Chelsea continued their summer spending spree on Saturday afternoon with the acquisition of midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco.
The 22-year-old arrives at Stamford Bridge for a reported fee of £40m and, having penned a five-year contract, becomes Antonio Conte’s third capture of the transfer window following the signing of versatile defender Antonio Rudiger and back-up keeper Willy Caballero.
After months of speculation linking him with a move to the Blues, Bakayoko explained what he’ll bring to his new side as he looks to strike up a partnership with N’Golo Kante in the centre of the park:
“I think I am an intelligent player who offers physicality and can also dribble and get by people…N’Golo Kante was the best player in the Premier League last season in the middle of the pitch and that is not easy. To play alongside him would be something very good for me and it can help me progress. I’ve played a match with him for the French national team so we know each other very well and I hope we can do beautiful things together this year. “
Rejected by France’s famed Clairefontaine academy as a youngster, Bakayoko joined up with Rennes at the age of 13 after spending eight months on the sidelines with a broken leg.
Beginning his career with the club’s reserves in 2012/13, the midfielder was then handed his senior debut the following season. Despite bagging just one goal in 24 Ligue 1 outings, his combative displays caught the eye of Monaco, who splashed the cash in August 2014.
The first two years in his new surrounds were a bitter disappointment, though. Subbed off just over half an hour into his debut, Bakayoko was then hampered by a thigh problem and played 31 league matches, over that period, scoring once.
The appointment of Claude Makelele to the club’s coaching staff helped address Bakayoko’s alleged attitude problems and turned his career around.
Nailing down a regular role last season, he scored two goals and an assist in 32 league outings as Monaco powered their way to the French title and a place in the Champions League semi-finals.
After turning out a total of 27 times at every youth level from Under 16 to Under 21, Bakayoko was handed his one and only senior appearance for France back in March this year.
Having scored four times in his career to date, it’s fair to say that Bakayoko hasn’t been earmarked for his contribution in the final third.
Standing six foot one, the Frenchman offers Conte a physically imposing and dynamic presence in the centre of the park to sit alongside N’Golo Kante or Cesc Fabregas, as Nemanja Matic edges closer to the exit door.
Delving into the defensive numbers from his final year in Ligue 1, Bakayoko averaged an interception every 39.6 minutes – almost on a par with Kante (38.3 minutes) and far superior to Matic (53.9) and the defensively-suspect Fabregas (82.9) in 2016/17.
It’s a similar story when it comes to minutes per successful tackle, with Bakayoko (31.7) far closer to Kante (24.9) than Matic (52.9) or Fabregas (44.8).
In the air, in particular, the new arrival is a definite upgrade on Conte’s current crop – he won 64 of 97 attempted headers in 2016/17. Put into perspective, Kante won just 31.7% and Fabregas 39.1%, with Matic (59.4%) also lagging behind.
Bakayoko also boasts an ability to drive forward from deep and take the match to opponents. His 57 successful dribbles last term was bettered only by Eden Hazard among the Chelsea contingent and some way ahead of Kante (36), Matic (29) and Fabregas (12).
Yet totals of 28 shots (one every 79.2 minutes) and 14 key passes (one every 158.5 minutes) for a Monaco side that scored 107 times last term highlight a lack of attacking potential. As a result, he’s likely to come in around £5.0 in Fantasy Premier League – the same as Kante and Matic.
Essentially, then, the numbers indicate that, while Bakayoko is unlikely to turn many heads in FPL, his arrival – just like Kante last year – should boost the Blues’ defensive prospects.
Although Chelsea ultimately chalked up 16 clean sheets in 2016/17, only three of those arrived in the final 16 Gameweeks with their resilience diminishing as the season unfolded.
With Bakayoko on board, this could mean that the likes of Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta could all remain viable Fantasy targets, in spite of their lofty price tags.
However, it’s uncertain just how much Champions League duties will affect Conte’s teamsheets, with the Blues’ rarely affected by rotation last term as a result of their lack of European matches.
Having undergone minor knee surgery at the end of last season, though, Bakayoko could be out of action until September, according to reports.
Furthermore, clashes against Spurs and Everton in the first three Gameweeks may prove an early-season deterrent for those eyeing up Chelsea’s defensive regulars, allowing us to scour elsewhere for budget value picks until a clearer picture emerges of Conte’s intentions and Bakayoko’s impact.