In the depths of a summer full of transfer confusion for Chelsea fans, it seemed at one point that Tiemoué Bakayoko might follow the footsteps of Romelu Lukaku and break blue hearts by moving to Manchester United.
A month long transfer saga had been held up by the world’s longest medical; Bakayoko had been recovering from a minor knee injury he had at the end of last season. Tweets had been posted with the location showing Manchester, while the man himself had been running a troll campaign to throw fans off his scent.
The story so far
Though it turns out Bakayoko never had the intention of becoming anything but a blue boy, his tomfoolery gave an insight into the sort of person he is. While enjoying his football, he is also one to keep outside interests – sometimes to the detriment of the former.
When arriving at Monaco after a transfer from Rennes, he wasn’t wholly concentrated on his football. However, it was a Chelsea legend in Claude Makelele who got him on the right track when he was brought into the Monaco set up as technical director.
From there he continued the promising development he had shown as a junior, becoming an essential part of the Monaco side that made the Champions League semifinals. Unfortunately for Monaconians, from there he joined the mass exodus that has seen other key pieces of their team move away.
Already showing his blue blood
A childhood Chelsea fan, it’s fitting that Makelele was one of the men to get him on the straight and narrow. It also meant that he understood the gravity of some advice he received from another club legend. With the crucial clash against Tottenham looming and the Chelsea squad thin on numbers, Bakayoko hadn’t fully recovered from his knee surgery yet, having only just begun full training.
Chelsea blog We Ain’t Got No History reported that Bakayoko had spoken to Didier Drogba about the upcoming clash when Drogba told him how important the game was for the club. With that in mind, he informed Antonio Conte that, against medical advice, he would be able to play on Sunday, saying “if you need me, I will run for 90 minutes and worry about it later”.
Any Chelsea fans worried about Bakayoko need only that knowledge to be absolved of all concerns for their new midfielder’s commitment to his new home. There has been a lot made about Matic’s sale to Manchester United, and while it’s unadvisable to strengthen a rival, Sunday’s performance gave cause to believe that there will be an upgrade through the middle of the park this year.
A solid start
Bakayoko is a raw prospect, and his discipline gave some reason for concern. We should expect a few cards this year shown to the #14 jersey, and it’s worth noting the free kick he gave away at the end of the box did result in a Tottenham goal (even if it was a Blue shirt that dealt the strike that directed it towards goal).
However, if that was the level of performance we can expect from Bakayoko after a week’s training in a new system and with one leg, expect great things to be coming from the man by December. He brings to the team a physicality that Chelsea haven’t seen from one of their own for years, and will only grow into the midfield role.
While he wasn’t spectacularly creative in the weekend, the Chelsea squad seen on the weekend wasn’t geared towards offence, nor did they see much of the ball. In a more free-flowing contest expect that to change, though in a tough contest he can come into his element.
Powering to the title?
It’s now created a midfield wall that looks set to be the basis of Chelsea’s title charge. Conte won’t always employ his ultra defensive catenaccio system, but with reigning PFA player of the year N’Golo Kante’s nuance in tackling and the raw physicality of Bakayoko, they have a barrier in the middle of the pitch to be reckoned with.
It will allow the defence to play in a freer fashion, while also acting as a failsafe should the attack minded players on the squad such as Hazard, Morata or Fabregas to go to work.
Yes, Matic has been in superb form for two games with Manchester United, but it’s causing many fans to look back on his days at Chelsea with rose-tinted glasses. Bakayoko isn’t only an upgrade, but with time to grow in the Conte System and as a footballer, there’s no boundary on what he can grow into.
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