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Chelsea Cu-Cuing

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With the number of rejections they have had this summer, Chelsea look less like a football club and more like a guy who gets ‘friendzoned’ every time. The Blues have lost out on Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Raphinha(Barcelona), Robert Lewandowski(Barcelona), Matthijs de Ligt(Bayern Munich), and Jules Kounde (Barcelona) in a single transfer window. The transfer drama, combined with the chaotic ownership change from Roman Abrahamovic to American businessman Todd Boehly has caused Blues fans lots of anxiety. But, for now, Chelsea have got themselves up to chase and finally secure a target in Brighton & Hove Albion’s Marc Cucurella. 

The Spanish defender, who has been a revelation in his first season with the Seagulls, will now ply his trade for Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel desperately needs defensive reinforcements. Especially after the departure of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, their defensive cover looked thin. And while a Marc Cucurella transfer may not have been the first choice for the team earlier, he is now their best bet after those setbacks.

Cucurella was so impressive in the first season that he was named the Brighton & Hove Albion Player of the Season. While his English speaking skills may need work, his defending skills are on a level where he could play for the big clubs.

So, what Chelsea have got from a Marc Cucurella transfer?

Marc Cucurella transfer- Playing style and analysis.

When Cucurella joined Brighton last season, the Seagulls already had a brilliant left-back in the form of Solly March. However, Graham Potter was so impressed with his new signing that he moved March up the field. As a result, Cucurella made 20 starts at the left-back position, ten at the centre-back position, and eight as the left-midfielder. 

What made Cucurella special was that he could easily switch roles from a no-nonsense defender to an elite passer, with great progressive passes. The Spaniard was instrumental in moving the ball forward through the left wing. His impeccable forward passing helped the team move up the field quickly. However, when the team lost possession, Cucurella immediately pressured the opponents. In addition, he is also accurate when it comes to making tackles to win the ball back. 

His pressure reflects Brighton’s tactics. The Seagulls have been the third-best regarding Build-up Disruption Percentage (BDP). The BDP metric measures how quickly a team disrupts the opposition’s build-up. A high BDP shows an attacking and high-pressure style. 

The fact that the BDP is better than Manchester City and Chelsea shows how Cucurella has been a part of a style that all the top teams deploy despite playing in a mid-tier side. This will help him to transform at Stamford Bridge at a quick pace.

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Marc Cucurella stats 

Last season, Cucurella was perhaps one of the best players in the league. The defender was the second-best player in the league in making successful tackles. In addition, he was again the second-best player in terms of delivering successful crosses in the league. This shows his brilliant attacking and defensive skills. 

Cucurella has other tricks up his sleeves too. While a defender may be good at contributing to an attack, a complete picture emerges when things go wrong. And this is where the 24-year-old shines. He averages 9.51 passes under pressure per 90 minutes, among the top one per cent fullbacks. This helps his team keep the pressure up when countered by the opposition.

Cucurella is also good at applying pressure on the opposition. He initiates 5.84 successful pressures per 90 minutes, among the top five per cent of fullbacks. But perhaps his best stat has been the Expected Threats (xT). The xT metric measures a player’s offensive ability through passing carries or both. According to Soccerment, Marc Cucurella was the fourth-best fullback in the league in xT from passes. Cesar Azpilicueta is the only Chelsea fullback with better xT stats than Cucurella. 

And while he is causing chaos everywhere in attack, Cucurella does not forget his defensive duties. According to fbref, he wins 1.82 tackles per 90 minutes, among the top nine per cent of fullbacks. Moreover, he does not shy from using tackles to win the ball in the attacking third of the pitch. 

There is no doubt that Cucurella is more than ready to make a switch to a big club. With Chelsea’s desperation for a defender, the Spaniard can be assured of being a first-choice starter for the Blues. In addition, Cucurella has also played in a system which is quite close to how top teams play. Using high pressures and having good players on the ball is similar to Guardiola’s Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing Liverpool, and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea. 

This will help him transition his skills if he moves away from Brighton. He was also rated as the third-best fullback in the Premier League by Soccerment behind Nelson Semedo and Joao Cancelo.

Another area where Cucurella excels is his ability to use his weaker foot. With the use of ‘inverted fullbacks’ getting steam in modern football, the Spaniard could be deployed at either flank. 

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Marc Cucurella transfer fee – Is he worth the money?

According to media reports, Chelsea paid a sum of over £50 million to secure the services of Cucurella. And while Chelsea may have overpaid owing to their desperation, Cucurella is a player that can prove the transfer fee worth every penny.

Despite changing owners, Chelsea were stacked with cash. After only signing Sterling and Koulibaly, they had enough money to shell out on Cucerella. Despite the transfer fee, he brings something special: a top-form player who has previously played in a similar system. These are the traits for which teams pay top dollar, as Chelsea have.

If he helps bring silverware to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, no one will bat an eyelid about the transfer fee.

Marc Cucurella’s potential fit and expectations 

While Brighton may not have wanted to lose such a player after just one season, the demand for quality defenders is such that Cucurella’s departure was only a matter of time. The Blues have missed out on players after increasing frustration at the club. 

With the help of their economic levers, Barcelona have signed Raphinha, and Kounde, players who were once close to signing for Chelsea. The Blues, though, have managed to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City and Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli. The latter has already strengthened Chelsea’s defence, and if they add Cucurella, the pain of missing out on all their targets might be somewhat negated. 

So, how will he fit at Chelsea?

Cucurella is adept at playing at left-back and centre-back positions. And it appears he may take the left centre-back spot if Ben Chilwell manages to remain injury free. The Spaniard will form a deadly defensive partnership with Koulibaly that might give the Blues a robust defensive block to build on.

Furthermore, both the defenders are good at different facets of the game and can help the team in offence and defence.

The Blues started last season as competitors to Manchester City and Liverpool but wavered off later in the season. It looks like a repeat of last season’s contenders when it comes to the title race. Chelsea now need multiple proven talented players to bring them back to the level where they can challenge the duopoly of City and Liverpool. 

But for that to happen, they have to stop getting ‘friendzoned’, and a Marc Cucurella transfer has been a right step in that direction.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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