Chelsea are set to make their third summer signing, with Marc Cucurella closing in on a move to Stamford Bridge. It is set to be a crucial couple of weeks for the Blues, as Thomas Tuchel wants new additions to strengthen their title ambitions. As it is a new regime at the club, there have been some teething issues, as the new board adapt to senior football positions. Todd Boehly has become the interim sporting director and he will have learned a lot about the transfer market during this period.
Barcelona have been a constant thorn in the sides of Chelsea, as they have beaten them to the signings of Raphinha and Jules Kounde. However, it could now be the turn of the Blues to gazump a rival team, as Manchester City had long been touted as the likely destination for Cucurella. However, the current Premier League champions have been reluctant to meet the asking price of £50m. Brighton have stood firm in their valuation and it looks like the West Londoners will meet the demands.
The defence was made a priority for Chelsea this summer, following the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger. Kalidou Koulibaly has arrived, but Tuchel will want more. Cucurella is seen as a good addition to the squad, as he can cover multiple positions. He is a left-back, but he is more than capable at wing-back or as the left centre back in a back three. That will add a level of tactical flexibility to the Chelsea squad that is currently lacking.
Many wouldn’t have thought Cucurella would be a priority target for Chelsea, but the doubts over Ben Chilwell remain. The England international hasn’t featured heavily in pre-season and there will still be some lingering injury concerns. Marcos Alonso is trying to leave the club, while Emerson Palmieri has never been fully trusted at Stamford Bridge.
Cucurella was one of the standout performers in the Premier League last season. It isn’t a great surprise that he has been publicly pursued by two of the current top three. He is easily good enough to make the step up and his experience in the Premier League should help him adapt quickly.
Last season, he contributed one goal and one assist, but his overall contribution was much more than that. An average of 2.37 shot creating actions per ninety minutes shows the attacking threat that he does offer, ranking in the 80th percentile among full backs.
Cucurella is excellent in transition, with an ability to progress the ball. The Spaniard averages 5.06 progressive passes and 6.07 progressive carries per ninety minutes, ranking in the 87th and 79th percentiles respectively. His ability to progress the ball makes him a perfect fit for Chelsea, as they rely on their defenders to play a big role in the build-up. Rudiger was excellent at playmaking from deep, while also stepping into the final third to create an overload.
If Cucurella plays on the left of a back three, he will need to carry out a similar role. The above stats should encourage supporters that he can be a good fit for the role.
There will be some concerns about his ability in the air if he does play in the back three. He averages 1.56 successful aerial duels, showing that he can compete and won’t be a weak link.
Chelsea haven’t managed to have the smooth summer they would have wanted. That was always likely to be difficult due to the takeover. Cucurella may not have been seen as a priority at the start of the window, but an opportunity has presented itself and he is an excellent player.