The sight of Fikayo Tomori hoisting the Scudetto with AC Milan over the weekend was bittersweet for Chelsea supporters. On the one hand, it was heartening to see a Cobham alumni succeed away from Stamford Bridge during a difficult era, a view shared by many in the wake of Tammy Abraham’s success at Roma.
The losses of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have forced Chelsea to rebuild their defense, and his success and further growth as defender stings.
After a loan, Tomori was sold to AC Milan for £25 million, while another left-sided defender, Marc Guehi, was transferred to Crystal Palace for £20 million. With a contract problem developing before the season, Chelsea’s internal alternatives are becoming increasingly limited.
As we begin to get a sense of where Chelsea intends to spend their money this summer, similar alarm bells should be sounding about one of Thomas Tuchel’s stated objectives. According to The Telegraph, RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol is on an eight-man shortlist of defenders the Blues are considering as prospective replacements.
Tuchel likes Gvardiol, and the 20-year-old Bundesliga star might be considered as a left-sided replacement for Rudiger next season. However, the Croatian’s age and position raise concerns over Levi Colwill’s future at Cobham. He is two years Leipzig’s junior and has spent the season on loan at Huddersfield Town, who are playing in the play-off final on Saturday.
Last July, Colwill signed a new Chelsea contract that will keep him at the club until 2025. However, the route established last summer, with Tomori, Guehi, Abraham, and Tino LIvramento all seizing charge of their futures and progressing to immediate first-team opportunities, is one Chelsea must seek to reverse.
Gvardiol’s minutes in a top-five European league and playing for a Champions League side have sparked a lot of interest. Do his abilities, however, translate to the Premier League? Is the Championship, which is a more physically demanding competition, a better place to train young defenders for the Premier League?
Why should Chelsea spend money on a young left-sided defender when they already have one on the books? You would have passed on Mason Mount, Reece James, Tomori, and Trevoh Chalobah if your reasoning was only based on Colwill’s lack of top-flight minutes.
Internal solutions have shown to be more consistent, useful, and diverse than external choices that the club has paid for over the last three years. If you’re worried about bodies after Cesar Azpilicueta’s departure, Torino’s Gleison Bremer appears to be an older alternative who has shown adaptable in Serie A across a back-five.
Gvardiol, like Jules Kounde, is a highly regarded defender, and he might show to be a brilliant piece of business in the future years. Fans have seen such circumstances before, and given the club’s attitude to squad building in recent years, the risk of losing Colwill to another team cannot be dismissed.