Why Chelsea do not need Kounde
Trevoh Chalobah is the talk of the town around Stamford Bridge right now after the academy graduate scored on his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace.
Chalobah, whose brother Nathaniel won the 2016/17 Premier League title with the Blues, has spent the last few years on loan having progressed through the Chelsea youth teams.
While Nathaniel was winning the Premier League, Trevoh played every minute of Chelsea's triumphant FA Youth Cup team, while he was also a regular in the Under-19 side as they retained their UEFA Youth League crown, playing alongside a certain Mason Mount.
Three loan spells then followed. Chalobah went on loan to both Ipswich Town and Huddersfield Town in the Championship, before joining Lorient on a season-long deal last year.
In France, Chalobah impressed throroughly, making 29 Ligue 1 appearances, contributing with two goals and two assists, despite his deep-lying position. He played at both centre-back and defensive midfield, showing his versatility and talent.
Upon returning to Chelsea's Cobham training facility, it was expected that Chalobah would feature in pre-season as a means of regaining fitness, and putting his name in the shop window for another loan move.
However, his performances against both Peterborough and during an in-house friendly, both behind-closed-doors, impressed Thomas Tuchel, and after shining in the second-half in the friendly against Bournemouth, Chalobah was handed starts against both Arsenal and Tottenham.
With stars returning late after their participation in the Euros and Copa America, Chalobah was then rewarded his full Chelsea debut in the Super Cup final. He played all 120 minutes, with little getting past him.
That led to Tuchel handing him a first ever Premier League appearance in their opener against Crystal Palace. Although the Eagles rarely threatened, Chalobah looked composed and at home in this Chelsea side. He was solid defensively, secure in possession, and of course, scored a wonder goal in front of an adoring home crowd.
That capped off an incredible week for the 22-year-old, who is in line for another appearance against Arsenal, this time in the league.
Chalobah's early season form has potentially put a stumbling block in Chelsea's pursuit of Sevilla defender Jules Kounde. The Blues had identified Kounde as an ideal target, especially if they can offload Kurt Zouma, however, could Chalobah's presence stop a move for the French defender?
Is Chalobah good enough?
Probably. Although we are yet to see how he copes over the course of a season, Chalobah has proven that he is more than good enough to be involved with the Chelsea senior squad.
Dominant in the air, and positionally aware, Chalobah can play in the middle or the right of the back three, and also in midfield.
That adds crucial depth, and with Thiago Silva ageing, he won't be able to play more than once a week, hence why someone like Chalobah, as depth, is vital.
He appears to have leapfrogged Kurt Zouma in the pecking order, and is ready for first-team football now.
A loan move has been touted, but that was before his excellent past week. Tuchel will now have to make a decision on whether Chalobah will stay, or be loaned out for the season.
Do Chelsea even need Kounde?
In short, no; at least, not this summer. Chelsea have a plethora of centre-back options, and signing Kounde would mean side-lining Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen, both of whom have excelled under Tuchel.
Kounde is a great defender, but right now, he wouldn't add much to Chelsea's defence. However, the aforementioned Azpilicueta and Christensen, as well as Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, are all out of contract next summer.
Their pursuit of Kounde therefore makes more sense, but it can wait a year. Furthermore, extending those deals is far more important than signing Kounde, and should be a priority for the club.
Central midfield = more urgent
Waiting a year before reigniting their hunt for Kounde would allow Chelsea to prioritise a central midfielder. Chalobah is good enough to keep Kounde away for at least this year, but a defensive midfielder is needed.
N'Golo Kante has becoming increasingly injury prone over recent years, and Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic struggle against the bigger sides. Therefore, an all-action defensive midfielder should be a priority.
Declan Rice has been heavily linked, although he may cost too much. In that case, the Blues should go all-in for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni. The Frenchman is already an elite midfielder, despite his young age, and he'd be perfect alongside Jorginho.
The acquisition of Tchouameni would allow Kante to be rested and not unnecessarily risked. Furthermore, it plans for the future, and is a far more pressing matter than central defence.
Chalobah is good enough to stop Chelsea's pursuit of Kounde, and the Blues should instead focus on central midfield and renewing deals for their current crop of defenders.
The English academy graduate may not be experienced at the top level, but his pre-season form needs to be rewarded, and a place in Chelsea's Premier League squad, rather than a loan move away, is the perfect way to do this.