If Chelsea win the FA Cup final on Saturday, this will have been an outstanding first season under Frank Lampard. But if they are to mount a serious title challenge next season, he needs to build around this lot and get rid of these five…
The most expensive goalkeeper in the world has the worst save percentage in Premier League history. His 54.7% puts him in 730th place of the 730 goalkeepers to play 10+ games. For 30% of the goals he’s conceded this season he hasn’t even moved. It’s almost as though he’s been rotated into goal between two jumpers in the park when the kid with the gloves hasn’t shown up, such is his exasperation every time he’s beaten: Come on, you hit that too hard – you’ve got to admit that was too hard.
Every shot on target against Chelsea and Kepa Arrizabalaga in the last six Premier League games:
— bet365 (@bet365) July 22, 2020
He means well. All that shouting and cajoling of teammates, the roughing up of opposition strikers. But everything seems to be done with varying degrees of panic: slide tackles; back passes; desperation to get to the ball when it’s clearly not there to be won. For every Rudiger roar there should be a whisper sent back his way: Just calm down.
In the box he’s a liability, focusing far too much on the opposition players rather than the ball itself. Pat Nevin once likened Ricardo Carvalho to Jason Bourne for his covert mastery of the “dark arts”: the subtle shirt tugs; blocking of runs; the general irritation. Agent Rudiger is more Austin Powers – obvious, clumsy and brash.
The polar opposite to Rudiger, certainly in terms of boisterousness and on-field presence – he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. But you know that calmness that prompts a feeling of assuredness and an untouchable, almost celestial quality in the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Aymeric Laporte? Well in Christensen’s case it just lends itself to the notion that he needs to be given a good shake or a slap round the chops to wake him up a bit.
A Christensen-Rudiger hybrid would make a very good Premier League centre-back, but unfortunately their disparate and limited qualities mean neither are suitable if Chelsea are to push for the title.
He’s a lovely footballer to watch, and Chelsea will have to fork out a huge amount of money to find someone as good on the front foot. His crossing, shooting and free-kick taking is up there with the very best in Europe from his position. But his position is unlikely to exist in the Chelsea side next season. Lampard will struggle to get the attacking talent at his disposal into the team with a back four let alone a back five, and a player that excels as a left wing-back whose defensive flaws are exposed as part of a quartet is unlikely to be given game time.
The idea of Jorginho is a nice one. A player who can dictate the tempo of the game from a deeper lying role, organising his fellow midfielders to interchange positions in front of him, providing a link between the defence and the rest of the team – it all sounds great. The issue for Chelsea and Frank Lampard is, for Jorginho to be effective, the ethos, dynamics and tactics of the team need to be tailored perfectly to suit his rhythm.
The success Chelsea have had this season and the players they have already signed – or been linked with – indicate Lampard’s desire to play a pressing, energetic, all-action style in a bid to overwhelm and befuddle the opposition. Jorginho is languid in possession and just plain slow out of it; he creates more problems for Chelsea than he solves.
Will Ford is on Twitter