With the transfer window getting wide open, it’s more and more natural to see huge bidding wars between contending teams trying to get the best talents to reinforce their side, sometimes even overpaying for several players just to keep them away from their rivals.
Most of the headlines are often kept captive by the offensive players and their skills, dribbles, assists and goals; but even if you obviously need a brutal attack to win games and actually contend, you’ll never win a championship if you don’t have a solid defence behind those prolific scorers (sorry, Liverpool).
So, when you’re already crowded and loaded at the top of your roster, the smartest thing to do would definitely be to reinforce the back of the pitch, and that’s why two contenders are keen to lock their team’s defence during this winter transfer market: Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
The Blues were snubbed by Juventus’ standout Leonardo Bonucci and recently cut Nathan Ake’s loan spell at AFC Bournemouth short, while Manchester United is reportedly targeting a move for Southampton’s Jose Fonte and Benfica’s Victor Lindelof.
However, a new name has emerged on the radar of both contenders over the past month; Lazio’s Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij, and both the clubs are set to begin a huge bidding war to acquire the services of the talented 24-year-old.
De Vrij is yet another talented Dutch defender such as Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake, and since his arrival at the Italian club from his native Feyenoord, he has progressed to become a very solid overall player in the center of the defence, but where would he actually be better off?
Chelsea features a non-orthodox three-man defence to go along with two forwarded full backs that are more of wingers than defenders, featuring David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta at the bottom of the pitch.
The Dutch hasn’t been tested on that kind of defensive scheme so far and is used to be in the center of the defence, so making that kind of adjustment to his game may take a bit of time and could bring problems for a solid defence that has helped the Blues reach the top of the table.
On top of that, Chelsea’s defence is pretty crowded right now, featuring the aforementioned Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Nathan Ake to go along with the veteran John Terry and Kurt Zouma, so earning a starting spot may be a difficult thing for the Dutch.
On the other hand, Mourinho doesn’t seem convinced by Chris Smalling quite yet and he’s not going to give him another chance, so even if he still has Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly in his ranks, he’s keen to take a risk with another centre back.
The Red Devils feature a conventional 2 centre back defensive scheme and while he may have to fight for minutes with both Jones and Bailly, it’ll feel like an easier transition for him if he lands at Old Trafford, so he should definitely consider that choice ahead of Chelsea.