“He is a typically combative English midfielder with a cultured passing technique and his arrival significantly strengthens our midfield options”. Those were the words of Chelsea’s technical director Michael Emenalo as Chelsea’s deadline day signing was unveiled.
Chelsea’s transfer proceedings were slather throughout the window due to missed targets and signings like this which was uninspiring. The first mistake is the assumption that he is the replacement for Nemanja Matic but that is actually Tiemoue Bakayoko. Danny Drinkwater comes in as the replacement for Nathaniel Chalobah who has departed to Watford. This article seeks to help understand how he’ll fit in and what use he’ll be
Drinkwater like Chalobah in the few games he featured in for Chelsea, will be expected to sit pretty on the left side of midfield, closer to Marcos Alonso in the usual 3-4-3 as he is left footed. He’s pairing with N’golo Kante won Leicester the fairytale league title in 2016 and may be a viable option for Chelsea. Drinkwater is one of those few players that gets about his job without much fuss and getting noticed but he does it ever so efficiently. Control, control, turn pick a pass, move, get a return pass, pass, sit back. He may not have the glorious passing ability of the Fabregas but he can pick a pass (ask Jamie Vardy). For a creative option in which they don’t lose too much ground defensively, Drinkwater is the way to go for Chelsea.
Whenever Chelsea have deployed Fabregas alongside Kante, they tend to seem a bit open and with Drinkwater, they won’t have such a porous midfield. Drinkwater’s work rate helps him track back and get stuck in. He is not one to shy away from a challenge and he possesses that English “never say die” grit about him that has been the backbone upon with this Chelsea team so heavily relied upon (see John Terry and Gary Cahill). He may not be the sitter in whatever midfield duo that Antonio Conte decides to use but he’ll not shy away from his defensive duties. Also, he provides the much needed experience needed in the Chelsea squad with the departures of most of the old guard that formed the bedrock of Chelsea’s ascendance in world football. Drinkwater is a tested and proven premier league product who has even gone one farther as to winning the league, so he knows what it’s like under the pressure of a league run in. Bakayoko has won the league and reached the Uefa Champions League semi-final but the premier league is a different ball game and in Drinkwater they have a proven Premier League player.
Lastly and probably one of the major reasons for this signing is his homegrown status. With the departure of John Terry, Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Nemanja Matic, Chelsea were looking a bit light on the homegrown department. This limited the scope within which Chelsea could search for midfielders. Sure chelsea would have loved to secure a top class signing like Blaise Matuidi whom Juventus got at an absolute steal or the Polish International Grzegorz Krychowiak but they needed an English player and Drinkwater seems to be the most capable of all. Another case can be made for the fact that him coming to Chelsea means accepting to sit on the bench for most of the games which the above midfielders might not have been comfortable with.
All in all, Drinkwater is not the glorious signing that Chelsea fans want, but he is what they need. The type of player that goes about doing his job without a fuss. He was one of the unheralded heroes of Leicester’s unlikely premier league win and if he can bring in that season’s performance along with him then Chelsea have got a very good midfielder in their books.