Chelsea are plotting a summer swoop for Jesse Lingard
Arsenal’s loss may end up being Chelsea’s gain. The uncertainty around Arsene Wenger’s status at Arsenal is already starting to cost the Gunners. They’ve fallen behind the Blues in the race to pry Jesse Lingard away from Manchester United.
Reports from England claim the Blues are contemplating a bold move to sign Lingard this summer. Evidently, Antonio Conte believes he can help his club as either a wide midfielder or a wing back. Lingard’s contract with United is set to expire at the end of next season.
That reality means that Jose Mourinho’s club will need to reach an extension with Lingard this summer. Otherwise, they’ll likely sell him at a cut-rate price to avoid losing him for nothing. That would be a troubling outcome for a club that have historically prided themselves on developing young, English talent.
In fairness to United, it’s not as if Lingard has lit the world ablaze with his play this season. Mourinho has handed him nine starts and five substitute appearances in the league with mixed results. His two assists and zero goals have only earned him a Whoscored.com player rating average of 6.63. That’s below the mark of an average Premier League regular.
At 24 years of age, that has to be a little concerning to the higher-ups at United. It’s obvious that other clubs still see significant value in Lingard though. Chelsea and Arsenal aren’t Premier League bottom feeders. They see the Englishman as a player who can help them stay above United in the league table.
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I tend to agree with their assessment. Lingard has received some opportunities under Mourinho, but doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit with his managerial style. In particular, Conte seems like a boss who could get the most out of him.
I’m particularly intrigued with the possibility of playing Lingard as a wing back. My biggest issue with his play at the moment is his lack of production in the final third. On the other hand, I love his work rate. Moving him further back in the formation could accentuate what he does well, while minimizing the pressure for him to score goals.
Arsenal fans may wonder why Lingard wouldn’t be interested in playing there, but it’s impossible to guess how they’ll play next season. If Arsene Wenger doesn’t return, the Gunners may look very different next year.
Despite the interest in Lingard from other clubs, I’m still inclined to believe that United will find a way to keep him at Old Trafford. Letting him leave for Chelsea or Arsenal would be a giant risk for Mourinho and his reputation.