Chelsea already have Romeo Lavia replacement after late transfer decision made amid injury fear


Chelsea's injury problems are mounting. They are nearly at the stage once again that an entire XI can be fielded from those that are currently missing for Mauricio Pochettino, and that wouldn't be the first time in the past 12 months that it has gotten to this stage.

The Blues have been well and truly plagued with setbacks, knocks, tweaks, strains and tears since the start of last season. Long-term issues with Ben Chilwell and Reece James disrupted the past three campaigns whilst before that it was N'Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic that often found themselves sidelined.

For Pochettino, who runs such a tight ship when it comes to physical conditioning, it is imperative that his players are in top shape and that they are prepared to run, sprint and even jog for longer and do it faster than their opposition. His pre-season schedules have become infamous for their gruelling nature.

It is no wonder, perhaps, that many looked to the Argentine questioningly when Christopher Nkunku was ruled out for four months with a knock from the tour of America. The nature of the beast is that this is all just massively unlucky. Chelsea's run with injuries, which is slightly heightened due to having such vast numbers available in the first place, is not a new issue but it is still causing current dilemmas.

In the past week alone there have been fresh fears over Levi Colwill, though those have since been rubbished, before disaster once more struck following Romeo Lavia's exit from training. The Belgian is yet to play for his new club having signed from Southampton shortly after the start of the season. After missing pre-season with Russell Martin he is already behind schedule.

That meant that the international break came at a good time for him and Pochettino, especially with a host of other names also close to a return after the latest round of international fixtures. Lavia had a fortnight to ramp up his physical preparation and conditioning but has been cut horribly short.

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The player has been dealt a huge blow now with reports suggesting that an ankle injury in training could be about to bring back bad results following a scan. Lavia did miss 10 matches last season for Southampton with a hamstring issue but as he approached a potential debut for the Blues, this sets him back in his recovery.

For Pochettino it is a case of bewilderment. Injuries are part and parcel of the game but his current situation takes that to the fullest. He now has to prepare for upcoming matches without two of his major summer signings as well as a group of others to bed in.

The good news for Chelsea is that their midfield stocks are in better supply than they could have been. Not only does the decision to, just about, hold Tottenham off at arm's length for Conor Gallagher in the last week of the window look good, the addition of Moises Caicedo is of enhanced importance.

The Ecuadorian has settled straight into proceedings at Stamford Bridge even if his integration hasn't had the effect on result he would have wanted. Caicedo often looks to be doing the work of two players in a defensive capacity, something that many hope will allow increased freedom for Enzo Fernandez in a creative sense.

That trio have now played together in each of the past three league matches, stretching the position thin somewhat given the mass exodus of stars to vacate the midfield over the summer. However, Ian Maatsen, who also remained at SW6 on deadline day despite Chelsea being willing to let him leave, can also play in midfield as well and provides some semblance of cover.

Although it may be rich to say so at this point, especially with the track record for injuries in recent times, five players in the centre of the pitch for what is effectively two spots in a 4-2-3-1, is more than amble. However, Christopher Nkunku and Carney Chukwuemeka being out has meant that Fernandez and Gallagher are filling in further forward as well.

Chelsea's decision, therefore, to not send out young French midfielder Lesley Ugochukwu on loan, was prescient. After the 19-year-old arrived from Rennes earlier this year many thought it would signal the end for Gallagher, and at that stage it was also unlikely that Caicedo and Lavia would both arrive.

A deal for Ugochukwu effectively came rapidly out of nowhere and it is thought that initial plans for him were to go back out on loan. He joined up with the squad away in America though and has remained part of the first team set-up. Although yet to make a league start, in his small role this season he has already left a good first impression.

His physical frame and size on the field are two things that have been missing from Chelsea's midfield for years and even in the worst case scenario for Lavia, the silver lining is that Ugochukwu will now have a heightened role over the coming weeks and potentially months.

With no European football to think about Chelsea can be relatively confident, even in their current situation, that these four main options will be enough to see them through the bulk of the action and even then there will be returns for Lavia and Chukwuemeka down the line.

The decision to sign Ugochukwu, who comes with a good profile and lots of hype and expectation from those that have seen him impress in Ligue 1, is already looking to be a better one by the day.

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