SkySports have reported that Brazilian youngster Kenedy is set to join Watford on a season-long loan from Chelsea, leaving Antonio Conte with a paucity of options at left-back ahead of the upcoming campaign.
The versatile 20-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge as a forward from Fluminense last summer, but was quickly converted into a makeshift left-back by interim boss Guus Hiddink in the second half of the league season.
However, Kenedy is likely to be asked to combine both attacking and defensive duties under former Inter and Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri (below) at Watford, who lined up in a new-look 3-5-2 formation in their opening day draw away at Southampton.
New Chelsea coach Antonio Conte will be hoping Kenedy supplements his unpredictable dribbling and attacking verve with defensive steel and tactical awareness ahead of his expected return next season.
However, with fellow left sider Abdul Baba Rahman also loaned out to Bundesliga side Schalke, just a year after arriving amid much fanfare for £18 million from Augsburg, the former Italy manager has a paucity of options available to him on the left flank ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League curtain raiser against West Ham tomorrow night.
Conte has revealed that he won’t necessarily stick to the three-man defensive line that underpinned his three consecutive Serie A titles at Juventus and the departures of forward-thinking duo Kenedy (below) and Rahman increases the chance that Chelsea could start the season with a more traditional back four.
The 47-year-old prioritised four at the back in all three of Chelsea’s International Champions Cup fixtures against Liverpool, Real Madrid and AC Milan, with Cesar Azpilicueta starting each game on the left of defence.
This suggests Conte will adopt a more pragmatic approach with full-backs chosen for their defensive diligence as he aims to return Chelsea to their usual role of title challengers, a suggestion backed up by Ghanaian international Rahman upon his Stamford Bridge departure.
"Antonio Conte told me that he wants his team to be very defensive, but I am a rather offensive full-back," Rahman (below) told Ruhr Nachrichten earlier this month, as reported by FourFourTwo.
"So I would have had very little playing time. Conte advised me to leave on loan.”
Versatile youngster Ola Aina is an option available to Conte after impressing in pre-season, albeit featuring mostly at right-back. However, he can switch to the opposite flank if necessary.
A traditional full-back with an impressive burst of acceleration, the 19-year-old’s versatility appears to give him an impressive chance of being the first Chelsea academy graduate to feature consistently in the first-team since John Terry in the early 2000s.
With Kenedy heading out, Aina could become a useful back-up for Azpilicueta this coming season.