While most of the news and excitement coming out of London is (rightly) concerning Pedro's transfer from Barcelona to the Blues, another new signing arrived this week with 21 year-old Abdul Baba Rahman agreeing a £17.7 million deal. Given Chelsea's struggles on the defensive side of things to start this season, it wouldn't be surprising to see the new left back given the chance to break into the first team this season.
I asked David Pasztor from SBNation's juggernaut of a Chelsea blog We Ain't Got No History to shed some light on the defensive setup at the club, as well as Rahman's potential to be an asset to our fantasy teams. My questions are in bold, along with David's in-depth answers below:
What can you tell us about the type of player Baba Rahman is?
Well, he's quick, he's fast, and he's got pace. Did I mention he's exceptionally quick? Add in great size (near 6') and good strength, and it all makes for a fairly impressive physical specimen, especially for a full back. He's still very young obviously, just 21, so the mental and the technical sides of his game are still ripe for improvement.
He played a key role in Augsburg's surprise 5th place finish in the Bundesliga last season, and was one of the league leaders in crosses as he burst up the left flank repeatedly. Whether he can or would be instructed to reproduce those sorts of tactics under Mourinho is questionable of course, but it's easy to see him support our inverted left wingers like Hazard with overlapping runs.
His enthusiasm, if perhaps not quite in terms of quality, also translates to the defensive side of his game. He seems to love a tackle, which isn't always the most ideal for strategy and tactics, but can be a boon in terms of fantasy stats.
Given the hefty transfer fee paid for such a young player, is he expected to slot straight into the starting lineup, or will he be eased into action?
If you had asked me this question a couple weeks ago, I would've said no chance. Today ... well, it's something a bit more likely than no chance. Mourinho had already spoken of his hopes of having Baba ready to go this weekend — whether that means in the starting lineup (unlikely) or on the bench (likely) remains to be seen.
For his part, the player had gone through a full preseason with Augsburg while the details of his transfer were sorted out, and he's on record with Chelsea TV in saying that he's ready and raring to go right now.
If/when he does claim a spot in the starting lineup, whose role is most under threat?
Chelsea have had a very settled back four for the better part of two seasons now, and unseating any of Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, or John Terry (since Ivanovic is capable at center back as well) would've been a long shot before our recent, early-season struggles.
But right now, something's definitely a bit rotten. Ivanovic has had back-to-back disastrous showings and John Terry was yanked at half time against City (for the first time ever in the Premier League by Mourinho) much to the media's and every non-Chelsea fan's delight. Gary Cahill, broken nose and all, still has his fair share of critics, while even Cesar Azpilicueta struggled against Andre Ayew in our opener.
Terry and Ivanovic have been written off before of course and bounced back stronger than ever (not to mention that they're club captain and vice-captain, respectively) but if I were to pick to pick one of our back four to get bench, I at this very moment, would pick one of those two. Once Mourinho finds a winning combination, he tends to stick with it — as evidenced, for example, by the aforementioned duo playing nearly every single minute of every single league match last season — so if Baba does get a chance and Chelsea do well, he could be in line for an extended run in the side.
Filipe Luis, last year's backup full back (given Azpilicueta's capacity to play on either flank, we really only need one backup full back) managed 26 appearances in all competitions, and I'd expect, at the very least, a similar amount of games for Baba Rahman as well.
Which current or former Chelsea player is Rahman most similar to?
Fellow left back from a decade and a half ago Celestine Babayaro may be a lazy, cliched comparison, but if Baba busts out a backflip goal celebration, that would be tremendous.
Thank you to David for the excellent insights. For more updates on Baba Rahman and all things Chelsea, be sure to follow We Ain't Got No History on Twitter. Finally, if you're looking to see all that pace in action, check out this excellent scouting video of Baba Rahman: