New Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is preparing his summer clear-out, as he tries to mould the Blues squad to suit his needs. The Italian has deemed one full-back excess to his needs, the club are now seeking a move for another.
Ghana left-back Baba Rahman joined Chelsea from Augsburg for a reported fee of £14 million last summer. He had a decent campaign last time around, as the 22-year-old was used primarily as a back up for first choice left-back Cesar Azpilicueta. Rahman made 23 appearances in all competitions for the Blues, and started against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Man City and Liverpool.
The young defender was the last resort for interim manager Guus Hiddink as the Blues lost defenders Kurt Zouma and John Terry to injury. The Ghanaian featured regularly for Chelsea in the latter half of the season. However, new manager Antonio Conte has deemed him surplus to requirements. The 22-year-old is now on the verge of a move back to the Bundesliga, this time with Champions League hopefuls Schalke, according to SkySports.
Rahman had a brilliant season with Augsburg in 2014-15, which prompted the move to Stamford Bridge last summer. He made the most tackles by any defender in the Bundesliga (180), winning 90 of those tackles at a very good 83% success rate. The young left-back also won 80 aerial duels and made 83 interceptions in 31 appearances for Augsburg.
Chelsea beat bitter rivals Arsenal to sign him last summer as a replacement for Atletico Madrid bound Felipe Luis. However the storm that the Blues sailed through and managerial upheaval did not help Rahman’s chances at the club. Conte has only sent him out on loan, which means that there could yet be a future for the Ghana international at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea interested in PSV full-back Santiago Arias
The Blues continue their hunt for defensive reinforcements this summer, after facing significant problems in singing primary target Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli. They have now turned their attentions to the Dutch league and Champions League club PSV Eindhoven.
According to The Daily Mail, Chelsea are looking at PSV full-back Santiago Arias as a replacement for the Schalke-bound Baba Rahman. The report claims that club scouts watched him in training last week and the Blues approached the Dutch club enquiring about his availability.
Arias has been a mainstay of the PSV side that has won successive Eriedivisie titles in the last two seasons. The 24-year-old Colombian joined the Dutch side from Sporting CP in 2013 and has since made 105 appearances for them. He started 32 league games for them last season, notching up 3 goals and 2 assists in the process.
Arias has played mostly as a right-back in the Netherlands but is equally capable of playing on both sides of defence, which is an important factor in garnering the Blues’ interest. Conte wants to secure him as a dual-role playing defender, to act as back-up to current first choice full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azplilicueta.
The PSV defender is an excellent play-maker, with an average of 45.6 passes per game at a success rate of 86.4%. He is also adept at his defensive duties, having made 1.9 tackles, 2.4 interceptions and 3.1 clearances per game this past season. [Stats via: Whoscored]
A full-back is on the list for Antonio Conte and Chelsea because veteran Ivanovic running out of steam off late. They have been linked mostly with center-backs this summer; Stefan di Vriej and Benfica’s Viktor Lindelof are being linked with a move to Stamford Bridge if the Koulibaly deal doesn’t happen. The absence of an experienced full-back in the side apart from the two first choices will definitely work to the advantage of Arias, should he join.
At 32 years old, Ivanovic isn’t quite the player he once was and the Colombian could provide a welcome alternative to the numerous critics that the Serbian has among the Blues fans.