Chelsea boss Antonio Conte invested in the England international in an attempt to replenish the depth of the squad after Nemanja Matic’s £40m move to Manchester United left a gaping void in the centre of the park.
Initially laughed off as a panic purchase, Drinkwater could have the tactical nous necessary to fulfil Chelsea’s ambition of retaining the Premier League title.
Chelsea only had three recognised central midfielders prior to the buy and it could prove far more successful than first perceived. RealSport explain why.
Accustomed to the Premier League
Given Matic was sold to United a few weeks prior to the deadline, there’s the argument that Conte should have been more prepared when it came to replacing the Serb. In doing so, the Italian, given his vast knowledge of Serie A, could have looked a little closer to home for another central midfielder.
He probably could have saved Roman Abramovich a few pounds in doing so, such is the inflation in the English market, particularly for homegrown players.
Does that necessarily mean he should have looked across the continent?
However, in Drinkwater, he has a player who is fully accustomed to the Premier League and knows what it takes to mount a title challenge, having won the crown two seasons earlier with Leicester.
The 27-year-old may never have made the grade at Old Trafford, but he has prior big club experience, having spent four years with United, so at least has some understanding of what it takes to play for a club of Chelsea’s stature.
The Conte blueprint
His style of play fits the Conte thesis perfectly.
Drinkwater has a desire to play the ball forward at electrifying pace and his underlying work rate bodes well with the Italian.
Unsurprisingly playing for a counter-attacking Leicester side, over half of Drinkwater’s attempted passes went forwards (64.2%) at a success rate of 78%.
He gets his head up and looks to launch quick counters. He also completed more passes than any other Leicester player last season (1,312).
Additionally, 60 clearances, 40 interceptions and 55 tackles last season are a testament to his work ethic off the ball.
At 27-years-old, Drinkwater is approaching his prime and Conte has a history in nurturing his midfielders throughout their older years. Glance back to his multiple terms at Juventus, including players such as Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, all of whom were guided under Conte in their later years.
Closing out games
Drinkwater acts as the type of player you can bring on whether winning or losing and he’ll have a job to play. If nothing else, he adds to the hard yearned competition for places that managers so ravenously crave. It ensures that the fellow midfielders’, Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko, performance levels do not drop.
While we all know the Manchester United academy product is not the most prolific in front of goal with only 13 league goals to his name, his ball playing ability is second to none.
Drinkwater is exactly the calm and composed midfielder you’d like to bring on late in a game to close out a winning result, carefully retaining possession without attempting anything too risky.
Having won the title under Italian Claudio Ranieri in 2015/16, Drinkwater definitely has the required intelligence to play for a meticulous Italian manager such as Conte, having no problems adhering to Ranieri’s tactical demands.
The Kante reunion
Drinkwater’s arrival sees him reinstate his midfield partnership with N’Golo Kante. The pair dominated games for Leicester and in doing so accumulated 74 of the 81 points that led to Leicester winning the title in 2016.
In doing so, Drinkwater played his best football. He had the Frenchman to patrol the area his forward thinking led him to vacate, and it provided him with further time on the ball to pick the best pass. Reuniting the duo at Stamford Bridge could well rekindle Drinkwater’s best form.
Drinkwater played in 35 of the 38 league games leading up to the crown and if selected, he could make his debut against his former side this Saturday.
Although the Englishman isn’t the most of illustrious names to grace the Premier League, he could still prove to be of importance.
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