Finally, Chelsea have managed to get a deal over the line. After a humiliating 48 hours, when the Blues were trumped not once, but TWICE in the deals to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fernando Llorente, Conte finally has an addition to the squad.
The man in question? A 25-year-old Italian who goes by the name of Davide Zappacosta. According to Sky Sports, Chelsea have agreed a £23million fee with Torino for the right wing-back, as Conte taps back into the market that he knows best.
I’m going to save you a Google and give you all you need to know about Chelsea’s new flying Italian.
So how is the Torino wing-back now on his way to Stamford Bridge? Well, Zappacosta has been regarded as one of the best full-backs in Serie A since his breakthrough with Atalanta in 2014.
His performances earned him an international call-up in 2014, as the 25-year-old was called up by… guess who? Antonio Conte.
This is already piecing itself together.
Unfortunately for Zappacosta, he has lost his place in the Torino side over the last season as Siniša Mihajlović opted to play a back four instead of a three at the back formation.
Chelsea’s new man was considered as too attacking to play as a right full-back in a back four, but managed to maintain his place in Gian Piero Ventura’s Italian setup where wing-backs are deployed with attacking in mind.
Fortunately for Chelsea, an attacking-minded wing-back is exactly what they need. The first-choice, Oxlade-Chamberlain, was in no way a conventional defender and the same can be said of current first-choice right wing-back Victor Moses.
Whilst Chelsea maintain their 3-4-3 formation, the right wing-back is not required to possess elite defending abilities and, anyway, Cesar Azpilicueta can offer that if a back four is assumed once more.
The statistical comparison
There’s no denying that Conte trusts Moses as much as any member of his starting XI. From the suburbs of the Chelsea squad, the Italian brought Moses into the spotlight and converted an average Premier League winger into an efficient, title-winning wing-back.
The Nigerian’s transformation epitomised the new-era Chelsea and ensured that Stamford Bridge was the land of the underdog.
So how does Zappacosta compare with Moses? Well defensively, here are the key statistics…
|Zappacosta v Moses|
|% Duels Won||Interceptions||Blocks||Tackles Won||Clearances|
Considering that Zappacosta is the more traditional wing-back, the statistics above are initially surprising, before you remember that Moses was playing in a Conte system.
If there’s a manager to improve a player’s defensive contributions – except Tony Pulis – it’s the Chelsea boss. All of the figures in this table are relatively close and, under Conte’s tutelage, Zappacosta could certainly surpass Moses.
In terms of attacking, this is the battle between the two…
|Zappacosta v Moses|
|Key Passes||Chances Created||Take-On |
|Pass Completion||Cross Success Rate|
Again, the results from above may surprise those of you that expected the natural winger to excel on an attacking basis.
Yet, bar take-ons, Zappacosta excels Moses in the productivity statistics which suggest that Chelsea have purchased quite the attacking threat to compete with the Nigerian.
The value to Chelsea
This is a very astute addition to Chelsea’s squad, and one that should never have come down to the final day of the transfer window.
What the Blues struggled with last year was their dependency on twelve or thirteen players. This was intensified by the fact that Conte introduced wing-backs into the team when it was impossible to enter the transfer market and buy specialists.
Once he had trained Moses and Marcos Alonso to fit the system, there were no capable back-ups.
Another issue for Chelsea last season was their dependency on the left-side of their attack. It’s hard to blame any team with Eden Hazard in the side to prioritise getting the ball to the Belgian, but it meant that attacking moves were unbalanced and, by the end of the season, teams found it easier to defend against Conte’s side.
Moses can attack, but lacks end product and Chelsea suffered from that at the back-end of last year.
If there’s one thing that Zappacosta brings to the side, it’s end product. His crossing success rate is exceptional and his 48 successful crosses in Serie A last season was the eighth highest in the league – despite only playing 29 matches.
Considering that Alvaro Morata’s Chelsea start has consisted of two headed goals – both from right-hand sided crosses – the air could be a successful route to goal for the Blues with Zappacosta on the right.
RealSport Verdict: 7/10
This is a deal that is undoubtedly going to attract the label of a ‘panic buy’, but I don’t think that would be fair. Let’s just remember the reaction to the signing of Alonso from Fiorentina last year, who was branded a Premier League ‘flop’ before he went on to star in Chelsea’s title-winning side.
Zappacosta is a player that Conte knows, trusts and sees as capable of filling a vacancy in his squad that looked doomed when Oxlade-Chamberlain rejected the Blues for Liverpool.
He’s not yet a Champions League-quality player, but neither is Moses, and the Italian international has been brought in solely to provide competition for the Nigerian.
It might keep Conte quiet for five minutes, at least…
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