How Chelsea’s centre backs fared vs Bournemouth amid transfer links for Jules Kounde



Chelsea have been linked with a swoop for Sevilla centre half Jules Kounde in the past few hours which football.london understands are being dismissed as speculation and rumour.

Despite the Blues’ stoic defence under Thomas Tuchel last season the links to the defender emerged on Tuesday after what has been a quiet start to the window in terms of incomings.

Tuchel hasn’t seen his first choice centre backs at all in pre-season on the pitch and has only seen Antonio Rudiger since the players began to return three weeks ago. The German wasn’t taken to Bournemouth in midweek having only been back on the grass for a few days.

So it was another chance for those on the fringes to state their case to Tuchel for, perhaps not a first team starting eleven place, but to try and force their way into his thoughts for the 25-man Premier League squad he will announce in the not too distant future.

As expected, Chelsea started with a five-man defence that we have become accustomed to under Tuchel.

Callum Hudson-Odoi was deployed at right wing-back, with Marcos Alonso on the left. Dujon Sterling, Lewis Baker and Malang Sarr made up the three centre halves.

Baker has been a member of the Blues’ loan army for some time but demonstrated early on against Bournemouth why the club has kept him around – of sorts.

He had been initially caught out by a fine David Brooks pass but then recovered superbly, showing a real turn of pace to get back and block former Chelsea youngster Dominic Solanke’s effort.

Sarr is a much-newer member of the Loan Army as he was signed on a free transfer this time last year and was sent off to Porto to gain some experience. He probably didn’t play as much as he, and Chelsea, would have wanted in Portugal.

The Frenchman didn’t look as composed as Baker in the early stages, giving away three niggly fouls in dangerous positions as he struggled to deal with Bournemouth’s midfield breaking the lines.

Dujon Sterling was the other centre half and he had a quieter time of things in the early going, using his pace to bail him out when needed and showing good presence of mind to sit deep and allow play to develop in front of him and assessing things rather than diving into win the ball back as quickly as possible.

The one time he didn’t and took the gamble, he completely hacked down Kyle Taylor and was booked. Even in a pre-season friendly, he was never going to get away with not getting a card.

He’s not played a lot at right centre back, predominantly a wing-back or full back, even a winger on that side, but looked very comfortable in a more central position, perhaps helped by playing there on the odd occasion for the under-23s last season following his 13-month injury and illness hell.

Would any of the trio of centre backs displace Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva or Kurt Zouma next season? Probably not, as the Blues centre back core is incredibly strong under Tuchel.

It was all change in the second half as Trevoh Chalobah, Matt Miazga and Jake Clarke-Salter occupied the three centre back spots while Hudson-Odoi and Alonso kept their places.

The second half trio are more likely to see their immediate future away from Chelsea than the first half three. Sarr perhaps has the best chance of staying around of them all.

Miazga has pretty much made it clear he is going to move on at some point this summer after numerous loans away from west London, likewise Clarke-Salter and Chalobah.

Neither of the second half trio covered themselves in glory as Emiliano Marcondes was allowed to stride into the Blues penalty area unmarked and head past a helpless Edouard Mendy in the 65th minute.

It was a makeshift defence that summed up the makeshift squad that Tuchel has been working with since the start of pre-season three weeks ago.

To his credit, Chalobah improved as the half went on and was probably the pick of the bunch after the break in defence. Chelsea’s half time changes finally started to hit their stride as Armando Broja cancelled out Emiliano Marcondes’ opener with his third strike of pre-season before Ike Ugbo headed the visitors in front.

But we didn’t really learnt too much about the Blues’ centre backs, which was to be expected. Sterling and Sarr perhaps pushed their claims for more regular game time this season but those who are returning next week to Cobham from their international exploits don’t have too much to worry about.

Unless the club signs Jules Kounde.

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