With the end of the season less than a month away, Chelsea must be welcoming the closure of the 2015-16 Premier League with open arms. This campaign is likely to see the Blues record their worst finish since 1996 and the club will undoubtedly be keen to turn their back on the turmoil.
Defensive frailties have perhaps been one of the greatest contributors to this collapse and with a goal difference 34 strikes worse than it was last season, their leaky back four is clear to see. There can be little denying that Antonio Conte should purchase a defender this summer as a consequence.
Perhaps one of the most frequently linked targets has been AS Roma centre-back Kostas Manolas and with the Greek’s superb form rumbling on, the Blues should pounce. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this is a man Chelsea can’t afford to miss out on this summer.
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After a humble rise through Greek football and a two-year spell at Olympiacos that saw him garner two league titles, Manolas signed for Roma in August 2014. In fact, on his own admission, clubs such as Juventus were also interested in securing his signature.
Since his move, Manolas has taken well to the task of replacing Medhi Benatia and has established himself as a first-team regular.
According to Whoscored.com, the 24-year-old has made an average of 1.8 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, 1.8 blocks and 4.4 clearances per game this season. Moreover, he has collated 23 international caps and garnered plaudits for his performances at the 2014 World Cup.
Manolas’ physical play matched with natural pace has seen him adapt well to football in Serie A and he has risen to one of the best centre-backs in the European game for his age.
Sky Sports have been one of numerous publications to make the connection between Manolas and Chelsea. It certainly appears an appetising relationship.
Conte’s deep roots in Italian football increases the likelihood of Chelsea’s ability to snatch the Greek star via his appeal and plethora of contacts. It will ultimately pivot however on whether Manolas will want to sacrifice the privilege of Champions League football in favour of Stamford Bridge.
Nonetheless, Chelsea should fight to acquire the 24-year-old. His age will see him a long-term investment; a key factor considering the ages of current defenders such as Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill.
Moreover, his style of play sees him likely to be able to adapt to the Premier League and its physical demands. Youth will also be key for the Blues as they need a defender they can rely upon for over 50 games in a season, something that took a damaging toll on John Terry last year.
Conte needs a young but level-headed centre-back that can instantly react to English football and Manolas appears a perfect fit. A potential partnership with Kurt Zouma would certainly have supporters rubbing their hands together.
However, bagging the Greek star’s signature will be far from easy given interest from other clubs such as Tottenham according to the Daily Telegraph. Roma’s recent sales of centre-backs Benatia and Marquinhos should provide hope of a repeat for the Blues though.
With defensive insecurities being at the heart of Chelsea’s turmoil, the Stamford Bridge side should make Manolas their priority this summer. It proves a proposition too good to miss.
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