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Chelsea have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of Declan Rice, with West Ham assistant Alan Irvine insisting the midfielder will “absolutely” be staying at the club this season.
Frank Lampard is a huge admirer of Rice, 21, and wants to lure him to Stamford Bridge before next week’s transfer deadline.
Yet when asked if he expects the England youngster to stay at West Ham, Irvine told reporters: “Oh absolutely. Declan is extremely happy at the club.”
The Blues therefore look set to miss out on Rice this summer – so who else can Lampard rely on in the holding midfield position this season?
At the back end of last season, Lampard enjoyed success by deploying Kante as the anchor of a three-man midfield, with Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount typically positioned either side of him.
Though in an attempt to accommodate new recruit Kai Havertz, this season he has switched to a 4-2-3-1 and played the £73million man as a No.10.
Chelsea were all over the place in that setup away at West Brom on Saturday, falling three goals behind inside 27 minutes at the Hawthorns.
However, after tweaking his formation at half-time and placing Kante just in front of the back four, the Blues regained control of the match in the second half and eventually fought their way back to 3-3.
If a deal for Rice fails to materialise, Lampard should stick with a 4-3-3 and keep the Frenchman as his lone midfield anchor.
Should he instead remain adamant on using a two-man midfield to fit Havertz into his most natural position, the Italy international is Lampard’s best option to partner Kante.
While he has been linked with a move to Arsenal over the past week, Jorginho’s tendency to sit deep and control play as a Regista means he still has an important role to play at Stamford Bridge, as it allows Kante to get around the pitch and cover ground as a box-to-box midfielder.
Kovacic’s desire to make galloping runs forward with the ball means Chelsea are often left exposed when he is selected in a two-man midfield with Kante.
Chelsea target Declan Rice talks ‘playing for the badge’ after West Ham thump Wolves
Somewhat of a forgotten man in west London, Gilmour will feel like a new signing for Lampard when he eventually returns from a knee injury later this year.
The tenacious Scot burst onto the scene at Chelsea last season and showed plenty of promise in the deep-lying midfield role, with Roy Keane branding his man-of-the-match display against Liverpool “world class”.
When he is back fit and firing, Gilmour will be the perfect backup option for Kante in a 4-3-3 setup.
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While a deal is highly unlikely heading into the final week of the transfer window, Chelsea have reportedly turned their attention to Lille ace Soumare as a cheaper alternative to Rice.
The Mail claim Lampard is keen to sign the 21-year-old, who operates primarily as a defensive midfielder. His arrival would almost certainly spell the end for Jorginho at the club.
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