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What Frenkie de Jong said regarding Chelsea’s future as a midfielder preparing to make a late window transfer move


What Frenkie de Jong said regarding Chelsea's future as a midfielder preparing to make a late window transfer move

Chelsea’s midfield took another damaging hit against Southampton. Not only did the makeshift pivot of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, not a natural six, and Jorginho lose control of the game after going ahead, Tuchel was then left with injury concerns to attend to as well.

Loftus-Cheek left the field at halftime and didn’t return to action with heavy bandaging and ice seen on his knee during the second 45. Tuchel then used Mateo Kovacic in his place despite not being fit enough for more than 20 minutes. He would play all of the second period. Meanwhile, Jorginho struggled to impact the game positively for Chelsea, being overran and technically limited.

As Tuchel left the eager faces of Carney Chukwuemeka and Billy Gilmour, drafted in to sit on the bench, on the sidelines for the entirety and then said he had no more midfielders, the stance was clear. He wants players he can trust readily, and though Gilmour and Chukwuemeka have done nothing to suggest they can’t be trusted, Tuchel is heavily reliant on experience to get himself through this period.

Now it looks like the Scottish youngster is close to leaving Stamford Bridge permanently. Brighton would like to sign him, and although that doesn’t immediately eliminate one of Tuchel’s options, Gilmour was only an extremely unlikely precaution. It does show the muddle that the manager is in.

In Gilmour, he has a talented player with Premier League experience and examples of world-class performances -albeit a small sample size – but no indication that he would ever be used this season. The 21-year-old is a more natural fit to the double-pivot than Loftus-Cheek or Conor Gallagher, and although he doesn’t have the stature of an out-and-out defensive midfielder, he does have the energy to cover the pitch in a way Jorginho can’t. Tuchel’s first answer was understandably to use Kovacic, but when you consider that he would rather risk a key player in dire times than even offer Gilmour a glimpse, it shows his priority.

Even later in the second half, when Chelsea attacked, Hakim Ziyech, who is wantaway from the club too, was played in a deeper role in front of Kovacic before Gilmour could even ask if warming up was worth it. This is without mentioning Ethan Ampadu, who is also a capable player in the middle of the park. Instead, almost all of Chelsea’s hopes for a new midfielder this window have rested on Frenkie de Jong.

The Dutchman has been at the centre of transfer and public speculation with his treatment from Barcelona and interest from Todd Boehly and Manchester United, but nothing appears close heading into the late stages of the window. Unless he was to seriously push for a move away, De Jong wouldn’t be Tuchel’s answer.

In a similar vein, the 25-year-old remained coy on his return to Spain after journeying to London this week. After stirring up the fanbase, when a video of him boarding a plane to the capital emerged, it was revealed that he was attending Donny van de Beek’s wedding. Now, on his way back to Spain and there was no let-up of questions over his future. De Jong marched past the reporters with a stern face, ignoring all transfer talk.

Even though nobody expects him to turn around and say that he has just signed a contract at Chelsea, the situation felt comically hopeful and sums up Tuchel’s midfield plight. There are players available to him, albeit not ones he has much knowledge of, but they may well be the last options left come September 2. If they are, then performances from the current batch need to improve and injury records need to be put right, or the German must start to take more of a risk when it comes to those he deems ‘available’.


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