Premier League

Who Chelsea need to buy next after Enzo Fernandez

Cameron Smith
Enzo Fernandez, Benfica, 2022/23

Enzo Fernandez looks on the verge of joining Chelsea for a club-record €127 million, with the Blues eager to sign the Benfica star following his impressive start to life in Portugal and his immense World Cup campaign.

The 21-year-old helped Argentina lift the famous trophy in late December, and won the coveted Golden Ball, awarded to the best young player in the tournament.

Furthermore, his form at club level has seen Benfica sail to the top of the Portuguese top flight and helped the side beat PSG in the race to finish first of Group H in the Champions League.

READ: Why Enzo Fernandez is worth every penny of €127m fee

That has prompted Chelsea to pay €127m to land him in January, a fee that exceeds his release clause as the Blues are able to pay in three instalments and not risk breaching Financial Fair Play rules.

But, while Fernandez is an excellent player who will solve many of Chelsea’s issues – primarily the lack of an all-action central midfielder – he can’t fix everything on his own.

READ: Why are Chelsea paying more than Enzo Fernandez’s release clause?

Why Fernandez can’t fix everything for Chelsea

While Fernandez was excellent as a deep-lying number six in Argentina’s win over Poland, for example, playing in that role limits his best qualities.

He’s been seen as a Jorginho replacement, given the Italian international’s contract at Stamford Bridge is set to expire this summer, but that doesn’t accurately describe his play-style.

Jorginho is set to leave Chelsea this summer

Jorginho is set to leave Chelsea this summer

Sure, his passing is genuinely world class and he excels at progressing the ball via finding gaps to break the lines, but Fernandez’s weaknesses would be shown if he’s deployed in a lone number six role.

The Argentine is a brilliant aggressive, front-footed defensive midfielder, which means he likes to leave his position to press and win tackles; it’s what saw him win 10 tackles in the World Cup final. But, that aggressive nature would be stifled if he’s played in a lone defensive midfield role, and would leave him exposed when he’s bypassed.

Despite his high number of defensive actions, Fernandez has a tendency to be too aggressive at times, which is why he was dribbled past on six occasions in the World Cup final, and is why Florentino Luis’ role next to him at Benfica is so key. A more reliable defensive presence who is capable of holding shape is needed to play alongside Fernandez if Chelsea want to extract his maximum potential.

Just signing Fernandez wouldn’t solve Chelsea’s midfield frailty as he needs a defensive active and positionally aware partner next to him – like what Luis does at Benfica.

Furthermore, playing him more advanced would allow his creativity to blossom rather than be suffocated. For €127m, Chelsea need to get the most from Fernandez and restricting him to a lone number six role wouldn’t be wise.

Enzo Fernandez won the Golden Ball at the 2022 World Cup

Enzo Fernandez won the Golden Ball at the 2022 World Cup

Therefore, the Blues can’t be satisfied with just signing Fernandez if they want to address their midfield woes.

Declan Rice is the obvious link given his history at Chelsea, and he remains on the club’s radar. He clearly wants to leave West Ham this summer and if the Blues are ready to spend big then Rice seems like the logical choice to partner Fernandez at Stamford Bridge.

Moises Caicedo is also an option, but Brighton and Hove Albion will likely to do all they can to avoid losing another key asset to Chelsea after the departures of Marc Cucurella, Graham Potter and their recruitment team.

On the continent, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Kouadio Kone could be a smart pick-up, although he is also an excellent ball-carrier and may not provide the solidity Potter is looking for next to Fernandez, despite his defensive numbers catching the eye.

23-year-old Martin Zubimendi is another player that Chelsea have previously looked at, and the impending addition of Fernandez could re-ignite their interest in the Spaniard given his immense security on the ball and defensive attributes.

Christopher Nkunku is set to join Chelsea in the summer

Christopher Nkunku is set to join Chelsea in the summer

In addition, Chelsea’s problems go beyond signing a midfield partner for Fernandez. A back-up right-back is needed given Reece James’ injury problems and Cesar Azpilicueta’s inconsistent form, a reliable goal-scorer is still a problem, although Christopher Nkunku could fix that, a new number one might be needed if Kepa Arrizabalaga isn’t deemed good enough and the pursuit of Shakhtar Donestk star Mykhailo Mudryk suggests the Blues believe they need more options in the forward line.

Signing Fernandez is a good start, but if Chelsea want to close the gap to become title-challengers then more is needed.

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