N’Golo Kante question, Reece James error: Chelsea transfer in-tray for Joe Shields and Boehly
Chelsea confirmed the arrival of Joe Shiel ds on Thursday morning as the club’s new Co-Director of Recruitment and Talent. Shields will begin his work at Stamford Bridge when “when his obligations with Southampton are complete”, as the statement explained. Working for almost a decade in Manchester City’s academy before moving to Southampton this previous summer, Shields comes to Chelsea with tons of experience working in an elite environment and fits in with the type of talent Todd Boehly is looking to recruit.
As described in a report by The Evening Standard, Boehly is attempting to “implement a collaborative structure instead of having a big- name sporting director.” Along with Shields, Laurence Stewart has joined as a technical director potentially focusing on a multi-club model, Christopher Vivell is also expected to follow another technical director Paul Winstanley, Brighton’s head of recruitment.
All of these appointments are hopefully going to form the basis of a structure that can facilitate a more coherent transfer process, something Chelsea have been accused of lacking over the past decade. Whilst this supposed ‘think tank’ will focus on broader aspects than just who gets bought for the first team, Graham Potter has several key areas to address in the short-term, but also looking at how the Blues have previously faltered in building a good enough squad to keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Here are some big tasks in Shields’ and Boehly’s in-tray to resolve in 2023.
The Kante question and midfield conundrum
The uncertainty over the future of Chelsea’s midfield is linked to two factors: the contracts of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante ticking down and who the club targets to successfully replace those two senior players.
Whilst this is not a new concern, we are getting close to some form of a resolution that a new recruitment team will have to navigate. Do you hand Kante a new deal given his extensive injury issues? Do you offer Jorginho one given his age and limitations? Are there some shrewd targets that could be targeted around Europe or in the Premier League that may not cost a record fee and suit the tactical profile of player Potter needs?
Reece James backup
The recent knee injury to Reece James has only heightened the concerns over the lack of suitable cover within the current squad. Trying to replace or compete with James is tough if you do not intend on spending big, and given the six-year deal the new ownership just handed to the 22- year-old, it probably isn’t necessary.
Rather than externally going out and spending for a backup, are there better ways of addressing this issue? Promoting from within is something that has proved highly beneficial in recent years. Dujon Sterling has been impressing on loan, can he come back and prove a valuable squad member?
Dion Rankine is gaining more admirers for his dazzling displays in academy games, someone who could grab a chance in a cup game to impress this season. Without James, Potter has relied upon shifting forwards into a wingback role, using a 33-year-old Cesar Azpilicueta or moving Ruben Loftus-Cheek from midfield. Even with the brilliance of James, his consistent injury setbacks cannot be ignored.