Chelsea star Ben Chilwell is set to miss the rest of the season after the decision was made for him to have major knee surgery.
The 25-year-old suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in the Blues’ 4-0 Champions League thrashing of Juventus at Stamford Bridge in November.
The England international will undergo surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament after club doctors determined rest and recuperation would not be enough to resolve the issue.
Thomas Tuchel spoke this month about the difficulty in bringing cover in January, saying:
“Having a look at players and it being possible to get them in winter, there’s a big gap between these two situations. The best option would be that Ben continues his positive evaluation.”
However, with Chilwell out of the season and Chelsea slump form since his injury. Tuchel would be eager to eat his words and try to find suitable cover during the January window.
Sportcruz takes a closer look at potential signings the Blues could make in January, and possible options already on the books at Stamford Bridge.
AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez is a player who Chelsea have great interest in and he’s having a fine season in Serie A, but signing him in January may prove to be too expensive for the London club.
Milan already rejected €46m from PSG for him in the summer, and are reportedly not interested in doing business at anything under €60m.
Tuttosport claim that Chelsea have sounded out the 24-year-old’s agents, but Milan have made it clear he’s not for sale.
It seems that Lucas Digne’s time on Merseyside may be coming to an end.
The news, broken by The Guardian, comes amid reports of a row between Digne and gaffer Rafa Benítez. The Spanish coach has refuted these reports, claiming that all is well in the Meryseside camp.
However, The France defender has not featured since their 4-1 defeat away at Liverpool on December 1 as a result of that fall-out, and the writing is seemingly on the wall for him at Goodison Park after The Toffees have moved to sign Ukrainian international left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kyiv.
Mykolenko arrival in January could signal the end of Digne’s time at the club with Chelsea one of several interested clubs.
Tuchel may look to bring Digne to Stamford Bridge on a short-term loan until the end of the season, with ex-Toffee Ross Barkley potentially heading in the opposite direction.
The Argentine left-back is another option Chelsea are exploring in the wake of Chilwell’s blow, and Ajax are prepared to offload him next month.
Tagliafico has made 146 appearances since joining the Dutch club in January 2018 and has also been capped 36 times by Argentina.
At 29, and with just 18 months to run on his current contract, he will likely be available on the cheap next month as a cut-price replacement for Chilwell.
A number of Premier League clubs have been linked with him including Newcastle
He offers vast experience at the highest level of football which makes him a desirable option for Chelsea, who are desperate to find a replacement for Ben Chilwell.
An alternative would be to use Saul Niguez in that role as cover for Marcos Alonso, in what would be a high stakes move.
Saul has some experience as a wing-back after being shifted into the position by Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid last season.
Emerson Palmieri/Ian Maatsen
Instead of searching elsewhere, Chelsea could recall either Emerson or Maatsen from their loan spells at Lyon and Coventry respectively.
Emerson, 27, has already made 71 appearances for the Blues, but with Chilwell and Alonso ahead of him in the pecking order, he was sent out on loan to France this term.
The Italian has made 19 appearances for the Ligue 1 giants so far this term, and they are unlikely to want to lose him for the second half of the campaign.
The less experienced option would be 19-year-old Ian Maatsen, who has impressed at Coventry City in the Championship as the Sky Blues chase promotion to the Premier League.
Chelsea fans would love to see another academy graduate make the grade in the first team and this could offer the ideal chance for Maatsen to make his mark.
Alonso has been impressive under Tuchel – but Chelsea have felt the effects of Chilwell’s absence since he limped out of their 4-0 win against Juventus last month.
Since then they have endured an alarming mid-season slump, which has seen them drop from first to third in the Premier League where they now trail leaders and champions Manchester City by six points.
Chilwell had been in outstanding form before his injury – scoring four goals for club and country Chelsea undefeated in all nine of the games he started. They have won only three of eight since his injury.
Tuchel was already sufficiently concerned about his squad’s ability to cope with an intensive fixture schedule and the effects of injury and Covid before a decision about Chilwell was made.
Ahead of Chelsea’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion, Tuchel once again revealed his concern about the strains being placed on his players, who are still competing in all fronts and will play in the Club World Cup in February.
“We love the schedule and we love to play through winter and be the only league, but we need also protection from the league,” he said.
“I can absolutely not understand, zero per cent, why we are the only league who plays through the winter and are the only league with three substitutes, in a period of heavy, heavy Covid threat.
“And in a period of heavy Covid situations, a lot of games are postponed. Some games are postponed, some are not, and I’m heavily concerned and I don’t understand why we have only three substitutes, that makes absolutely no sense. But it’s the situation
“So that is worrying that we struggle, we have injuries, and players who suffered from Covid.
And we have no time to build them up, so it’s normal because you would be stupid to do training if you can do it without training and a certain physical level, because it’s very, very demanding what we do here.
But, again, we love the schedule, we love what we do here and we love the race for every title. And we love to compete in Carabao Cup, Champions League and Premier League.
“This is absolutely no problem, but we would like to have our squad and a normal situation of injuries.”