It was early on in the 2017/18 season when Pep Guardiola was handed a conundrum at Manchester City.
Benjamin Mendy, who was signed for £51m from Monaco the previous summer, had ruptured his Achilles tendon, ruling him out for a majority of the season.
This threw Guardiola’s first-choice plans into the blender and meant he had to improvise. His solution was to field Fabian Delph in his place.
“Delph as a left-footed career defensive midfielder who had barely featured offered an alternative solution when Mendy got injured.” Dominic Farrell, editor of City is Ours tells CareFreeChelsea.
“I think his first start there was that 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge where Kevin De Bruyne got the winner. Real statement performance, and then he was pretty much set for the season.”
Although no Chelsea fan would like to be reminded about that City win, the example of Delph feels similar to a recent call made by Thomas Tuchel.
Like Mendy, Ben Chilwell’s ACL injury in November has ended his season, and Tuchel has struggled to find an alternative since.
The club are still actively looking in the transfer market for a potential deal before deadline day, but the fear of spending more than necessary on a player who likely becomes the second choice by August is obvious.
However, in recent weeks, Tuchel’s decision to try Malang Sarr as the left-side of his back-four twice against Tottenham has offered a brief respite.
The 22-year-old defender who was signed on a free after leaving Ligue 1 side Nice in August 2020 was expected to leave on loan this season for his second stint away from Stamford Bridge.
But a potential loan to the Bundesliga broke down, and Sarr stayed put. Slowly Tuchel has found minutes for him in the Premier League, Champions League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup.
Being a left-footed defender makes him suited to play as a more conservative fullback in a four-man defence that Tuchel is now adopting without the English duo of Reece James and Chilwell.
Sarr potentially offers Chelsea an example of a low cost, high-value signing that feels quite rare in SW6 given the current frustration over several expensive additions failing to produce consistently.
“It was kind of a solution on the hoof. It was never something he planned to be doing, which I guess makes it similar to Tuchel’s situation.” Farrell says.
“Guardiola went big on full-backs that summer as Kolarov, Clichy, Zabaleta and Sagna all left. It was a total revamp.
“Dani Alves had basically agreed to come but changed his mind for PSG at the last minute.
“In the first season in charge, Pep had tried the inverted full-backs he used at Bayern, but the personnel didn’t really work for it.”
In Chelsea’s win over Spurs, Sarr was a standout performer and has quickly jumped above the more experienced Marcos Alonso in the pecking order.
Alonso’s form has been questioned, plus his lack of mobility to inject the speed needed for the German’s intended style of play.
Both Guardiola and Tuchel are flexible coaches who thrive off finding unique solutions.
Sarr’s potential success should force Chelsea to try and uncover more players of his ilk in the transfer market.
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Source by Football London