With Chelsea Captain John Terry struggling to claim a place in Antonio Conte’s new 3-4-3 system after returning from his ankle injury. His future at the club is under scrutiny. Former Chelsea coach Ray Wilkins has even backed the former England captain to sign for Manchester United next summer. Terry has also linked to a move to the Chinese Super League, with Shanghai SPG amongst the teams interested.
But why have the Chelsea captain’s first team opportunities been so limited this season?
Rewind back to this summer’s transfer deadline day, when Antonio Conte brought controversial Brazilian defender David Luiz back to the Stamford Bridge for a reported £34 million. Many pundits and journalists wrote Luiz off straight away, calling the Brazilian a panic buy due to the lack of defensive depth within the squad. However, eleven games into the season and David Luiz has now become one of Chelsea’s success stories this year.
In addition, David Luiz may not be the most trustworthy defender in a standard back four, due to his erratic and attacking style of play. Although, in a back 3 next to Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, Luiz has been given much more freedom on the pitch. By having two other central defenders next to him, Luiz is given the opportunity to express his Brazilian flair on the ball, he has been able to deploy one of his trademark long balls, which have been key to Chelsea’s success so far this season. David Luiz’s raw talent has always had raw talent which most centre backs don’t have but Antonio Conte has found a specific way to control Luiz’s unstable playstyle by having defensive midfielders N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic sitting in front of Luiz to cover whenever he makes a mistake. Statistics also show that in 7 games this season when David Luiz has been playing, Chelsea have kept five clean sheets, Whilst in the five games they have played with John Terry they have only kept one.
Subsequently, Luiz may not be the only player keeping Terry out of the team. Young French defender Kurt Zouma is set to be returning to the Chelsea side following his seven months of being sidelined due to his anterior cruciate ligament injury. With Zouma back in good shape, there should be no reason why the French international shouldn’t go directly into that Chelsea back three. In a very poor defence last season, Zouma was the only ray of hope as he towered over forwards and put in many crucial tackles which saved Chelsea from losing out on points.
Even more bad news for Terry, Conte has also been linked with some of Serie A’s best central defenders in attempt to enhance his back three even further, this January. Firstly, rumours report that Conte is looking to revive his summer bids for Napoli centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly, even though the African defender insists he is ‘very, very happy’ at Napoli.
Additionally, Conte has again stated his interest in Juventus centre-half Leonardo Bonucci, who is regarded as one of the world’s best defenders. The Chelsea boss has apparently got the ‘green light’ from owner Roman Abramovich, who has stated he is willing to break Chelsea’s current transfer record which is Fernando Torres from Liverpool for £50 million back in 2011 and set a world record deal for a defender. Bonucci would be Conte’s dream signing as he is already familiar with the defender’s capability, managing him for three years at Juventus and working very closely with him during his time as the Italy manager. However, Chelsea have firm competition for the signature of Bonucci as Manchester City are also ‘very keen’ on the Italian.
Do you believe that John Terry’s time is up at Chelsea?
Who do you think is a realistic transfer target to replace Terry at Chelsea?
Leave your opinions in the comment section below.