With Antonio Conte continuing to stick with his tried and trusted 3-4-3 formation, Marcos Alonso has been a staple in the Chelsea side since he signed from Fiorentina last summer. However, with the return of Champions League football to Stamford Bridge this year, as well as the hope of long domestic cup runs, Alonso will be hard pushed to be able to play every game at his best, and with youngster Kennedy the current backup, Conte must look to prioritise signing a dependable deputy for Alonso when the transfer window rolls around in January.
Abandon the Brazilian
Throughout the most recent transfer window, Chelsea failed in a well-publicised pursuit of Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro. A bid of €70million was reportedly rejected by the Turin club, which would have been a world record amount for a defender. However, Italian clubs have a tendency to play hardball when selling to English teams (see also Chelsea’s failed pursuit of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly), and if such a fee couldn’t prise the defender away, Chelsea should accept defeat and look to new alternatives come January.
Admittedly, Sandro is an exceptional player and it is likely he would have started ahead of Alonso after he acclimatised to life in London. However, with the Brazilian seemingly being a no-go for now, there are a number of players across Europe who can certainly give Alonso some much-needed competition in the left wing-back role.
Whilst Juventus remain unlikely to sell to Chelsea, there are several other options the Blues should look at from Serie A that would not dent the back balance quite as much. Emerson Palmieri of Roma would be an astute signing, having only just returned to Roma’s squad following an ACL injury. Emerson may face an uphill battle to oust Aleksandar Kolarov from the starting XI, with the Serbian currently in a rich vein of form. Like Sandro, Emerson is an explosive Brazilian wing-back, with bundles of energy and a real attacking flair. A bid of £25 million may be enough to tempt Roma into selling the 23-year-old, who may not be content with a place on the bench in the Italian capital.
Elsewhere, Faouzi Ghoulam of Napoli would be a luxury, albeit unlikely signing, given how difficult I Ciucciarelli proved to be during the eventually failed transfer of Koulibaly to London. Instead, Dalbert Henrique of Inter Milan could be the go-to man for Chelsea. Having only just joined the Nerazzurri from Nice back in August, it may be too soon to pry the Brazilian away from a Milan, but a bid upwards of £30 million could be enough to tempt Inter into selling, as the move would result in a large profit for the club. Dalbert is aged only 23, and would represent an exciting long-term prospect for the Blues.
Those Outside of the Box
Looking a little closer to home, a player who currently plays for the red half of Manchester may be an intriguing option for the Blues. Matteo Darmian is as solid as they come and could fulfil either the left or right wing-back roles for Chelsea. He is currently a bit-part player for Man United, and struggles for any consistent game time under José Mourinho, with Ashley Young currently (and surprisingly) excelling in the left-back role at Old Trafford. Given the recent sale of Nemanja Matić to the Red Devils, Chelsea may feel they are owed and a bid of around £15-20 million could be enough to force United to part ways with the Italian.
Finally, Conte could opt not to splash out in valiant attempts to sign players from abroad or domestically, and instead look to promote from within. One such player, who is held in very high regard, is 19-year-old Jay Dasilva, who is currently playing his trade on loan at League One outfit Charlton Athletic. Dasilva is a tenacious and pacey left-back, who recently captained the England under-19s to victory in the European Championships. His loan spell at Charlton has had mixed success, as first-team opportunities have been relatively limited. However, Conte could opt to bring the Luton-born defender back to the Bridge in January with a view to slowly integrating him into the first team. Dasilva would look to challenge Kenedy for the reserve left-back spot, but would fit more naturally into Conte’s back-five system, as opposed to the attack-minded Kenedy, who is a more traditional winger.
Should Dasilva return, he could expect to feature in domestic cup games and the occasional Premier League outing, especially towards the end of the season in dead rubber games. However, the risk is that a lack of consistent first-team action could stunt his growth and it could be more beneficial to him to remain out on loan until the time he would be a real contender to challenge Alonso for the starting position.
So, should Chelsea decide not to continue their prolonged pursuit of Sandro, there are several, more budget-friendly, options that would bolster the squad and provide Alonso with some genuine competition. What we would like to see, is Cesar Azpilicueta no longer utilised as an emergency stand-in left-back, as his talents are severely wasted there.