Is Jules Kounde an immediate solution for Chelsea?
Background image: Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Chelsea’s interest in Jules Kounde progresses. The talented Sevilla defender is widely linked with a move to Stamford Bridge with Kurt Zouma possibly going the opposite way. Blues fans know what the Rojiblancos would be getting in Zouma, but what does Kounde bring to Stamford Bridge?
After what can fairly be described as a breakout season, Kounde is a target for every major club in Europe. His season at Sevilla was highly successful. Los Nervionenses finished fourth, nine points behind La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Kounde then played a vital role in Sevilla's Europa League triumph over Manchester United. While selected for his national team by Didiers Deschamps, the Frenchman was only given limited minutes in Les Bleus' Euro2020 matches. That's the overview.
A closer examination reveals Kounde developed his strength to compensate for a lack of stature. He pressurises opponents, is very comfortable on the ball and possesses a strong passing ability. His technical ability is exactly what you'd expect from a contemporary centre-half. The brilliant solo goal against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey was a prime example. Receiving the ball in his own half, he dribbled past three players before slotting past Marc-Andre Ter Stegan.
No other Primera Division defender completed more accurate short passes, key passes, or had more completed take ons. His only weakness is his height. At 5'10, he isn't the Premier League prototype. Despite that, he is still very capable in the air thanks to his athletic ability. He averaged 3.56 aerial wins per La Liga 90 in 20/21, a good reading for most centre backs.
Although Sevilla are holding fast for more money, a swap deal plus cash transfer makes sense on all sides. Zouma has a desire to play regular football. Sevilla can offer that domestically and in the Champions League. His Chelsea career has been largely positive, twice winning the league, as well as a Champions League medal and EFL Cup triumph. For all that, he can’t seem to hold down a starting role. In part, the ACL injury that forced him out on loan to Stoke City and Everton is to blame. His comeback was remarkable but the Blues underwent a style change in his absence. He doesn’t fit in the back three. A club playing a traditional back four would better suit him.
Kounde reportedly agreed personal terms with Chelsea but Sevilla are demanding a fee more in the region of €30-35 million alongside Zouma. Talks are ongoing, but it seems it’s only a matter of time for Kounde to become a Chelsea player. If Sevilla decide to insist on a pure cash transaction, however, Chelsea might raise the funds by moving Zouma separately. West Ham is reportedly interested.
Will Kounde step into the 3-4-3 that Thomas Tuchel used to such great effect? Currently, the German has Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilcueta who all excel in the system. Reece James also features on occasion. Kounde is most likely being viewed as a long term replacement for the aging Silva. He best slots in at the right or central role given his passing and ability to carry the ball. Silva and Azpilcueta are 36 and 31 respectively. The Brazilian can no longer be expected to play twice a week. The young Frenchman would be given sufficient playing time from the off with the expectation he eventually make the transition from Silva seamless.
While Christensen and Rudiger are solid, dependable defenders who eliminate any urgency in signing another centre-back, Kounde is an outstanding talent who happens to be available now. At 22, he is both a player for the future and one who can contribute immediately.