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Why the former Arsenal bad boy can answer Chelsea’s big problem

The Chelsea boss is seriously underplaying his need for a quality high-scoring striker

Aubameyang has been a prolific goalscorers no matter who he has played for© NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tuchel is in talks over a new deal at Chelsea© PA

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Few believed Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel when he stated that he was not looking to sign a striker this transfer window, and now he is about to backtrack on his vow.

In a summer that has seen Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner leave Chelsea, their need to sign a forward who can carry their goal threat should have been at the top of Tuchel’s agenda.

Yet as links to Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo were brushed off by the coach who led Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021, it seemed as if he was intent to attack this season with the same problem that undermined their last campaign.

Tuchel’s eagerness to sign Lukaku for a club record £97.5million last summer confirmed his belief that a striker was a crucial piece of his Stanford Bridge jigsaw.

And in so many ways, Lukaku’s failure to live up to his billing highlighted the glaring flaw in Chelsea’s make-up, as points were tossed away time and again last season due to their inability to take chances in front of goal.

Kai Havertz and summer signing Raheem Sterling are attacking creators rather than prolific goal scorers and with Tuchel seemingly unconvinced by the talents of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, the vital ingredient of goals appeared to be missing from this Chelsea cake.

Signing Ronaldo (right inset) from Manchester United is a deal Tuchel has shied away from, despite interest from new Blues owner Todd B

Owner of Chelsea Todd Boehly and wife Katie applaud at full time after the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture date: Sunday August 14, 2022.© PA

oehly, who is believed to be enchanted by the prospect of signing one of the greatest players of all time in his first summer at the helm.

Squad

As has been evident at United over the last year, Ronaldo’s towering presence in a dressing room can destabilise a squad.

Having experienced the challenges of working with superstars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe during his time as Paris Saint-Germain boss, the notion of working with a player who is bigger than the club he is representing may not have appealed to Tuchel despite Boehly’s interest in signing Ronaldo.

Yet a curious twist of fate has opened the door to a deal for another player who has a reputation for being difficult, yet guarantees the goals Tuchel and Chelsea are looking for.

There didn’t appear to be a way back for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in English football when he was ushered out of Arsenal in January, with his reputation shredded, by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta as he was sold to Barcelona.

Arteta made it clear that Aubameyang was a bad apple, rotting the heart in his squad, as he stripped him of the captaincy for a series of discipline breaches that ended his stay at Arsenal.

Yet we should not be surprised that Tuchel has a very different opinion of 33-year-old marksman.

In two seasons working with the Gabon striker at Borussia Dortmund, he delivered 79 goals in 95 games – and even at his mature age, his appetite for more remains potent.

Aubameyang scored 11 goals in 18 La Liga appearances for Barca following his move from Arsenal at the start of this year, with Tuchel now eyeing up the chance of a reunion.

Barcelona beat Chelsea to the signature of defender Jules Kounde earlier this month, yet that deal now holds the key to Aubameyang potential switch to Chelsea.

Even though Barcelona manager Xavi has expressed his desire to keep Aubameyang in Catalonia, his sale would relieve some of the club’s well-documented financial concerns that have halted them registering some of their summer signings.

Kounde is one of the players yet to be registered by Barcelona as they look to reduce their wage bill to comply with Spanish financial fair-play rules, with the removal of Aubameyang’s huge wages crucial to that effort.

Deal

Chelsea have been in talks with Barca over a deal for Aubameyang in recent days, with their eagerness to include Marcos Alonso in the transfer complicating the deal.

Barcelona need cash to balance their books and register players, so a sizeable up front fee is their priority as talks continue with Chelsea, yet this is a deal that needs to be done.

With the transfer window set to close on September 1st, Chelsea need to sign a striker before then, even though Tuchel was insisting he was happy with his squad prior to last Sunday's shocking 3-0 defeat at Leeds.

Thomas Tuchel© Getty Images

“I believe we can compete with this group,” stated the coach who is currently in talks over extending his contract with Chelsea.

“To be very honest, it is one thing to compete once a week and another 60 times in a year and three times a week. For this you need a strong group. It’s simply like this. You need players who challenge for their place, their minutes and push each other to their highest level.

“It does not come down to only tactics, team spirit, but also the challenge and quality of players within the team and depth within the squad. That has not changed.

“We are very happy about the performance still but we are still active in the market and know what can be possible.

“If not, we will make the very best out of it. If we are looking, we are looking for high quality and personality that suits our group and club. Nothing has changed.” When pressed on his interest in Aubameyang, Tuchel referred to the goal return the forward gave him in their two seasons together at Dortmund.

“I would be interested in the 79 goals, but we will not comment further,” he added with a smile.

“There are a lot of names out there, sometimes due to the fact we discuss a lot of names but also sometimes pure speculation. We will not get involved.”

Chelsea will not score enough goals to challenge for the game’s top honours if Havertz is their make-shift lead striker alongside Sterling.

So while Aubameyang would not have been a player on Chelsea’s radar when this transfer window opened, he may now hold the key to their hopes.

  • Leeds v Chelsea, Premier League, today, 2.0pm, live Sky Sports

FACTFILE:

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG Born: June 18 1989 Former clubs: AC Milan, St Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal

  • Aubamayang has scored 301 goals in 585 appearance at club level.
  • He scored 68 times in 128 games for Arsenal
  • Aubameyang scored 79 goals in just two seasons working with Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund.


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