Chelsea have reportedly sent scouts to the Emirates Stadium to watch Ben Gibson as Middlesbrough take on a high-flying Arsenal side on Saturday.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte does not seem content with the players he has at his disposal, and will be looking to rope in a few defenders come January. According recent reports, Middlesbrough right-back Ben Gibson has emerged as a transfer target for the Italian at Stamford Bridge.
The 23-year-old is an integral part of the Middlesbrough squad and played a key role in Boro’s fight for promotion last season. Even in his first campaign in England’s top-flight, the up and coming centre-back has caught the eyes of thousands of fans in the country. He has also played every minute for Aitor Karanka’s side this season.
Gibson has also represented the England side in four different age categories and will be hoping to make his senior debut for the Three Lions in the foreseeable future. With a new head-coach in Gareth Southgate at the helm, albeit on an interim basis, the Middlesbrough centre-back could be optimistic of receiving his first international senior call-up.
After joining Middlesbrough at the age of 17 in 2010, Gibson has spent a number of seasons out on loan at three different lower-league clubs. In 2011, he was loaned out to Plymouth Argyle where he made just 12 appearances. A short stint with York City followed as Gibson failed to express his credentials at Bootham Crescent.
But, the Boro defender enjoyed his loan spell at Tranmere Rovers where he saw himself become a key part of manager Ronnie Moore’s plans. The then 20-year-old earned plenty of plaudits for his impressive performances in League One, and was soon re-called to the Middlesbrough side.
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While Gibson will be a decent addition to Conte’s side, a move to a coveted club like Chelsea may be a tad early for him. He is a quality defender, but doubts still remain about his adaptability in the Blues lineup. The Italian tactician wants his players to play in varied positions and he may not get the versatility he is looking for from the Middlesbrough centre-back.
Also, Chelsea have an array of defenders in the youth setup waiting to graduate into the first the team. Instead of shelling out money for a raw product in the market, Conte should instead turn to the academy and pick players that fit the bill for him.
Ola Aina, a full-back by trade, has been on the periphery of the first-team for a number of seasons and finally made his senior debut last weekend against defending champions Leicester City. Given Conte’s penchant to field a back-three, Aina could well be considered as a right-sided centre-back.
Another player who has particularly impressed is Nathaniel Chalobah. While both his appearances this season have been in a holding midfield position, he has plenty of experience playing as a centre half during his loan spells at Watford and Nottingham Forest. He would also give Conte a good ball playing defender who is tight and precise in possession.
Kurt Zouma too, has been on the fringes of a return to the first team from injury, and could quickly slot into the playing eleven in lieu of the under-performing and much maligned Gary Cahill. The energetic French defender gives the side a physical presence in both boxes and is also known for grabbing the odd goals.
Currently out on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach, Andreas Christensen is another player Conte will be watching closely. The defender has progressed leaps and bounds in Germany and could be ready to break into the Chelsea side as early as the 2017/18 season.
Thus, Conte should ideally refrain from buying another defender in January and make the most of his new signings David Luiz and Marcos Alonso while making decisions on the futures of Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic.