In pictures: Chelsea v Southampton
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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is facing the prospect of a defensive restructure at the end of the season and it’s undoubtedly a situation the German wants to avoid for obvious reasons. To the cunning tactician’s credit, Tuchel wasted no time assembling his new, revamped spine at Chelsea after replacing club legend Frank Lampard and the team’s solidity was integral to the club’s European success last season, while the Blues are already flying high at the top of the Premier League this term.
Chelsea will make no secret of the fact their defence is their recipe for success having only conceded three goals in nine league outings this season, much to the help of Edouard Mendy, who has been the best goalkeeper in the division by a country mile.
Their formidable record takes the pressure away from the forwards, who are still yet to get out of first gear this season amid a host of injury struggles.
As strange as it sounds for a team that lifted the Champions League aloft just a matter of months ago, Chelsea do not seem to have reached their potential yet as a side – a scary proposition for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, who are still chasing their rivals’ tails.
But come the end of the campaign, Tuchel could be set to wave goodbye to as many as three of his senior defenders.
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Four of his current crop will be out of contract although captain Cesar Azpilicueta is close to extending his stay.
Chelsea are also relaxed about Brazilian veteran Thiago Silva, who penned a one-year contract extension in the summer.
The former PSG captain could easily do the same again this time around if he wants to stay in west London.
Antonio Rudiger is the most concerning saga of the lot given just how brilliant he has been in Chelsea blue since the arrival of Tuchel.
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The Germany international must now be considered among the best centre-backs in world football as he continues to drive the standards on the field and training ground.
There is still hope – certainly from Tuchel’s perspective – that Chelsea can dig their hands deep into their pockets to reach an agreement with Rudiger and his representatives over a new deal.
While that is not guaranteed, keeping Rudiger will be a priority for Chelsea, who could also lose his defensive partner Andreas Christensen.
The Dane’s representatives have not heard from the club in recent times and any players approaching the final six months of their deal will be free to negotiate with other clubs in January.
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Christensen now appears to be heading closer to the exit door and although Rudiger is also scarily close to departing, Chelsea’s academy graduate would prove easier to replace.
In truth, Chelsea do already have two ready-made replacements for Christensen and Thiago Silva if the duo were to depart – replacing Rudiger would have to involve some investment with Jules Kounde still of interest.
Malang Sarr has been excellent when filling in at the back for Tuchel of late.
The former Nice man was snapped up on a free transfer in 2020 before spending last season on loan at Porto.
His rugged and bullish no-nonsense style of defending is already highly appreciated by the coaching staff at Chelsea.
Sarr also made his breakthrough at Nice when looking up to Silva as one of the best defenders in France and now he’s trying to learn whatever he can from the experienced star.
He said: “Thiago is helpful because he really wants me to improve and he is showing me things every day. About defending he knows everything!
“It is respect to him because he is 37 and he plays like he is 25.”
The 22-year-old is not the only young defender to catch the eye this season at Stamford Bridge though.
Trevoh Chalobah – a product of the Chelsea academy – has been brilliant for the Blues, making eight starts in all competitions and finding the net twice.
His emergence from virtually nowhere having spent last season on loan at Lorient looks to have saved Chelsea millions, similarly to Sarr.
There is no reason why the pair cannot grow into cornerstones of this team under Tuchel, having failed to let Chelsea down as of yet.
Marina Granovskaia is expected to invest heavily on the club’s defence moving forward but in the young duo, the club already boasts internal solutions to the prospect of potentially losing Silva, Christensen and maybe even Rudiger…
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