Chelsea already have dream Moises Caicedo replacement amid injury fears and it's not Romeo Lavia


Chelsea have been hit hard by the loss of Moises Caicedo in their midfield and face a nervy wait to see if he's fit to face Aston Villa on Sunday. The Blues, who overhauled their midfield entirely over the summer with three new faces, have once more relied primarily on Enzo Fernandez to do the creating, progressing and moving in the team.

He has played almost a quarter of the team's progressive passes five games in and has even been used further forward to try and unlock more areas of his game. Eight months into his time at the club and the feeling, despite some great showing, is that he is yet to be consistently deployed in his best role.

The hope had been that with the addition of Caicedo - a naturally deeper-lying player with defensive tendencies and the ability to eat up ground in front of the backline - Fernandez would be able to properly fire. So far it's yet to properly play out like that.

Caicedo's debut came in the shambolic 3-1 loss to West Ham but can be partially put down to a severe lack of game time and sharpness. His first start later that week against Luton Town was more like it. The Ecuadorian anchored the team and played out of pressure when needed. The caveat is that the Hatters are the weakest side that will visit Stamford Bridge this season.

His mistake against Nottingham Forest cost the Blues parity in a game they were dominating and otherwise blotted what had been a solid showing. It's not been a comfortable transition to life at the club but really, in the past 12 months only Fernandez and maybe Benoit Badiashile and Malo Gusto at times have looked vaguely settled of the new signings.

With Caicedo now an injury doubt for Villa, and Pochettino saying that he would be assessed on Saturday ahead of the game, a plan B will be needed. Whether from the start or potentially during the game, Chelsea are likely to play at least some of their next game without the Premier League's most expensive player.

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Luckily for them they have someone ready to step into the fold. One month ago this name might have been Romeo Lavia but he is also sidelined with injury. That has created a chance, and an unexpected one at that, for summer addition Lesley Ugochukwu.

The Frenchman had been expected to leave on loan after signing from Rennes but has caught the eye of Pochettino and will now be playing a much bigger role for his new team. The 19-year-old was handed a full debut last week and played as the deepest of three midfielders alongside Conor Gallagher and Fernandez.

He was often left very isolated from those in front of him though and struggled to progress the ball simply through the lines. That was more down to the advanced positions of Gallagher and Fernandez. Chelsea allowed themselves to get stretched from back to front and Ugochukwu was often picking the ball up deep from his defenders with a field of space and no friendly faces near him.

It didn't stop him from putting in a good early demonstration of his skills though. He had 57 touches, completing 45 passes, winning two ground duels and aerial duels. Although not the most all-round performance, and there were rough edges, he certainly did enough to suggest that he can be an able deputy in the absence of Caicedo in the short term.

If the worst is to be true for Chelsea and their midfield does remain threadbare then turning to and using Ugochukwu is far from the worst that could happen. Even if plan A is stronger, trusting Ugochukwu to have a significant role this year already looks to be a wise decision.

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