Saturday, August 20, 2022

Chelsea’s Search For A Defender Takes Them To Tyneside: Is The Lad Worth The Fuss?

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Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan used to be the Featured Columnist at The 4th Official. Completely immersed in football and almost all other sports on planet.

According to reports, Chelsea are tracking Newcastle’s centre-back Jamaal Lascelles, who have been in the good book of Chelsea manager Conte for quite some time and the Blues are expected to plot an 18 million pound move for the English defender. He came to Newcastle United for 7 million pounds in 2014 and has established himself as a first-team player under Rafa Benitez.

Apart from Lascelles, Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson and Burnley’s Michael Keane also on Chelsea’s list, who are looking for replacements for their ageing defence.

Lascelles’s rise has been phenomenal under Rafa. He has played an instrumental part in Newcastle’s brilliant run this season in the Championship, who have gone 7 matches unbeaten. He is one of the main pieces in Rafa Benitez’s puzzle and was handed the captaincy this season after Fabricio Coloccini left the club after relegation from Premier League last season.

Antonio Conte has been heaped with praise for his successful transformation of Chelsea’s defence from a 4 man backline to 3, which has revived the club from its faulty run of the previous season. However, Conte would be needing options as a backup for his back three, who have started every match since clicking and there is always a fear of burnout or injury with the Premier League gaining momentum.

Lascelles has scored once in 17 appearances for Newcastle this season. The 189m tall defender so far seems perfect for the English top flight football, which demands physicality. The 22-year-old has shown maturity in winning aerial duels and short passing at the back. He blocks the ball quite well and doesn’t lose his focus during the games. He also had a man of the match performance against Rotherham, where Newcastle United won 1-0.

Chelsea are already out of the English League Cup, where Conte had fielded John Terry with Cahill and Luiz at the back, which showed how disoriented back line it resulted in, with West ham United scoring twice. Old head John Terry is already out of favour and so is Branislav Ivanovic. This has led Conte to look outside and Lascelles fits in the squad perfectly.

However, Lascelles’ one weakness, which is a very important attribute for a defender is his tackling. He seems to mistime his slides and as a result, has already been booked 3 times. It could be a real threat if he comes to Chelsea. Conte is a manager who loves defending and such flaws might lead Lascelles to fall out of favour soon.

One thing is sure that Lascelles will find it really difficult to break into the first team with seasoned defenders like Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta all doing really well at the back. But the 22-year-old could be a long-term fit at the club. If they do manage to sign him, he can hone his skills under a top class manager in Conte and who knows, maybe he could go on to become a regular England defender someday.

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