Three defenders Chelsea could sign in January
Harry Reardon considers where Jose Mourinho could be looking to strengthen his Chelsea defence even further in January
Provided – and of course, this is far from a given – that Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas stay fit for most of the season, it would seem a fairly safe bet that Chelsea will not struggle for goals. But while top of the league they might be, scoring for fun though they are, Jose Mourinho will be conscious that both Sunderland and Spurs have made the Blues’ defence look shaky over the last week, and that neither John Terry nor Gary Cahill are getting any younger. Kurt Zouma has seen some action in the Champions League and has far from disgraced himself, but over in Spain, young Frenchman Aymeric Laporte is already making waves, and if the rumours are to be believed, making himself known to the Stamford Bridge scouts. The Athletic Bilbao centre-half is comfortable on the ball and is no slouch, as well as boasting the height and size to prove a nuisance at both ends of the pitch. He also seems comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, as only the second Frenchman to have represented Bilbao (after Bixente Lizarazu) in the club’s history. While Laporte is believed to have a £32m release clause, and Manchester United and Arsenal are also interested, if a deal could be done, it would surely prove a sound investment.
Rumours persist that Barcelona would be prepared to sell Gerard Pique in January. Jeremy Mathieu or no Jeremy Mathieu, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Marc Bartra (not to mention the injured again Thomas Vermaelen) or otherwise, the thought process there, the season after losing Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes, seems a little questionable, but Mourinho is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. With a mountain of trophies under his belt, and even some fleeting experience in England with Manchester United, 27-year-old Pique’s contributions this year have shown no sign of deterioration on the occasions that he has been allowed on the pitch. He arguably reads the game better than Terry and is more comfortable on the ball than the former England captain. While it might be hard to stomach for many, Terry is approaching the end of his Stamford Bridge shelf life, and now could be the perfect time for him to be replaced.
The rise of Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne continues apace. While he is a few years older than his erstwhile full back colleague at St Mary’s, Luke Shaw, he has particularly caught the eye this season, with a tackle rate unmatched throughout the league. He is rarely beaten, and has already chipped in with two goals going forward, despite somehow managing not to score in the Saints’ 8-0 victory over Sunderland in mid-August. Clyne was, it should not be forgotten, generally preferred to Calum Chambers while the pair were at Southampton, and has now made his England breakthrough. Branislav Ivanovic remains a solid presence in the Chelsea backline but is hardly irreplaceable. Indeed, were Clyne, at seven years Ivanovic’s junior, to make the move to Stamford Bridge in January – although such a transfer might, for various reasons, be unlikely – it would not come as too much of a surprise to see him pretty quickly displace the Serb for good.