Chelsea & Juan Cuadrado: Offensively different, defensively suited

So, Juan Cuadrado and Chelsea…

By all accounts, Jose Mourinho will soon be adding the Colombian to his squad - presumably once the £26.8m buy-out clause is met - and that signing will make a lot of sense.

Mourinho has clearly demonstrated, to different degrees, that neither Andre Schurrle nor Mohamed Salah are really part of his long-term plans and, as a result, Chelsea were always likely to strengthen their right side sooner rather than later.

Cuadrado’s attacking value is really obvious.  The World Cup perhaps didn’t show him at his best, but in Serie A he’s frequently glorious to watch.  He’s very elegant on the ball and is extremely dangerous when matched-up with an isolated defender, but he’s also very capable from range - not that it will paint the whole picture, but I’m sure YouTube has some watchable goal compilations which will demonstrate that fairly conclusively.

There are some negatives: his delivery is not always that reliable and he is capable of being slightly frustrating at times, but players who are coached by Mourinho do tend to become more economic over time.  He doesn’t just buy talent and slot it into his side, he buys it, tweaks it, and then moulds it around his philosophy.

What Cuadrado does in possession is great, but that’s presumably not the only reason why Mourinho is keen on him.  He is a smart footballer, too, and much like Willian and Oscar he contributes a lot without the ball.  Over the last two-and-a-half seasons, Fiorentina have used him all the way up and down their right-hand side and he’s been used as an advanced winger, a wide defensive-midfielder and, very occasionally, as almost a right-back.  That’s very revealing; any player who is capable of that level of adaptability typically possesses a high footballing IQ and also processes the game at a high speed.

Mourinho loves his attacking players to be defensively astute and to be capable of retrieving possession in advanced areas, and that’s a box ticked by Cuadrado.  Chelsea aren’t where they are in the league just because of Eden Hazard’s dancing feet, Cesc Fabregas’ assists or Diego Costa’s goals, but because they are also incredibly resilient.  Next time they play, watch how hard their front-four works without the ball and notice how well they protect the players behind them.  It’s easy to attribute their defensive rigidity to the John Terry/Gary Cahill axis or to Nemanja Matic’s screening work, but it’s a team effort and a lot of their first-phase defending happens outside of their own half.

Cuadrado - dauntingly for the rest of the league - will not only add to what this side do going forward, but he’ll also synch perfectly with the existing off-the-ball mentality at Stamford Bridge.  If and when it goes through, this is a great signing.

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