Looking at last season’s stats for Papy Djilobodji compared to Chelsea defenders John Terry and Gary Cahill, there can be high hopes for the Senegalese centre-half’s arrival. The new man exceeded both Terry and Cahill in terms of tackles, interceptions and clearances made last season. While the Nantes man will have admittedly seen more action than the Premier League champions’ tandem, he recorded an average of 1.6 tackles, 3.3 interceptions and 8.3 clearances over the course of his 31 2014/15 league appearances. Compared with skipper Terry’s 1.1, 0.9 and 5.7 and then again to Cahill’s 1, 0.8 and 6.1, it could well be that the hitherto unknown Djilobodji becomes a bargain at around £2.5m. Clearly a good reader of the game from his statistics, the 26-year-old is also physically imposing, standing at 6ft 4ins and possessing great pace and a deft left foot. With last year’s Blues pairing struggling for form along with the rest of Jose Mourinho’s side so far this season, a new face to offer competition alongside the promising Kurt Zouma will help shore things up and raise performance levels.
At 26, Djilobodji could well still have his best years ahead of him. This, coupled with almost 200 professional appearances for US Sénart-Moissy, Nantes and Senegal, will make him an asset to the Chelsea back-line. While it remains to be seen wehther Mourinho has brought the defender in as back-up or a fourth competitor for first-team action, Djilobodji will be able to offer guidance to younger players as well as learning how to improve his game – namely his discipline – from stalwarts Terry, Cahill and more. With Zouma and now Michael Hector also in the running alongside Terry and Cahill for the centre-half position, Djilobodji will be the man to bridge the gap between the two pairs in terms of age and experience. While it is difficult to see Mourinho dropping one of Terry, Cahill and Zouma from the fold altogether, Djilobodji will likely get a chance given the Stamford Bridge side’s early season form and must also be sure to make an impression off the pitch in order to earn a run out on it. With a four year deal in place, the Senegalese international must make his mark quickly in order to cement his position in the matchday squad.
After being linked heavily with expensive, big-name centre backs such as John Stones all summer, it will come as a bittersweet blow to Chelsea fans to hear of the arrivals of Djilobodji and Hector on deadline day. But, despite a tricky start, Mourinho still has at his disposal a handful of top-class centre backs at his disposal. Given the fact that they will surely gel and replicate the title-winning performances of last season as this campaign progresses, the club could well have saved themselves an unnecessary £30m outlay by bringing in a consistent, promising player from under the radar in the form of Djilobodji. In a roundabout way, the champions’ defence – which has conceded nine goals in just four games this season – could have avoided some scrutiny and pressure by not bringing in Stones. With lower profile and lower priced additions, Chelsea now have the opportunity to shore up their defence with a – very slightly – less glaring media spotlight watching their every move. It remains to be seen whether the money saved will be reinvested elsewhere by Mourinho and Roman Abramovich, but we will surely see it move on a bigger name in the next couple of transfer windows.
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