Chelsea may be fourth in the league and going well enough (for now) in the Champions League, but the team’s problems in just about every phase of play are obvious, stark and often immediate, and may not be able to be solved just through the resources already available to us.
One bit of help on the defensive side of things could be (should be) the imminent return of Antonio Rüdiger, who’s been limited to just 45 minutes of first-team action since May, thanks to yet another knee injury and then a subsequent groin injury. He could be back for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League tie against Lille at the Bridge. But after missing practically the last six months, there’s no guarantee that he can produce to the level of fitness required, let alone to the level of quality we so desire.
It is precisely that concern that apparently has Frank Lampard considering a possible January solution. According to the Matt Law’s exclusive in the Telegraph, the Chelsea boss “will assess the fitness and form of Antonio Rüdiger before deciding whether to make a move to try to take Nathan Aké back to Chelsea during the January transfer window.”
Former Chelsea youngster Aké has been increasingly linked with a potential return to Stamford Bridge, with a £40m fee often bandied about (twice what AFC Bournemouth paid 30 months ago; their record signing at the time). Assuming he’d be willing to return, the 24-year-old versatile and, notably, left-footed defender would conceivably slot in ahead of every other center back at the club currently.
Like Rüdiger’s expected return, Aké probably wouldn’t be able to solve Chelsea’s systemic issues all by himself, but he could be helpful. World class center backs are few and far between, and basically none are available, certainly not in January.
Aké may not be available either, of course, but he’s halfway through the five-year contract he signed in 2017, and that means it could be decision time for the next step in his career. (So this could all be just a contract extension negotiation ploy, too.)
Aké’s team conceded 3 goals to a Merseyside club today as well, and to make matters worse, Aké picked up a hamstring injury that is likely to rule him out for the next few weeks (including our game against them next weekend). He could be back just in time for January, and just in time for some Chelsea transfer rumor fun, now that the transfer ban is over.