Chelsea's 6 internal and external options to complete Sarri's midfield trio
Maurizio Sarri is wasting little time in placing his imprint on Chelsea.
The Italian gaffer arrived in the English capital from Napoli with Jorginho in tow, adding the versatile Azzurri international to a midfield anchored by World Cup winner N’Golo Kante. With Sarri steadfast in his preference for a 4-3-3 formation, it’s likely the attack-minded manager will look to add a third piece in the middle of the park before the transfer window slams shut on Aug. 9.
Related: Monaco announce signing of Russian World Cup star Golovin
Russian darling Aleksandr Golovin is off the board after Monaco swooped in to pluck the Chelsea target, leaving the Blues with a little less than a fortnight to make a move.
Without knowing Sarri’s inclinations, it’s possible the Naples-born manager could rotate a slew of players already on Chelsea’s books. Assuming that Jorginho and Kante will sit deep in support of a back-four and pull the strings from a withdrawn position, Sarri may fancy a No. 10 to forge a creative force behind the front-three.
Slick-passing Spaniard Fabregas could fit the mold, combining an eye for an incisive ball with strength in possession. The 31-year-old made 32 league appearances under former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte last season, with 25 coming as a starter, though there are concerns the former Arsenal academy star lacks the pace and dynamism needed to fill the slot in Sarri’s setup.
Unquestionably talented and blessed with an eye for goal, injuries and a curious move to Stamford Bridge see Barkley’s once-rising stock languishing in football limbo. Now back to full fitness, the 24-year-old performed well in the preseason victory over the Perth Glory and would profit from a spot in a midfield three, where his technical abilities would be best served.
Like Barkley, Loftus-Cheek is a physically imposing player who has drawn comparisons to former Chelsea standout Michael Ballack. After spending last season on loan with Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek’s role for England in Russia under Gareth Southgate mirrors the one Sarri would require of the 22-year-old, providing a link between the midfield and an attacking trio.
If Chelsea’s habit for opulent recruitment practices under Roman Abramovich’s reign hasn’t been curbed by the Russian billionaire’s rejected British Visa claim, the Blues could be primed to splash some cash. The countless Golovin reports suggest as much, with credit going to former club scouting savant Michael Emenalo for the pounce with his new employer on the Cote d’Azur.
“I listen to a lot of things that are not true,” Juventus playmaker Pjanic told ESPN FC about reports linking him with a Serie A exit, with Chelsea among those allegedly showing an interest. Sarri’s predilection for talent based in Italy’s top flight has naturally attached the Bosnia international with the move, and the 28-year-old could be the perfect fit.
Able to ply his trade in a withdrawn role or as an advanced central creative fulcrum, Pjanic is a dead-ball wiz with world-class passing range and deft dribbling skills, though his virtues aren’t limited to going forward. The Old Lady star also exhibits defensive alertness and a top-notch work rate that makes him a manager’s favorite, something Sarri has surely experienced in finishing runner-up to Pjanic and Juventus last season.
Pjanic has three years left on his current contract following a €32-million move from Roma three summers ago, and it’s likely the 79-time-capped international would merit a transfer fee similar to the reported £45 million (€50M) paid for Jorginho. Good chance to recoup some of that Cristiano Ronaldo money.
Without a club since Schalke nullified the discontent central midfielder’s terms in April, the four-time capped Germany international Meyer could be an ideal addition slightly off the radar, especially since the 22-year-old’s acquisition would not merit a transfer fee.
Once reportedly rumored to be the subject of interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, Meyer is a technical wizard whose deft skills on the ball are attributed to a background in futsal. Great in possession and with an eye for a perfectly weighted pass, Meyer’s talents are similar to a young Cesc Fabregas, a comparison boosted by the player’s ability to drop deep when necessary.
For Chelsea, Meyer would be required to play an attack-minded, creative role, something that was on full display during the player’s breakthrough 2015-16 campaign with the Gelsenkirchen. An attempt to lure Meyer to Stamford Bridge may not fit the profile of a headline-stealing transfer, but it would be both financially astute and short on risks.
If Sarri fancies a versatile player who can play in central midfield and also move out wide, as neverending rumors continue to swirl of Eden Hazard’s intentions to move to Real Madrid, there are few budding players on the continent better equipped than Lyon’s Aouar.
Part of a stellar young middle-of-the-park triumvirate alongside Lucas Tousart and Tanguy Ndombele with Les Gones, 20-year-old Lyon-born and reared Aouar is the archetype of the modern midfielder. Technically gifted and an astoundingly fluid runner, Aouar can star as a No. 10, on the left or sitting deep, and has drawn comparisons to both Philippe Coutinho and Andres Iniesta.
Despite recently penning an extension through 2023 amid club president Jean-Michel Aulas’ claims that it would take a massive fee to pry away the player with “Lyon DNA,” the Lyon mouthpiece has a knack for saying one thing only to follow through on another, much like with Alexandre Lacazette’s sale to Arsenal. A £35-million (€40M) transfer fee would probably do the trick.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)