Chelsea does not have an immediate need in the fullback/wingback department. The focus must clearly be put on shifting players out rather than bringing them in. However, a deficiency could emerge on the right as the season progresses and the smart thing to do would be to cover all bases.
James has made the right side of the Blues’ defence his own. The Englishman has usually been the first-choice fullback or wingback—despite the mid-season change in managers and systems. Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi covers for James on occasion in Tuchel’s five-man back line while Azpilicueta, a natural right back, has been moved inside to serve as a right centreback. The team lacks a natural cover for James and should Tuchel continue with his system, that would need to be addressed.
A cost-effective option would be to promote from within. Current Chelsea U23 star Valentino ‘Tino’ Livramento is seen as the next in line to link up with the first team. The youngster is partway between Hudson-Odoi and James, and is usually deployed as a wingback in Andy Myers’ system. He is pacy, effective, offers a threat high up the pitch, and can develop further under Tuchel.
If the club decides to dip into the market for a back-up, Hoffenheim’s Pavel Kaderabek could be someone worth taking a look at. The 28-year-old wingback has been a key part of the Hoffenheim squad for six seasons, playing over 150 games in the process. His is a profile that matches Chelsea’s immediate requirements—quick, a good crosser and an all-around solid player.
FBref’s scouting report puts him in elite company in terms of assists, expected assists (xA) and crosses into the 18-yard box when compared to players playing in a similar position over the last 365 days. He scores well in the shots and goals creating department too, implying his effectiveness in the attacking third. Although he is solid aerially, his defensive numbers aren’t great. Nonetheless, that should not be a major concern for Chelsea, as the current system does not place much defensive responsibility on the wingbacks.
What would you do with each of Chelsea’s fullbacks? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!