Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Chelsea fans may have perceived that the Blues have lost out to Spurs on a midfield target, but an alternative is already secure for Thomas Tuchel

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Chelsea fans may have perceived that the Blues have lost out to Spurs on a midfield target, but an alternative is already secure for Thomas Tuchel

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Following The Times’ news on Tuesday morning that Tottenham had agreed on a £25 million deal for Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma, some Chelsea fans were understandably enraged that yet another prospective target had slipped through their fingers.

I’ve written before about how apparent inaction isn’t always the same as actual inactivity, and in this situation, Chelsea’s lack of interest in Bissouma should calm any boiling rage.

Bissouma has made an impression at the AMEX, but missing out on him is nothing compared to waiting a year to sign Aurelien Tchouameni, who was recently unveiled as a Real Madrid player.

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In an already difficult summer, the club’s midfield situation is extremely complicated. Declan Rice remains the clear first choice, as he has been for several windows, with Tchouameni off the table and other prospective choices like Bissouma also being purchased.

If that agreement falls through, an early contract choice under Todd Boehly might provide Thomas Tuchel with a quick alternative that may have gone unnoticed over the preceding nine months.

Chelsea announced on Monday afternoon that they had exercised an option to extend Billy Gilmour’s contract, keeping him at the club until 2024. The 21-year-old was on loan at Norwich for the entire 2021/22 season, but he failed to make an impression.

Gilmour was the most visible of all the loan deals made last summer. The loan to Norwich felt like the ideal choice for all sides after a great performance for his country at the European Championships against England and additional encouragement in intermittent appearances under Tuchel.

That dream was quickly extinguished by a series of events. Norwich were headed for a return to the Championship before Christmas after Daniel Farke was ousted in November, and Gilmour tried to reverse the downward trend, unable to rely on superior players around him.

On second thought, the transfer may have been a mistake and a waste of a season for developing talent. There is, however, another perspective on this. Adversity is a crucial aspect of a player’s development, and as other loanees have shown in recent years, a “poor loan” does not have to be wholly negative to a player’s development if it helps them mature.

Gilmour is in an unusual situation. He had previously demonstrated his quality in a Chelsea shirt against strong opposition before moving to Carrow Road last year. Given the presence of veteran players such as Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, and Mateo Kovacic, obtaining more assured minutes seemed preferable than being a marginal player.

There is a chance that Gilmour may be one of a number of returning players from the academy who will be given a chance to impress Tuchel during pre-season this summer.

The Scottish midfielder demonstrated his ability to influence a side attempting to control possession and compete with maturity against England’s top two teams under both Frank Lampard in 2019/20 and Tuchel in 2020/21.

Gilmour’s promotion, rather than another loan, could provide an internal answer to a tricky midfield situation this summer.

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