Why Wilfried Zaha would be a perfect signing for Chelsea
Chelsea's inconsistent start to the 2017-18 campaign coupled with Manchester City's electric record-breaking run has seen boss Antonio Conte suggest that a top-four finish for the champions will be a major success for the club.
The Blues went into the season with an under-strengthened team, lacking depth in the squad and top replacements in key areas after they were unable to sign their major transfer targets.
Following flirts with big names like Robert Lewandowski, Alex Sandro, Danilo, James Rodriguez and Ross Barkley and the failure to seal their signatures to the club, the Blues did end the transfer window overseeing the arrival of Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko along with successful deadline-day moves for Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta.
Since signing for Chelsea, Alvaro Morata has struggled for fitness and is yet to settle in well in England. But, his growing partnership with Eden Hazard up front in the Chelsea attack and his overall tally of 12 goals and four assists show promise from the Spaniard. French international Tiemoue Bakayoko started the season poorly, but has in recent times been showing glimpses of improvement and is beginning to display performances that convinced Chelsea to pay £40m to bring the player over from Monaco.
On the other hand, deadline day signings, Drinkwater and Zappacosta have yet to fully integrate themselves into the team, with the Italian still yet to oust Victor Moses from the right wing back role, despite being a natural fit compared to the former winger. But, their performances in recent times have improved, which would definitely please Conte.
Chelsea head into the new year on the back of a 5-0 hammering of Stoke City - their highest against a team this season, 7 home wins in a row and despite being 14 points behind Manchester City, this could serve as a boost for the other half of the season.
Chelsea face Arsenal, Manchester United and Leceister City in the first two months of the year in what could be a major run of games for the club. The Blues also play against Barcelona in the Round of 16 clash in the Champions League, which serves as their highlight of the start of the new year.
Antonio Conte is known for tweaking his teams and he has already done that this season, having switched to a 3-5-2 formation when Hazard and Morata are present for selection while switching back to 3-4-3 in the absence of the striker.
The recent change in the system has seen the Blues line up more in an overly defensive manner, playing less attacking football, leaving Hazard as the only performing attacker in the team most times across the season.
Why Wilfried Zaha?
There have been concerns about the Chelsea defense, especially the issue of no replacements to cover Marcos Alonso in the left wing back role, but the Stamford Bridge side's attack seems to be the biggest concern for the club.
Chelsea have been relatively poorer in attack and have lacked the attacking cut to break down teams the way they did on their way to the title last season, especially when facing a tactically assembled defensive team. One-nil victories over Bournemouth, Swansea and Southampton, along with a goalless draw against Everton (the second leg match of the season), have been evident of an attack that lacks incisiveness.
Among the attackers available to Conte, Hazard has been the brightest and is Chelsea's primary source of attack. Pedro has been out of form while a rejuvenated Willian is starting to improve and play more like the man who was the Blues' Player of the Year two seasons ago.
Antonio Conte's style of play in the first half of the season has shown that he wants to stick with the new 3-5-2 or 3-1-4-2 system and therefore needs another player to complement Hazard and give the Belgian more fluidity. This is where Wilfried Zaha comes in.
When Chelsea faced Crystal Palace in their encounter this season, the Eagles were yet to win a game and had not scored a single goal in 7 matches. While Zaha had been injured in the previous 6 fixtures, the Ivorian returned against the Champions and was the chief tormentor as Crystal Palace outclassed Chelsea, scoring a goal in that match.
The former England youth player is known for his quick runs, pace, strength, dribbling skills and hold up play. Also able to play on either side of the attacking line, he could also feature in an attacking midfield role and represents the kind of player Conte needs because of his versatility.
The Blues need more sting in attack and Zaha seems apt to be the man for the job. The winger playing alongside Hazard, cutting across the attack and running in behind defenders would surely wreck defenses.
Since returning to his boyhood club after an inglorious stint with Manchester United, the 25-year-old has been rebuilding a promising career that set him for greater things as a youngster and a move to Chelsea will definitely be a breakthrough for a player of his abilities.
Crystal Palace have already said they won't let the player go, but Chelsea must do everything within their power to sign him, especially now that Liverpool have set the tone with a huge transfer for a defender, Crystal Palace would definitely up their price, but the Champions must avoid a repeat of the summer and be ready to pay if they want to end the season successfully with a trophy and not in the top four.