Things are going swimmingly for Antonio Conte and Chelsea. Seven league wins on the bounce and being top of the table has put a spring in the step of everyone associated with the club. But football is constantly evolving and there is never any time to rest on your laurels so Conte will already be drawing up a list of potential recruits to target when the winter transfer window opens in a month's time.
One area that he might choose to reinforce could, rather ironically, concern the one that is currently functioning best. In the summer, Conte was keen to bolster an ageing and confidence-shorn central defence with at least one addition. In the end, only David Luiz was secured but not until the final day of the window and with the Brazilian fairly far down his list of preferences. As it has turned out, Luiz's return to the club has been a resounding success to date while Gary Cahill, seems to be have rid himself of the early season demons that saw him play the worst football of his Chelsea career and now looks more like his old rugged self. Yet the feeling still persists that Conte would ideally like one more top-level defender to choose from
Kurt Zouma could well be that player though there is a clear desire not to rush him back too quickly from his long-term knee injury. John Terry's increasingly creaking frame means that he is only likely to feature in a bit-part role this season. It all suggests that, unless Conte looks to young Ola Aina, there is room for another central defender in the squad.
Previous targets have included Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly, Roma's Antonio Rudiger and Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci though the likelihood of any of them joining in January are slim. Napoli have placed a prohibitive price tag on their player while Bonucci has a thigh injury that will keep him out until the New Year. Rudiger might be available but with several parties interested, signing him will not be straightforward.
In any case, there is an inherent risk in bringing a player in for big money in the middle of the season to a foreign league. It can take these players time to adapt, though the very point of making a January signing means that they have to hit the ground running. Much of Luiz's success this season has come from the fact that he had more than three years of experience in English football from his previous spell at Chelsea. The familiarity with his new environment has offset any need for readjustment.
It might make better sense then to recruit from within the Premier League, assuming that a club is willing to sell to a direct rival in the middle of a campaign. One player that continues to impress is Southampton's Virgil van Dijk. Quick across the ground and imposing in the air, Van Dijk possesses good anticipation of danger and is always a threat in the opponent's penalty box. The 25-year-old Dutchman would be an excellent addition for a Chelsea side in the market for a central defender.
There is also scope to add alternatives at wing back. As well as Victor Moses has done, there is no obvious like-for-like replacement for the Nigeria international. Marcos Alonso has done reasonably well on the other flank since his arrival in the summer -- though he has been far from flawless -- and signing somebody to create competition in that position might well be crossing Conte's mind.
Again, he could do worse than turn his attention to Southampton and check out their two full backs, one of whom is a former Blue. Ryan Bertrand might have won the Champions League with Chelsea but he was never allowed to fulfil his potential at Stamford Bridge. Since moving to St Mary's, his form has blossomed and made him an attractive proposition. Whether he would be keen to return to the place where he found himself either continually loaned out or sat on the bench is another matter.
Manchester United's Matteo Darmian has hardly set Old Trafford alight since he moved there in July 2015 though he was favoured by Conte within the Italy national squad during his two years in charge. That previous relationship together with Damian's ability to play on either flank and his familiarity with both the wing back role and the Premier League could bring him into serious consideration.
An alternative could be West Ham's Aaron Cresswell who has impressed throughout his time in east London. A decent defender and excellent going forward, the 26-year-old will soon be entering the prime of his career. It is therefore certainly plausible that he could be persuaded to move across the capital and swap the lower reaches of the Premier League for a team competing for the top prize. Whether West Ham or any of the other clubs mentioned can be persuaded is a different question entirely