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On paper, Chelsea have two of the best left-backs in the Premier League.
In Marcos Alonso, the Blues arguably have Europe's most productive full-back while Emerson Palmieri is one of the most well-rounded left-backs around at the minute. Yet neither seem to have done enough to gain Frank Lampard’s trust.
According to A Bola, Chelsea have identified FC Porto’s Alex Telles as their latest target for the summer transfer window. The 27-year-old’s current deal expires in 2021. The one-time Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Manchester United transfer target has a £40million release clause.
Chelsea could raise this cash through the sales of Alonso and Emerson. Internazionale are believed to be interested in the former, with Antonio Conte reportedly keen to reunite with the Spaniard. Juventus are long-term admirers of Emerson and Daily Express claim the Turin giants are readying a £25million bid for the Brazilian.
But is Telles really the player Chelsea need? Whenever the Porto left-back is mentioned, his goal record usually follows closely in the conversation. So far this term, Telles has scored eight goals in 23 league appearances. He’s also chipped in with five assists.
While full-backs are expected to have an impact on things in the final third, set-piece goals aren’t what they’re after. Sustainable output is what teams hold a lot of stock by. Telles has just one open-play goal this season.
Setting that narrative aside, we can look at Telles as a left-back to see whether he fits the bill for Lampard.
While Emerson clearly isn't Lampard's ideal full-back, he has been his first-choice this season so it makes sense to look at his averages to get an idea of what is expected.
He's surprisingly heavily involved in play, attempting 63 passes per 90 and finding a team-mate with 85.2 per cent. When thinking of how Chelsea play under their former midfielder, the full-backs don't jump to the forefront of your mind. But Emerson is having almost 100 touches per 90 – an average which puts him within the top 15 for all Premier League full-backs.
He's fairly accurate on the ball though not the most progressive, with only 30 per cent of his passes going forward.
Emerson is by no means a creative force, averaging just 0.06 open-play expected assists per 90. His heat map shows he sticks to the byline and isn't a player tasked with picking a pass. He isn't in the top 30 for crosses attempted in the Premier League and his 19 per cent success rate explains, to some extent, why he isn't creating many chances.
By comparison, Telles profiles nothing like Emerson. For starters, he isn't as involved. The Porto man averages 70 touches, of which 38.91 are passes. Of those, he finds a team-mate with 79.7 per cent. However, he is much more aggressive when on the ball, playing 45 per cent of his passes forward.
Despite his impressive return of five assists, Telles isn't much of a threat in open-play, averaging 0.08 open-play expected assists. He attempts more than double the number of crosses Emerson does but his accuracy percentage is almost identical.
The only trait the two players seemingly share is that they both like to hug the touchline. But if Telles is the top target, Chelsea must believe he can play left-back for them. If he joins, it'll be intriguing to see how he adapts to having much more of the ball. It could expose him, as has been the case with plenty of others in the past, or he could surprise by looking comfortable in this role for the Blues.
However, at £40million, the deal would be a gamble. There's no guarantee Telles fits in with the rigours of the Premier League and, at 27, time isn't on his side to settle in over a couple of years. The left-back role needs filling at Stamford Bridge but the Brazil international might not be the man to solve their mini-crisis.