Chelsea’s summer is becoming increasingly reminiscent of a man banging his head against a wall. Every week, new and old targets are put into the firing line by the English media, with bids constantly being ‘prepared’ or ‘considered’, but ending in little fruition. One of the principal positions on Antonio Conte’s ‘to improve list’ is the wing-back roles.
The Blues have missed out on Danilo, Dani Alves and Kyle Walker already this summer, whilst moves for Alex Sandro, Danny Rose and João Cancelo are looking less likely than seeing Diego Costa give his boss a hug. Chelsea’s recruitment team must look deeper into the market – arguably because of their own inefficiencies – and the price-range is becoming tighter by the day.
Southampton have been the scope of everyone’s binoculars this summer, with the league’s top clubs aiming to pinch wantaway captain Virgil van Dijk at the first sign of weakness. However, the Saints are standing firmer than ever before and, unless somebody stumps up over £70m, the Dutch centre-back is staying put.
Yet St. Marys may still prove to be fruitful for Chelsea, as they are rumoured to be targeting Portuguese right-back Cedric Soares.
A dark horse
Chelsea’s first contact with Cedric was back in September 2014, when the Blues came up against his old club Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League group stage. José Mourinho’s side came away from Lisbon with a gritty 1-0 win, with their star player Eden Hazard slightly battered after a tough battle with Sporting’s right-back. On the night, that very right-back, Cedric, made more tackles and fouls than any of his teammates; this wasn’t your dainty continental full-back.
Three years later, and the Portuguese international is an established Premier League full-back, making 53 league starts in two years on the south coast with Southampton. He hasn’t been in the mainstream spotlight, with praise often deflected to teammate Ryan Bertrand, but has won a number of admirers for his consistently solid performances for the Saints. Tottenham Hotspur have been credited with an interest, and now Chelsea are circling St. Mary’s.
Perfect support for Moses
Many will argue that Chelsea don’t need to improve on the flanks, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso proving to be two of the most unlikely title heroes last year, but additions are certainly needed. Teams started to work Moses out in the back-end of last season, and Chelsea’s right-wing became a much less efficient attacking channel; the burden was shifted further onto Eden Hazard’s shoulders.
With that aspect of Moses’ game practically nullified, his value to the team was of a defensive ilk. He would be the first to admit that this is by far the weakest half of his skill-set, and he quickly became a more obvious weak link in Chelsea’s line-up. The ideal situation would be to buy a starter for the wing-back role, and be able to use Moses in more impact situations.
Up there with the best
Cedric would be an ideal player to fulfil this responsibility. He is a balanced full-back that impresses across the board with his attacking and defensive contributions. He may not be spectacular, but name a ‘Conte favourite’ that is…
To highlight the Euro 2016 winner’s capabilities, here is a comparison* between Cedric and his fellow top Premier League right-backs:
|Passes Blocked||Crosses Blocked||Key Passes per game||Accurate Crosses per game|
For a Southampton full-back to make over one key pass per game – and 39 in total – is impressive in itself, and begs the question as to what Cedric could be capable in Chelsea’s system. Under Conte, the 25-year-old would be further exposed to the ball and his attacking capabilities would be able to be developed further.
Chelsea fans can’t kid themselves, Cedric is no Dani Alves, but at this stage of the window, when top-class targets are few and far between, the Southampton man would be an incredibly astute piece of business for Conte. Against higher quality opposition or better individual wingers, Cedric could double-up with Cesar Azpilicueta to make an impermeable wall on Chelsea’s right-side. It would be a subtle but very key upgrade.
If rumours are to be believed, Chelsea are opening the bidding at £15m. Southampton are too smart to value their gem at such a low price, but even if they do manage to drive Chelsea up a further £10m then they will only reach £25m, which in this market would be a fair price for one of the best right-backs in the Premier League. In a blue shirt, Cedric could soar…
* All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
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