, as Chelsea are actively pursuing another wingback in the form of Alex Sandro.

Alex Sandro has shocked the world with his impressive European performances this season, excelling with both his defensive and offensive contribution. Evidence of this is his Champions League stats of 1.2 key passes a game, balanced with 2.5 tackles a game. With the best WhoScored rating of any of Europe’s left backs, Alex Sandro has clearly demonstrated that he is among the world’s finest for his position, which makes it clear as to why Conte is looking to sign him despite Alonso’s fine season.

The rumoured £61 million may seem a hefty price tag for a defender, however Sandro is coming into the peak of his career and would undoubtedly be a positive addition to the team.

Antonio Rudiger

Seemingly a done deal for Chelsea at a cost of £34 million. Rudiger is a relatively experienced German international, despite only being 24 years of age. This international experience for a leading international team, alongside his regular selection for Roma, suggests that he is a solid player who has potential to become even better.

His adaptability is also a major bonus for Chelsea as he can cover both the centre back and right back positions; although his effectiveness in the team’s favoured attacking wingback position may be limited due to Rudiger’s naturally more defensive mind-set. This does however provide Conte with more flexibility tactically, which is no bad thing when juggling European and domestic football.

Despite looking like he could offer something different for Chelsea and be a positive young addition, it remains to be seen as to whether the Blues have better defenders waiting in the wings, which would save the club the £34 million outlay – a huge spend historically for a centre half.

For instance, Kurt Zouma showed incredible talent and maturity for his age when he was involved in the team prior to his injury in February 2016. Another defender who has shone, but this time away from London, is Andreas Christensen.

He is only 21, and yet has been ever present for Borussia Monchengladbach over the past two seasons, even achieving their player of the season award in 2015/16. With a plethora of other youth options available to Chelsea, and Abramovich apparently wanting to take advantage of the club’s youth setup following heavy investment, it seems to make more sense for the club to steer clear of Rudiger.

Tiemoue Bakayoko

After his dominate displays this season and his goal scoring performance to knock out Manchester City in the Champions League, it isn’t hard to see why Bakayoko is a man in demand. The enforcer is a tall, powerful presence in the centre of midfield, and has been aided in his development at Monaco by the former Chelsea destroyer himself – Claude Makelele.

With the central midfield options available to Chelsea at present of Fabregas, Matic and Kante; it seems peculiar that Conte would be looking further in the transfer market. However with rumours that he is willing to sell Matic to Manchester United for £40 million, the reported £35 million outlay for Bakayoko seems a very sensible decision for Chelsea.

With Bakayoko six years Matic’s junior and yet already a huge presence in the Monaco midfield, this signing seems to tick all of the boxes for Chelsea. Furthermore Conte would hope that the French combination of Bakayoko and Kante at the heart of the Blues midfield will work to a deadly effect. 

Written by Theo Atherton-Green.

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