Could Danny Drinkwater leave Chelsea after just one season?
Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater looks set to leave less than 12 months after joining from Leicester City. Having initially struggled for regular playing time, the 28-year-old has since been completely frozen out. With his career at stake, he may be forced to exit Stamford Bridge this summer.
Signed to bring substance to Chelsea's midfield after Nemanja Matic was surprisingly sold to Manchester United, Drinkwater has endured an injury-hit debut season. The Englishman has also failed to earn Antonio Conte's trust.
Drinkwater wasn’t Conte’s preferred signing
Conte has been at loggerheads with the Chelsea hierarchy. The Italian coach has had no say over players signed or sold. He made it publicly clear that neither Matic's sale in July or Drinkwater's arrival a month later was his decision.
Drinkwater was a decent signing last August. He won the Premier League title at Leicester alongside N'Golo Kante. The midfield pair reunited would surely only benefit each other's game. They've hardly played together this season, however.
Drinkwater has made only five Premier League starts for Chelsea. The last came on March 4 in a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City. He's been omitted from the matchday squad in seven of the last nine game.
Stiff competition in Chelsea's midfield
Drinkwater possesses many qualities Chelsea need in central midfield: composure in possession, tactical intelligence, decision-making and a good range of passing. The England international, however, hasn't showcased his quality as the squad's stiff competition has knocked him down the pecking order.
Chelsea spent £40 million to obtain Tiémoué Bakayoko from AS Monaco last summer. The Frenchman has been preferred in the engine room, playing 16 more Premier League games than Drinkwater. Cesc Fabregas has been impossible to dethrone too, making 32 appearances.
It appears Drinkwater has no use under Conte. For the situation to be resolved, one of them must depart Stamford Bridge in the coming months.
Where could Drinkwater go?
With the summer holidays fast approaching, plus the World Cup in Russia, Drinkwater will want clarification on his Chelsea future. As the summer transfer window closes in early August, he won’t have too much time to plan his next move. Talks with other clubs must start as soon as possible.
Inter Milan enquired about a loan deal at the end of January. More recently, West Ham United showed interest in securing his signature. It's unknown, though, if Drinkwater is open to a permanent transfer or would prefer a temporary spell away from Stamford Bridge in hope of nailing down a future starting place.
Chelsea have been linked with OGC Nice's Jean-Michael Seri. The Ivorian midfielder's potential arrival would further hinder Drinkwater's chances in the first team. Ross Barkley should return from his lengthy injury next season too, providing even more competition for game time.
Drinkwater may be left with no other option but to seek Chelsea's exit door this summer.