Scouting Report: Alternatives to Azpilicueta

Today long-time Chelsea target Cesar Azpilicueta announced his intentions to stay at Marseille for the upcoming season. This comes as a significant blow to Chelsea after they had finally decided to focus their attention on the Basque right back. Here is the breakdown of Chelsea’s current options at right back as well as their past and rumored targets.

Current Players

Branislav Ivanovic

Strengths: “War Criminal” is the most experienced option Chelsea has and is a very solid defender. He played much of the season at right back last year and put in a lot of strong performances. He has been so impressive that the big boys from other leagues have tried to sign cult hero Ivanovic.

Weakness: His style does not fit into the Chelsea blueprint. He’s not fast enough to get into a deep attacking position and his delivery is nothing overly special. He has also proven to have difficulty with pacey wingers and he has also admitted that he is not happy playing as a full back.

Sam Hutchinson

Strengths: “Vanilla Hutch” a club-trained home grown player and that’s about it. When he does get in an attacking position, his crosses will sometimes (though rarely) find their target.

Weaknesses: He’s a very limited attacking threat and his defensive skills are not at the level of the rest of the squad. He’s also highly injury prone so he can’t be a regular starter. He also lacks any real experience playing in important and meaningful games.

Ryan Bertrand

Strengths: He has proven to be very reliable. He didn’t crumble even in the most important game of last season. His defensive skills are strong and he has shown that he can get up the pitch. He played right back for Team GB and looked solid. His versatility could prove to be of high importance and value. His right foot is above average and he has a high attacking work rate.

Weaknesses: He’s not a natural right back and it is always difficult to have an opposite-footed full back play crosses into the box (but in all fairness, Azpi was left footed as well). One downside is that he might not be fully ready to play 40 games a season yet.

Todd Kane

Strengths: Kane might have been the best player in Chelsea’s Youth FA Cup winning team last season. He makes deep runs, has an incredible work rate, is lightning fast and is full of confidence. His defensive skills are also above average for his age. He took the starting spot away from Hutch on the reserve team, forcing Hutch to play centre back. He fits into Chelsea’s new system perfectly and has a world of potential with attacking ability reminiscent of Dani Alves.

Weaknesses: He has zero first team experience and he’s very young still (turns 19 next month). He does spend a lot of time up the pitch, which leaves the defense exposed on his side from time to time. He’s unlikely going to be able to play 40 games this season and will definitely have some major growing pains playing in a top league. For as much potential as he has, putting him in too soon might hamper his development.

Nathaniel Chalobah

Strengths: Despite being the youngest player on the list (17), he has the maturity of a senior squad member. He has captained the youth and reserve sides and he’s also the youngest member on England’s U19 squad. His defensive positioning and skills are very strong and he also has plenty of ball skills.

Weaknesses: Right back is a very unfamiliar position for Chalobah. Seattle was his first time playing the position in his career and he didn’t look like his usual self. He’s not fast enough or experienced enough for a starting role at this position. It already looks like RdM has accepted the fact that he can’t play this position.

Transfer Targets

Maicon

Strengths: Maicon was once the best right back in the world and was so good that he forced Alves to sit on the Brazil bench. His ball skills and attacking work rate were on par with some of the best midfielders in the world, and he accomplished this while locking down some of the best wingers and forwards in the world (including Messi). He has been successful at all the highest levels.

Weaknesses: He’s getting up there in age. He’s not as potent of an attacker and his defense might need some cover from time to time. He struggles when he plays too much and he will carry a very expensive salary. Chelsea would be lucky to get three full years out of him.

Gregory van der Wiel

Strengths: He likes to attack and is ideally what Chelsea would want out of an attacking full back…..

Weaknesses: He’s Bosingwa! His defensive skills are incredibly poor and he’s very wasteful in the final third. He is pacey and has a lot of stamina but the rest of his abilities are below average. It looks like Chelsea abandoned VdW as a target after miserable performances for the Dutch during the Euros.

Mathieu Debuchy

Strengths: Debuchy is an oddly versatile player. He can actually play the Modric role as well as right back. With that experience, his passing is a little above average and he reads the game better. He has great work rate at both ends of the pitch and is one of the best crossers on the list. His defensive skills are pretty well polished. Incredible stamina.

Weaknesses: Debuchy has played for Lille his entire career so he doesn’t have much top level experience. He’s maxed out his potential at his age (27) so we won’t see much, if any, improvement. He’s not ideally fast for what Chelsea would want. The biggest concern would be his positioning – he frequently gets caught out of place.

Neil Taylor

Strengths: He’s also very versatile. He has been playing right back for Team GB during the Olympics despite playing as a left back all year for Swansea. Taylor is actually a very solid tackler and he is very good at reading the game. A unique but strong quality in Taylor is his ability to stay on his feet.

Weaknesses: He’s a natural left back and has the same issues that Bertrand has. He’s not as fast as Debuchy or VdW but there is potential in that area. His delivery isn’t quite to the standards Chelsea would hope for and he is not much of a scoring threat.

Micah Richards

Strengths: Richards is vastly experienced in almost every aspect of the game. He’s versatile (can play three positions on the pitch) and he’s strong. He’s one of the best set piece defenders and attackers in England and his overall defending is incredible. He’s also fast with a great attacking work rate complimented with strong natural aggression.

Weaknesses: He’s rarely, if ever, going to score with his feet. It’s not required for his position, but finishing with his feet will never be a strong point. His crossing and passing are nothing special, likely on par with Ivanovic. His positioning is also average. Most importantly, he would be hard to lure away from Manchester City.

Alvaro Pereira

Strengths: Another versatile full back with great speed and a strong desire to get forward. He is a very consistent player and is one of the best crossers on this list. He won’t get tired and he will run the entire game. He is also a solid defender with great tackling ability. An overall solid defender.

Weaknesses: He’s also a natural left back and his right foot is strong but nowhere near his left foot. His cost is insane, as Porto looks to rob Chelsea blind by charging over £20m for their player. One odd trait: he has a few own goals on his résumé.

So overall, it’s a mystery who Chelsea will target after their failure to land Azpilicueta. The club might come back with an even more expensive bid to try to change Azpi and Marseille’s minds. Newcastle look to have given up on Debuchy, which opens the door for Chelsea. Porto have also claimed that Pereira is available and Chelsea have wanted him for a long time.

Each of these players have their own value to Chelsea. I feel that they do expect Todd Kane to take over one day and they need a player to fill the spot until he’s ready. Chelsea’s ideal right back is a player who will perform consistently and attack frequently while maintaining his defensive duties.

Maybe another candidate will appear before the window closes.

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3 thoughts on “Scouting Report: Alternatives to Azpilicueta

  1. Pingback: More on Chelsea’s Right Back Situation: What About Essien and Ramires? | Rocky Mountain Blues

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