Chelsea have been linked with a January move for midfielder Leandro Paredes.

The Argentinian plays for Zenit St. Petersburg and is one of two men being earmarked by the Blues to replace the soon-to-depart Cesc Fabregas.

When the Spaniard leaves Chelsea, there will be a hole in terms of squad depth at the base of their midfield and Paredes is the man that should fill it.

Nicolo Barella, the Cagliari midfielder, has also been linked. However, a quick look at his output suggests he could be the ideal candidate to lessen the load of N’Golo Kanté.

So, here’s why Leandro Paredes should be Chelsea’s No.1 target to be Jorginho’s No.2.

Who is Leandro Paredes?

Born in San Justo, Argentina – about 45 minutes from downtown Buenos Aires, Paredes came through the ranks at Boca Juniors. He debuted at the age of just 16 and went on to play three seasons at La Bombonera, making 29 appearances for the first team.

His potential was obvious, and so Roma tried to bring him to Serie A at the start of 2014 – but the Giallorossi didn’t have any non-EU spots to accommodate him. So Paredes joined Chievo on loan for six months, then in the summer moved to the Italian capital.

Paredes was a bit-part player in his first season, but after a successful loan spell at Empoli he came back and was a dominant force at the heart of the Roma midfield. He helped the club to the round-of-16 in the Europa League and an impressive second-placed Serie A finish, just four points behind winners Juventus.

He then shocked everyone by leaving Roma after just one season and going to play in Russia for Zenit St. Petersburg. This seemed at best a lateral move and even with Roberto Mancini in charge at the Gazprom Arena, Zenit finished fifth in the Russian Premier League and Paredes faded from discussion just when he should have been coming into his own; he missed out on the World Cup squad as a result – although he’s found his way back into the national set-up since then.

How does he play?

Paredes is a classic Argentinian No. 5 in that he plays at the base of midfield, defending and recycling possession in equal measure. Kickstarting attacks is just as important as breaking up the opponents. He can pass effectively over both long and short distances.

In the Russian Premier League so far this season, only four players have played more passes than Paredes’ 915 and three of them play for Krasnodar, a pass-heavy side. The Argentinian is Zenit’s lone metronome at the base of midfield – sound familiar? – and a greater emphasis is placed upon him, coping perfectly well with an impressive 88% pass completion.

It’s not just short passes to maintain possession either. Only two outfielders have completed more long-balls than Paredes in Russia, and neither of them have been as accurate as he has (67%). And only three players have made more key passes than his 32. He is more than capable of playing direct, making use of fast-forwards and tall target men.

Moreover, he’s not afraid of stepping forward and letting fly when the occasion demands it. He’s had 27 shots from outside the box so far this season (only four players have managed more) and two of them have gone in.

Now, alright, a shot conversion of 7% is hardly setting the world alight – but Chelsea need more shooting from range because too often the Blues can get lost in their passing rhythm.

He doesn’t shirk the defensive side of things either. He’s made a respectable 24 interceptions and won 28/38 tackles too. On the downside (there’s always a downside) he is a bit card happy. Paredes has picked up six yellows and one red so far this season, so that’s something Chelsea will need to be aware of as he’s adapting to the Premier League’s pace of play.

Does the move make sense?

It’s pretty easy to see why Chelsea are moving for Paredes in the wake of Jorginho’s key role in the team structure and his back-up Cesc Fabregas leaving the club. The Argentinian can offer much the same thing. This does render Mateo Kovacic a bit pointless, but as he’s only on loan and has been underwhelming anyway, that’s no great loss.

Paredes is an obvious fit to play understudy to Jorginho, allowing Sarri to rotate and rest his prized midfielder and thus ensure Chelsea be much more effective in juggling both their domestic league campaign and the various cup competitions that they’re trying to win (notably the Europa League, so they can guarantee a return to the Champions League).

The fee is yet to be disclosed, but unless it’s something exorbitant, it’s hard to see this as anything but a slam dunk from the Blues. Sure, Paredes isn’t likely to start alongside Jorginho, but just the fact that Chelsea would be no longer beholden to the Brazilian-born star is huge. If he’s not 100% fit or if he’s playing awfully, he can be taken off or rested and the Sarrismo style will continue.

What do the fans think?

It is safe to say that a move for Paredes has excited the Stamford Bridge faitful.

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