Fabio Capello has given his own explanation why summer signing Kalidou Koulibaly has endured some early-season struggles at Chelsea.
The Senegal star moved to Stamford Bridge in a £33million deal from Napoli this summer and he made a strong start to life at his new club when he scored in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham last month.
However, things all started to go wrong when Koulibaly put in a woeful performance and saw red in the 3-0 loss at Leeds.
After serving his one-match ban, the imposing centre-back has received more criticism for his subsequent performances.
And Capello, who has managed in England as well as some of the biggest clubs in Italy, feels Koulibaly has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.
The former England boss claims the centre-back got too used to playing at a slower pace in Italy.
He told Sky Calcio Club: “I would like to talk about the difficulties of Koulibaly at Chelsea.
“In Naples, he was doing everything by himself. His problems now depend on the speed with which they play in England.
“It’s the same pace used by Udinese to give Roma fits. It’s something that must make us Italians reflect.”
Koulibaly played 317 times for Napoli over an eight-year spell. During that time he was named in the Serie A Team of the Season on four occasions. He also helped Napoli win the Coppa Italia.
The defender has also tasted success at international level, winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2021.
But he is now a member of a much-changed Chelsea backline following a summer of ins and outs.
While Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso all moved on, Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella and Wesley Fofana were brought in.
The latter two cost a combined £135million, but that has not stopped Chelsea shipping goals. Although to be fair, Fofana’s only appearance so far came in the 2-1 win over West Ham.
Koulibaly was always a risky signing
At 31 years of age, Koulibably has come to the Premier League at the latter stage of his career – and therein lies the problem.
The centre-back had been linked with a move to England for a number of years prior to him actually signing. However, none of those deals ever came off and there was always a concern that his style of play might not be suited to the faster pace on show in this country.
The evergreen Thiago Silva was able to adapt quickly due to his pace and ability to read the game. He also rarely finds himself out of position.
Koulibaly has quickly found out that purely being physical in England will not always get the job done.
He also has a tendency to get too close to strikers to let them know he is there. However, there are enough clever forwards in the Premier League that will use that to their advantage with clever movement.
Koulibaly needs to realise that the pace he has around him, in the form of Fofana and Thiago, means he does not have to take chances or make rash challenges.
One thing he does have going for him though is his powerful presence from set-pieces, as he showed against Spurs.
But for now, he needs to be given time to come to terms with the Premier League. And, if he does Chelsea could end up having one of the best defensive set-ups in European football.