The Tedd Boehly era at Stamford Bridge is anticipated to start as they reinvest into Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side. The Blues have set their sights on prime potential of Inter Milan’s Milan Škriniar.
With Antonio Rudiger departing for Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen leaving due to his contract expiring, the centre-back position will be the priority, with the recruitment of the 27-year-old set to be the primary target.
Replacing Antonio Rudiger
Milan Škriniar enjoyed another great season with the Nerazzurri but it was AC Milan who pipped them to the Serie A title by two points as the Rossoneri clinched their first title in ten years at their city rival’s expense.
Despite missing out on back-to-back titles, the Slovakian still enjoyed a good season personally as he was the mainstay in an Inter Milan team who conceded the second-fewest goals in the league this season – playing 92% of the minutes available to him.
When it comes to his injury record, Škriniar has a clean record. The last time he missed the game was in the 2020/21 season when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He, later, picked up a thigh injury in the most recent international break with Slovakia.
Chelsea’s System and Where He Fits In
Since Thomas Tuchel has taken over, Chelsea has adopted the 3-4-3 formation. But the latter half of the season has also seen them opt for a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-1-2. The centre-backs in this system contribute to the build-up play, keeping possession of the ball and passing it amongst the diamonds formed with the midfield to help create space and passing lanes to progress up the pitch.
This kind of play-off aids the capability of the centre-backs with the ball and their proficiency to keep cool under pressure from the opposition. Rudiger had a pass success rate of 88.1% in the Premier League, aggregating to 2,497 completed passes – the most since the 2018/19 season.
That should give an idea of just how active Tuchel’s defenders need to be on the ball although they do need to make all sorts of distanced passes, and this is evident from Rudiger averaging 4.7 accurate long balls per game- usually played towards the width where Reece James and Marcos Alonso are often making aggressive runs to initiate Chelsea’s fast attacking breaks.
This season Chelsea has made the second-fewest long balls in the league which suggests that they often pick and choose the right moments to play them as they are crucial to their offensive play.
The centre-back possesses the third-best pass succession rate in Serie A this season with 92.9%, making an average of 60 passes per game for Inter. He can also make long balls with an average of 3 accurate long balls per game, though Inter does tend to want their defenders to play short passes.
Inter Milan does set up similarly to Chelsea with a 3-4-3, using width to overload the midfield, and make a makeshift backline when pushing high on the attack. Škriniar operates on the right side of the back where he can go wide to initiate attacks to create an overload in the central areas, another similar tactic to Tuchel’s Chelsea.
This tactical familiarity makes the Slovakian international a perfect fit for Chelsea’s back three. The ability to operate centrally and out wide can see him deployed either at the heart of the back three or on the right.
The only disquite is his inconsistency in an aerial battle. He has only won 50% of his aerial duels this season in Serie A. However, his teammates tend to do the job aerially as Stefan De Vries has a 59.4% and Alessandro Bastoni has a 62.3% succession rate.
Despite this, Škriniar is still a tough centre-back to beat on the ground and in the air. With Kalidou Koulibaly linked to a move to Stamford Bridge and Thiago Silva remaining, the weakness shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Chelsea if the move does come to fruition.
One last issue is the 22-year-old Englishman who featured prominently for Chelsea on the right side of the defence.
Featuring in the same role in the UEFA Super Cup final win against Villareal, Chalobah has displayed incredible maturity throughout the season to play at the top level, showing he has the potential to be a key player for the Blues in the future.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped Chelsea from looking at Škriniar to fill the position. The former England U-21 international boasts an impressive 90.6% pass succession rate and is effective at winning the ball in the midfield and defensive third. But it seems Tuchel may want to employ his services differently to fit the former Sampdoria defender into the team.
His dribbling allows him to stand up from all the other defenders as he can carry the ball into the midfield third and progress the ball in a more unorthodox fashion for Chelsea. Although it is a great asset to have, Tuchel could look to give games to him in central midfield to make a spot for Škriniar in the team.
Milan Škriniar would fit Chelsea like a glove – he has been playing at the top level since 2016 and has improved dramatically with age, becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after defenders.
His experience in working back three and the tactical familiarity of the position contribute to the build-up play, making the Slovakian a perfect fit for Thomas Tuchel and his system.
Most likely to be played in his native right side of the back three, usually occupied by Cesar Azpilicueta, he possesses the same qualities that make the Spaniard a popular feature in the Chelsea line-up.
Comparatively similar to Antonio Rudiger, it seems like Chelsea would have the best of both worlds when it comes to the Inter Milan defender – The intelligence and temperament of Azpilicueta and the ability on the ball and physicality of the German international.
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