Chelsea could look to Atletico ace to solve wingback issues

SEVILLA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 18: Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Sevilla v Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on December 18, 2021 in Sevilla Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
SEVILLA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 18: Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Sevilla v Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on December 18, 2021 in Sevilla Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Ever since the news about Ben Chilwell undergoing surgery and being sidelined for the rest of the season broke, rumors linking Chelsea to a plethora of left wingbacks across Europe have resurfaced. Names of Sergino Dest, Lucas Digne, Theo Hernandez and Nicolas Tagliafico have all come up along with rumors about a loan recall for either Emerson or Ian Maatsen. In the grand scheme of things, signing a player makes more sense considering Maatsen is still in his formative years and Lyon has a buyout clause for Emerson.

All the players mentioned above have similar profiles. They are all attack-minded fullbacks with experience playing on the left flank, great on the overlap and may chip in with goals and assists every now and then. They would do what Chilwell did before his injury. Although there might be a very interesting option for Chelsea to consider alongside the aforementioned names, a move for Atletico Madrid star Yannick Carrasco.

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Chelsea could turn to an Atletico Madrid star to solve its left wingback issues

Many fans might remember Carrasco as the player Antonio Conte wanted at Chelsea some five years back, when the Italian was still coaching in west London. The Blues were linked to Carrasco back in 2016 but a move failed to take materialize. Since then, Carrasco has spent two seasons in China, returned to Atletico Madrid and won his first Spanish league title. A move to China at the age of 25 is not exactly seen as a good sign but the Belgian was always destined to be at the very top of world football. He was an integral part of Diego Simeone’s most successful Champions League campaign to date, scoring in the competition’s semifinal and final against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively.

Carrasco was shifted to left wingback when El Cholo decided to switch to a 3-5-2 from a 4-4-2 at the start of the 2020/21 season and Carrasco has yet to looked out of place in his new role. He finished the season with six goals, 10 assists and one La Liga title. Carrasco is a very different player than those linked to Chelsea at the moment. Nevertheless, he might be an interesting option to explore. He could offer another dimension to the way Thomas Tuchel’s side attacks.

Carrasco is a silky smooth dribbler, someone who likes to beat defenders with his trickery, close control and incredible speed. He has a skillset that is very unique for a wingback. Many would call him a defensive winger rather than a wingback. Before Chilwell got injured, Tuchel also used a system where the wingbacks inverted and often got into goalscoring positions, something Carrasco could do brilliantly with his experience playing as an attacker. Carrasco makes 1.4 key passes per 90 minutes, which means he ranks in the 86th percentile for the statistic. He also ranks in the 95th percentile for both shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions per 90 minutes when compared to other wingbacks. All of these statistics point toward the 28-year-old being an excellent creator. Additionally, he could combine with fellow Belgian, Romelu Lukaku.

Players coached by Simeone are often put under the challenge of playing multiple positions and roles. This makes Atletico Madrid players among the most versatile players in Europe. Saul playing for the Blues as a box-to-box midfielder, No. 6 and as cover at left wingback is proof of that theory. Carrasco offers similar versatility, which would be hugely beneficial to the Chelsea squad. He can play as a wingback, wide midfielder and winger in any given game. Tuchel is finally beginning to experiment with a 4-4-2 formation, Carrasco could help switch formations in-game.

Often when attacking players play in a wingback position, questions are raised about their defensive contribution to the team. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic have both filled in as wingbacks and have done their part fairly well. But in some cases, they have looked a little out of position or just a yard late to prevent a cross. At Atletico Madrid, players are instructed to run back and get bodies behind the ball as soon as they lose possession. Carrasco does leave a little to be desired in the defensive part of his game, but in terms of positioning, he possesses that quality.

Apart from Digne, all players on the aforementioned “shortlist” are yet to reach their respective primes. They are all in their early 20s and could be a threat to Ian Maatsen’s first team hopes in the next few seasons. An academy graduate should indeed be able to compete for his place in the team, but there is a possibility Chelsea could end up with five left wingbacks (new arrival, Chilwell, Emerson, Maatsen and Marcos Alonso) in the summer if it were to sign a player permanently in the January transfer window. Bringing in a new left wingback, as opposed to a utility player like Carrasco, will only make it tough for the immensely talented Maatsen to make a case for his inclusion in the first team. Carrasco is 28, and not primarily a left-sided defender, which means that he won’t be a threat to Maatsen if and when the latter does get a chance in the first team.

Carrasco is an exceptional, versatile and consistent player. He is in his prime and has a skill set that no one in his position at Chelsea possesses. In the end though, Carrasco is a first team regular at Atletico Madrid and it will be tough to get him to join the Blues in a January transfer window. Nevertheless, he should be worth at least an inquiry from Tuchel and the board.

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