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Chelsea interest in Manuel Ugarte shows Blues are ready to address core midfield problem

Chelsea are pushing to sign Sporting CP defensive midfielder Manuel Ugarte amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

The 22-year-old has emerged as their first target ahead of a crucial summer for the Premier League club.

They must sell plenty of players and tactfully add two or three to the squad. They need a goalkeeper, a striker and a defensive midfielder.

Ugarte is a gritty midfielder who shields his defence with strength and vigour. He has been one of the standout players in the Primeira Liga this season.

He has brought his fine form to European competitions, shining in the Champions League and Europa League.

His performances have attracted the interest of top clubs like Chelsea and PSG. The decision of which club to join is now in his hands.

Solving a six-year-old problem

Chelsea’s push for Ugarte points to the fact that the Blues are now ready to address a key position of need after many years of ignoring it.

They have not had a pure defensive midfielder since Nemanja Matic left the club in 2017.

While N’Golo Kante can break up opposition attacks better than most midfielders, he does not have the positional discipline to anchor the midfield.

Jorginho was a deep-lying playmaker who helped the build-up phase. He struggled to shield and screen the defence behind him like a defensive midfielder.

When Frank Lampard arrived as the club’s manager in 2019, he identified the lack of a defensive midfielder as a problem.

The former Chelsea midfielder targeted West Ham United’s Declan Rice, but the deal never materialised.

Lampard was sacked in 2021 and returned this year only to find the same problem still existed.

The lack of a defensive midfielder remained a problem under Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter after Chelsea sacked Lampard in 2021.

However, they managed to mitigate the problem due to their organised systems. That organisation is not there under Lampard. His system requires a sitting midfielder to help cut out attacks.

New Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino famously used the Victor Wanyama and Moussa Dembele pivot at Tottenham Hotspur.

The Argentine manager could bring something similar to Stamford Bridge. He would need a destroyer similar to Wanyama, and Ugarte could be his man.

Pochettino is reportedly behind the push to sign Ugarte. The Uruguayan can help balance Chelsea’s distorted midfield and provide some protection.

Midfield clear-out

Chelsea currently have a bloated squad and will need to sell several players, including some midfielders.

Mason Mount might be on his way out of the club this summer after failing to agree a new deal with the club. He has one year left on his contract, and they don’t want to lose him for free.

Conor Gallagher is another player that could leave with two years left on his deal and no new contract offer in sight.

N’Golo Kante’s contract expires at the end of this season, and he has not renewed.

A renewal was close, but it is unclear whether Chelsea still want to keep him, considering he has suffered another injury.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic will also likely leave. The Englishman is close to completing a move to AC Milan.

Chelsea will still have Enzo Fernandez, Carney Chukwuemeka and incoming Andrey Santos on their books.

Pochettino will look to add a defensive midfielder to the mix to balance things out ahead of next season.

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