By, Navaneeth Ravichandran (Twitter: @navrav28)
The most drawn out saga of this summer’s transfer window has finally come to a conclusion, as Chelsea have confirmed the signing of French midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco for a fee believed to be around 40 million pounds. Bakayoko has signed a 5 year deal with the club, and should step right into the starting lineup besides fellow Frenchman N’golo Kante. Here is a scouting report on the 22-year old that many are comparing to a young Yaya Toure.
Interceptions and tackles, that is Bakayoko’s bread and butter. His tackle success rate was an astounding 81% in the French top tier last year. Kante, the reigning PFA player of the year and well known tackle machine, had a 69% success rate. Clearly, Bakayoko is extremely capable of disrupting possession in the midfield. He also recording 56 interceptions last season, displaying the ability to break up passing plays with relative ease. Seeing Bakayoko and Kante team up in the Chelsea midfield will be an indubitable nightmare for opposing teams.
In the Monaco setup last season, Bakayoko teamed up with Fabinho in the center of the midfield. Bakayoko played a little more forward, while Fabinho would act as the man directly in front of the center-backs, essentially playing as a sweeping midfielder picking up the remains of any balls Bakayoko may have missed up front. This positioning not only worked wonders for Jardim’s side, but it gave Bakayoko license to head up the pitch if he desires. This meant the Frenchmen was a key linkup man, providing support with weighted balls through to the likes of Bernardo Silva, Mbappe, and Falcao. Bakayoko registered 7 assists last season, which for a player whom is known for his defence first is a very good number. If Conte chooses to play his two midfielders the same way, with Kante acting as a Fabinho, then Bakayoko will have license to play the support man that he has proven he can.
Like I mentioned earlier, Bakayoko is a very good support man. This is not only because of his technical skills, but because of his physical assets as well. Like fellow Chelsea signing Antonio Rudiger, Bakayoko is extremely physical, and surprisingly fast as well for a supposed defensive midfielder. Whether he’s sprinting to support the attack or tracking back to shore up the defence, Bakayoko can get there using his physical ability. The following video encapsulates his ability as a support man, utilizing both technical and physical aspects of the game.
Flexibility for Conte
Adding a player of Bakayoko’s skillset means Antonio Conte has a little more depth and room to experiment. Of course, Bakayoko can be immediately plugged into the current 3-4-3 formation without any issues. However, should Conte choose to adopt a 3-5-2, Bakayoko can fit right into that as well. The latter midfield would conceivable include the French duo in Kante and Bakayoko, and will likely include Cesc Fabregas as a creator. This way Fabregas will not have any defensive duties whatsoever, and will only have to focus on the long balls he is so well known for. Another formation, although it may be a bit of a stretch, is a 4-2-4. This setup relies heavily on the two in midfield, but if there are any two midfielders in Europe that can make that formation work, it’s Kante and Bakayoko.
One of the reasons I love being a Chelsea fan is because of how they conduct their business. Although their signings are not the most expensive, they are almost always smart and improve the team immensely. We saw that last year with the additions of Luiz, Alonso, and Kante. I believe the trend will continue this year with Rudiger and Bakayoko. We don’t need a world record Paul Pogba, what we need is a talented box-to-box midfielder that complements Kante in the midfield, and Bakayoko fits the bill perfectly.
Cover photo courtesy of: Express Sport
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