Defensive aid found at last

New Chelsea recruit Djilobodji (left) is an experienced defender who won 75 per cent of his aerial duels and made 256 clearances for Nantes.
New Chelsea recruit Djilobodji (left) is an experienced defender who won 75 per cent of his aerial duels and made 256 clearances for Nantes.PHOTO: REUTERS

After failed bids for Stones, Chelsea sign Djilobodji to boost suspect backline

LONDON • Chelsea's frantic search for a central defender has led to the Premier League champions yesterday completing a £4 million (S$8.7 million) deal for Papy Djilobodji from French side Nantes.

The 26-year-old Senegal international was courted by the likes of Sunderland as well as second-tier Fulham and Queens Park Rangers only a week ago.

Chelsea have let in nine goals in their first four Premier League games, in what has been their worst start to a season since 1971.

Djilobodji can add pace to a Blues backline that has been short of speed, particularly 34-year-old captain John Terry.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has played a higher defensive line so far this season, urging his players to press the opposition in their own half. But he does so knowing Terry's discomfort in operating a high line and the risks of Gary Cahill's attention-deficit marking.

Cesar Azpilicueta has done his best to cover for Terry's shortage of pace, but that costs Chelsea in the ability to attack from left-back, even though the Spaniard did score in their only league win so far against West Bromwich Albion.

Djilobodji, who signed a four-year deal, won 75 per cent of his aerial duels last season and made 256 clearances - the third-most in Ligue 1.

He can also play as a defensive midfielder. That gives Mourinho the option of allowing Kurt Zouma - his fastest defender - to keep his place in the centre of defence, alongside Terry or Cahill.

Chelsea were also close to signing 23-year-old Reading defender Michael Hector for £4 million at press time yesterday, with the Jamaican international set to be immediately be loaned back to Championship side.

Mourinho has been desperate to beef up his backline throughout the summer. However, Everton rejected three bids for John Stones, his priority target, the last worth about £40 million.

Even a move for Guangzhou Evergrande right-back Zhang Linpeng, 26, fell through yesterday after the two sides could not reach key agreements ahead of the transfer deadline.

Liu Yongzhuo, a board member of the Chinese champions, said it was "too late" to seal the deal, but held out hope of an agreement in the January transfer window.

Meanwhile, the Blues have sent midfielder Victor Moses on a season-long loan to West Ham United. The 24-year-old, who spent the last season on loan with Stoke City, scored three goals in 19 Premier League appearances for the Potters last season.

The Hammers were one of the busiest English clubs yesterday.

They also secured midfielder Alex Song on a season-long loan from Barcelona, before acquiring Croatia forward Nikica Jelavic from Championship side Hull City.

They also signed striker Michail Antonio from Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'DEFENSIVE AID FOUND AT LAST'. Print Edition | Subscribe