Five contenders for Chelsea’s defensive changing of the guard

Despite Thomas Tuchel opting to play with a more traditional back four last weekend against Spurs, it is likely he will return to the now staple back five in the future. With Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen all out of contract in the summer and with Thiago Silva and Marcos Alonso both out of contract the following year, it’s time for the Chelsea board and Club Director Marina Granovskaia to look at a few potential replacements for the next few seasons.

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Andreas Christensen

A bit of a cop out with the first selection, however Andreas Christensen has been a part of Chelsea for the last nine years since his move from Danish club Brøndby on a free transfer, and once his high demands can be met, this is a no brainer for Chelsea.

The 6ft 2 centre-half should be heading into his prime years as a footballer and also thrives in a system that highlights his underrated ability on the ball. Amongst Europe’s top five leagues, Christensen ranks in the top 10 percent of expected assists, pass completion and interceptions out of all centre halves per 90 minutes.

To add to his already proven versatility, the Dane has also proven himself to be more than capable of playing in a back four, on the right side of a back three or in the middle of a three as he does with the Danish national side. Whatever about spending £40-60 million on new players, tying down the Cobham graduate should be a priority for Chelsea.

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Nico Schlotterbeck

In recent years, SC Freiburg have produced a number of former and current Premier League players, from Robin Koch to Çağlar Söyüncü to the ever-loved Papiss Demba Cissé. However, 22 year-old Nico Schlotterbeck is tipped to be the best defensive prospect to come out of Germany since Jonathan Tah or Niklas Süle.

Again, Schlotterbeck is an elite ball playing centre-half, even at such a young age. The left sided centre half is currently continuing on from the great potential he showed at Union Berlin on loan last season, with his parent club currently pushing to secure Champions League football for the first time in Freiburg’s history.

Already called up to Germany’s senior side, the 6ft 3 centre-half has got at least one effort on goal (1.43), over two tackles (2.41) and over two interceptions (2.69) this season per 90 minutes over a very large sample-size to boot.

It’s very rare to see a centre half so both capable on the ball, but also so dominant physically as Schlotterbeck is. Whilst he may set Chelsea back over £30-40 million pounds, the 22 year-old should be worth every penny both short and long-term.

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Jules Koundé

I know what you’re thinking, a 5ft 10 centre-half in the Premier League will surely be eaten for breakfast.

However, Jules Koundé is one of the most composed centre halves in world football on the ball, but plays as if his life was on the line without it. The diminutive defender makes up for his lack of height with his elite jumping ability which sees him win a little over three (3.30) aerial battles per game which sees him in the top 20% of Europe’s centre backs.

With the ball at his feet, Koundé is pure poetry in motion, with him being one of the best dribblers (0.89 per game) and progressive passers (4.10 per game) in Europe. The French international also is a menace in the opposition area from set-pieces as well with 1.42 touches in the penalty area per game, something which Chelsea have struggled with recently.

Whilst Koundé would cost the most of these options at a whopping £70 million, it’s arguable that he is the best possible fit of the lot of these suggestions.

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Matthijs De Ligt

Hard to believe that the former Ajax defender is still only 22, having burst onto the scene five years ago, the former captain still has so much time left in his young career.

Indeed, Matthijs De Ligt seemed a shoe-in to become an all-round great centre half, but it is also hard to create a positive narrative around a player who has probably not improved as much as he would have liked to have done in recent years.

The Dutch international isn’t as natural a fit for Chelsea perhaps as some of the aforementioned talent, but none the less, the rumours surrounding a possible to transfer to Stamford Bridge are consistently being weaved.

A towering figure in the air with a knack for scoring important goals, a true old-fashioned defender: win your headers, win your tackles type player.

De Ligt could learn an awful lot from a year under Thiago Silva’s wing, and at a relatively cut price of around £50 million, the Juventus defender has enough upside to make the deal worthwhile.

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Niklas Süle

Chelsea are potentially going to lose an awful lot due to players being out of contract and the Bosman rule. However, they also can also reap the rewards of such a rule.

Look no further than the ‘Beast of Bayern’ – Niklas Süle.

Standing at 6ft 5, the German international is both powerful and quick – with regular appearances amongst the fastest runners on Bundesliga match days.

The 4 time Bundesliga winner has even filled in at right-back on occasion for Bayern over the last 2 campaigns, meaning there would be little to no issue slotting in at the right of a back 3.

Having spent the early days of his career at Hoffenheim at the left side of the back 3, the 26 year old represents a more experienced option with the ability to play on the ball too – over 5 progressive passes per game.

Last but certainly not least, with a potential free transfer for one of Europe’s top centre-halves on the cards, Niklas Süle seems the most sensible financial option of any.

However, it’s likely that Chelsea will have to splash the cash over the next few windows in order to prepare for the potential departures. Do you think any of the above players will eventually stay at or join Chelsea in the coming months ? Leave your comments down below.

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Mark O'Connor

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