On Sunday Afternoon, on Antonio Rudiger’s 26th birthday, Chelsea beat lowly Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage to make it the perfect day for the German. Much has been made of Chelsea’s defence at times this year. However, the weakest links defensively have been Marcos Alonso and David Luiz. The general consensus has been that Rudiger’s own performances have been solid which has seen him become a mainstay in this Chelsea team. Just how important could he be to this Chelsea defence going forward?
Performance vs Fulham
Let’s start with his birthday win and look at his performance. He was involved in the action with a solid display all round with a particular focus on his positional play which was very good all game. Also, he had the joint second amount of clearances for Chelsea as well as producing some solid passing statistics to go with it. A total of 85 passes was the most in the team and he went long 17 times being successful 14 of those as well. This was particularly evident when he would switch the ball to the more advanced Emerson, who would take up wide positions as a left back.
Having moved to Chelsea from Roma in the summer of 2017, he has played in a three and a two under two different managers. He has had to adapt to the English game as well as two very different systems. This season he has been partnered with David Luiz who has been inconsistent to say the least. When he’s good, he is a very good, powerful centre back. At his worst, he dives in and leaves spaces meaning Rudiger and others are exposed.
Of course, Rudiger can be rash. We’ve seen at times this year where he’s dived in or tried to assert himself too much on a striker often resulting in giving fouls away. For all his aggression, he still is an underrated defender. I really do believe he can thrive with a more solid defensive partner next to him. As much as I want Christensen to succeed, I’d love to see him partnered with the likes of Koulibaly or Skriniar. Having that solidity next to him and someone who doesn’t make mistakes could do wonders for the Chelsea defence and Rudiger’s game.
Luiz has been at the heart of a lot of costly errors this year. Most significantly against Tottenham away, shying away from the ball and letting Son just run through him. There are defenders at the club who wouldn’t have done those things. However, I do believe Sarri or whoever will be in charge in summer, will be in the market for a centre back. Sarri tried to sign a few centre backs when he signed on to be manager. Therefore, it would make sense for him to go looking again. Especially with the future’s of Gary Cahill and Luiz looking like its near the end.
What’s Next For Rudiger
Continuing to learn from Sarri and putting in consistent performances as he has been doing is a given. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was lining up next to a new defender come the start of next season. As Chelsea fans, we would like to see that as it is incredibly important that the defence is improved for next season. If we want to be back up there challenging for titles we need a defence that can provide that stability week in, week out. Not just turning up for the occasional big games as we have seen at times this season. As far as the German goes, if he wants to be, he could be in this side for a long time and if the club can back him up with a quality centre half, we could be talking about one of the leagues best centre back pairings.