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Why is Chelsea’s late swoop for Danny Drinkwater a good piece of business?

Scott Challinor

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Drinkwater

It all came together quite late, but Chelsea finally managed to tie up a deal for Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater beyond the eleventh hour, with the Blues shelling out a £35 million fee to bring the Premier League and Championship winner to Stamford Bridge. The deal was confirmed by Leicester’s official club website at 1:30 am on Friday.

Both clubs were granted an extra two hours by the Football Association to get this one over the line, with the Foxes themselves keen to get a late deal of their own done for Sporting Lisbon’s Euro 2016 winning midfielder Adrien Silva, as a replacement for the outgoing Drinkwater.

The £35 million fee is a club record recoup for Leicester, exceeding the £32 million the Blues paid for N’Golo Kanté the previous summer.

The signing of the popular midfielder, who became a fans’ favourite at Leicester, will come as a major boost on a largely frustrating night for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who was unable to wrap up a deal for Swansea City forward Fernando Llorente – who opted to join Tottenham – and Ross Barkley, who turned down the opportunity to move to West London from Merseyside club Everton during a medical.

However, what exactly can Chelsea fans expect from a player that they already know a reasonable amount about?

The former Manchester United trainee leaves the King Power after making 217 appearances for the East Midlands club, including 87 Premier League appearances over four top-flight seasons.

He registered three Premier League goals and eight assists to his name in that time, one of those strikes coming at Stamford Bridge against his new club Chelsea in a 1-1 draw during Leicester’s historic title winning campaign in 2015/16.

Those statistics might seem less than convincing, but it is to be expected considering that the midfielder is a deep-lying playmaker, rather than an attacking option. Nevertheless, this warrants some investigation.

With Nemanja Matic having departed for Manchester United, and Cesc Fabregas an ageing force, Chelsea are in need of some fresh legs in midfield, and at 27, Drinkwater is an ideal age with a good few years of service left in him.

He isn’t on the wrong side of 30 and thus can provide the engine Chelsea require in midfield, whilst also coming with enough experience to benefit Antonio Conte’s squad.

A statistical breakdown of Drinkwater’s contributions in Leicester’s title-winning 2015/16 season, and those of Fabregas in Chelsea’s title campaign last term, also throws up some interesting results.

Drinkwater averaged 56.69 passes per game, created ten big chances, enjoyed a 70% success rate in his 106 tackles, scored twice and assisted seven times over 35 games. Fabregas featured 29 times, scoring twice, assisting 12 times, averaging 45.72 passes per game and completing 87% of his 30 tackles.

On the defensive side of things, Drinkwater in that season put in 11 blocks, 55 interceptions, 68 clearances, 342 recoveries and won 191 duels. Fabregas last season contributed 5 blocks, 16 interceptions, 16 clearances, 102 recoveries and won 68 of his duels.

So, what Chelsea will be acquiring in Drinkwater, according to this, is a more defensive-minded playmaker than an attacking one, more suited to filling the void left by Nemanja Matic than Fabregas, but one who will fit into their passing system in midfield nonetheless.

Having mentioned Matic, his own statistics from last season include 35 appearances in the league, one goal, seven assists, a rate of 53.29 passes per game, four big chances created, and 73% of 51 tackles completed.

He also clocked up seven blocks, 50 interceptions, 46 clearances, 241 recoveries and 143 duels won. Outwardly, it might seem the Serbian, now at Manchester United, is a slightly more defensive minded player then Chelsea’s new man.

But, if we compare those with Drinkwater’s statistics from 2016/17, he clocked up one goal and one assist in 29 games, averaging 60.17 passes per game, creating one big chance, putting in 84 tackles and completing 64% of them, whilst putting in 13 blocks, 40 interceptions, 52 clearances, a whopping 266 recoveries and winning 153 duels.

Of course, Drinkwater was required to do far more defensive work during 2016/17 than in 2015/16 due to the absence of a midfielder like N’Golo Kanté next to him.

It would make sense, with his strengths being more in defence and passing, to operate him as a defensive midfielder like Nemanja Matic.

However, re-establishing that midfield partnership with Kanté that proved so successful at Leicester, may well offer Drinkwater the creative license that he enjoyed then at the King Power that he hasn’t since, which may help drive up those attacking statistics that currently seem inferior to those of Fabregas.

The chemistry between the two in midfield from that extraordinary Leicester season may also be an attractive prospect for Conte.

Thus, in Drinkwater, Chelsea are signing a well-rounded and experienced midfield playmaker who can play deep and provide a driving engine in the centre of the park, and may well have the freedom to play more key passes and score more goals at Stamford Bridge.

He is a great void filler for Matic’s departure, and may well be the figure Conte has in mind to step into Fabregas’ boots when his time in West London is up. The freedom which a partnership with Kanté offers would allow him to refine his game enough to fill that role out to the best of his ability.

There may well be more developments to come in his game with that in mind, but he undoubtedly offers Conte a great deal in midfield. At just £35 million in today’s market, it may well prove a shrewd piece of business from Conte and will go some way to easing his woes after a deadline day of mixed fortunes at the Bridge.

23 year old from Stoke-on-Trent. Avid Port Vale fan. Also follow Derby County & OGC Nice closely. BA Hons Modern Languages Graduate (University of Oxford). My prior experience in Sports Journalism comes from Volleyball & Floorball, having worked on major tournaments with the CEV, FIVB, & IFF. Have been contributing pieces to The Boot Room since 2016. Views are my own.

Chelsea

Newcastle United can do better than Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham this summer

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Photo: Getty Images.

Rafa Benitez will have been disappointed to have seen his January signing of Islam Slimani end in complete and utter failure with the Leicester City loanee spending more time in the stands than on the pitch and now he is focused on bringing in an improvement to St. James’ Park for 2018/19, but Tammy Abraham is not the answer.

TEAMTalk say that the Spaniard may return to the striker, who was strongly linked with a move to the north-east last summer, according to the Daily Mirror.

On that occasion, the report indicated that a deal could not be agreed to satisfy Chelsea, but having struck a deal for Kenedy since then the relationship between the two parties may be better and make a move for Abraham smoother.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Then, Abraham was hot property having set the Championship alight with Bristol City, but his loan spell at Swansea has been less convincing. Having scored just five goals and registered three assists in 39 appearances for the Swans, Abraham has made only two Premier League starts in 2018 as doubts continue to emerge about his ability at this level.

What is clear is that he is not ready to walk into Newcastle and be the solution that Benitez needs. In part, that is because Abraham would not be an alternative to the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, impressing in the second tier himself now, or Slimani, given that whilst he is tall and physical, his game is about much more than simply being a target man.

The Newcastle boss is clearly looking for a way to add goals to his team, but Abraham, whilst promising, may not be ready for such pressure after a frustrating season in difficult circumstances in south Wales and would be a cheap gamble if Newcastle were to opt for him as their main addition up-front.

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Isaac Christie-Davies joining Liverpool highlights Anfield as the ideal platform for youngsters

Josh Kerr

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Isaac Christie-Davies
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool are set to sign Chelsea midfielder Isaac Christie-Davies on a free transfer, according to reports from ESPN.

The 20-year-old talent was not offered a new contract by Chelsea and the Reds swooped in earlier this year to offer him a trial ahead of other interested clubs.

If the move goes through, Christie-Davies will become the second young player, after Dominic Solanke, to join the Reds from Chelsea in just two years.

Davies joined Chelsea’s academy from Brighton and progressed from the youth ranks to the under-23s, winning the FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016 as well as the UEFA Youth League in 2016.

The teenager impressed during his trial period at Liverpool with the Merseyside outfit set to offer him a contract.

The youngster will look to his former Chelsea teammate and World Cup Golden Ball winner Solanke for inspiration, who finally showcased his talents in his previous outing at Anfield.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old striker finally notched his first senior goal for the Reds against Brighton on the final day of the Premier League, when the England international rifled a shot just under the bar to break his Reds duck.

The move for Christie-Davies represents yet another promising player trading London for Merseyside, and it could be Liverpool taking advantage of further academy talents.

Christie-Davies is likely to head straight into the Liverpool Under 23 squad as he follows the path of former teammate Solanke to Anfield.

Despite the youngster being unlikely to influence the first team next season it still could prove to be a nice bit of business from the club.

Although it was Chelsea’s decision to let the former Brighton youngster leave Stamford Bridge, Davies will look to the likes of former Blues, Solanke and Rhian Brewster as inspiration that it is still possible to reach the top.

Liverpool’s under 23’s finished 2nd in Premier League 2 this season, and standout players such as Harry Wilson even endured successful loan moves in the Championship, which could be the motivation Davies needs to make the grade at Anfield.

Also, the fact Liverpool quickly gambled on the midfielder reflects the qualities that are evidently present with Christie-Davies. If the youngster makes the most of his new move he could be another former Blue to thrive from a London exit.

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Mauricio Pochettino would be mad to leave Tottenham for Chelsea

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Photo: Getty Images.

There could be one of the most sensational managerial switches of the Premier League era if Sky Sports are to be believed as they claim that Chelsea are pondering over making a move for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to replace Antonio Conte after a disastrous attempt at a Premier League title defence.

The Italian’s days are clearly numbered and his departure after the FA Cup final this weekend looks inevitable, but Mauricio Pochettino would be making a serious mistake if he were to take the opportunity to move to Stamford Bridge.

After four years in the dugout, at both White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium, Pochettino has got his team playing his way. The Argentine has always worked under limited resources, at Espanyol, Southampton and even now at Spurs, and whilst the offer of money to spend at Chelsea may be exciting it would also mean an increased responsibility and a very different challenge.

(during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium on May 13, 2018 in London, England.

Tottenham fans and board have complete faith in their coach and are prepared to invest in him to take their club to the next level, something which will come soon with the building of their new stadium, and feel that he is the right man to lead the club in the long-term.

A move to a club with such a short term view in the form of Chelsea would be to sacrifice all that Pochettino has achieved in his spell in north London to date, bringing through young talents like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier who are now beginning to reach their peak and shine under the coach.

With stability at a club on the up, Pochettino would be foolish to be distracted by the bright lights and glamour of a dysfunctional club like Chelsea.

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