43 minutes gone, 2-0 up. 90 mins 2-2 result. When the full-time whistle was blown at Stamford Bridge against Sheffield United, there were jeers of the same woes this season – defensive calamities.
And it all dates back to pre-season. Since pre-season, the Blues have only one clean sheet to their name out of 10 matches, that coming in their second game of the summer at St Patrick’s Athletic.
Frank Lampard has instilled an attacking style of football, which has been pleasing on the eye but at the same time has left the defence a little exposed.
Another reason for the lack of clean sheets has been the fact Antonio Rudiger and N’Golo Kante have both had injury issues that have kept them out of playing as many minutes as they would want.
While Kante has played 107 minutes of Premier League action from the first three games, Rudiger has not featured at all for the first team.
However, the Germany international is making his way back to full fitness, training with the senior squad and playing a full 90 minutes for the U23s in the 2-0 win over Liverpool last week.
Lampard stated that he hoped Rudiger will be back in time for Chelsea after the international break.
It is unlikely, however, that the 26-year-old will be thrown straight back into the starting XI, meaning Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma might have one last chance to audition for a starting spot.
With David Luiz having made the shock move to Arsenal on transfer deadline day, Rudiger is the number one defender (if he wasn’t already before) for Lampard to use.
It means either Christensen and Zouma will likely drop to the bench, having to bide their time once again for minutes when he returns.
But who is the most deserving of a spot alongside Rudiger?
Stats (via WhoScored)
Tackles (average per game): 2.7
Average passes: 50
Passing success: 89.3%
It’s easy to forget that Christensen is just 23 years of age, having come through the academy and playing two years with Borussia Monchengladbach.
Having been a regular under Antonio Conte in the middle of a back three, the Dane lost his place last season under Maurizio Sarri with Luiz re-instated.
Christensen has been back in the side on the right of the two in defence, and has benefitted somewhat from having the more defensive-minded Cesar Azpilicueta outside of him.
The Manchester United defeat was something of a mess from the defence, with all of the back four struggling at times. But Christensen ended up with more tackles and a better pass success than Harry Maguire, who was lauded for his performance.
Like Zouma in the Leicester game, the back four was horribly exposed at times in the second half at Stamford Bridge, however Christensen managed to actually compose himself well during the game.
Against Norwich, the opening goal was something of a disappointment for the Dane, with the goal coming down Chelsea’s right and the ball getting into the box too easily.
But again, like Zouma, the second half was a lot better and more assured, with a 93% pass success and four tackles.
Stats (via WhoScored)
Tackles (average per game): 0.3
Average passes: 56.7
Passing success: 85.9%
The Manchester United defeat was certainly one to forget for the former Everton and Stoke City loanee.
The 24-year-old looked nervy from the very beginning, giving the ball away to Anthony Martial in a dangerous position, which his France team-mate fluffed.
Then there was the penalty, clumsily going in on Marcus Rashford and doing nothing but making it easy for Anthony Taylor to point to the spot.
Things didn’t get much better for him, and while the defence was exposed, Zouma’s performance was not the way that he would have wanted to start the season.
Zouma improved against Leicester, and even though the Blues were under massive pressure for a lot of the second half, it was more to do with the midfield also getting over-run.
However, against Norwich, you could point out some more weaknesses to his defending once again, not positioning well enough for the opening goal and then allowing Teemu Pukki to get behind him for the second.
There was a big improvement in the second half, however, with Zouma looking more composed defensively and also with the ball at his feet.
To then cap it off, he scored an own goal that saw Chelsea drop points against Sheffield at the weekend.
The other thing to remember with Zouma is that he has been playing on the left of the centre-back pairing. While also not his natural position, Emerson Palmieri is also the more attacking full-back and therefore Zouma has, at times, been more exposed compared to Christensen.
When it was an axis of Luiz/Rudiger, it was the German who played on the right of the two with Luiz on the left.
That is likely where Rudiger would prefer to play when he is back in the fold, which could mean that Zouma would have more of a chance of staying in.
However, with the early part of the season performances, it is quite clear that Christensen is edging his French counterpart for the position.
Zouma has some top qualities, with a good amount of pace, aggressive in the air, a superb leap, and an all-round clever footballer.
But his start to the campaign has already been erratic and looked a little unassured in the opening Premier League matches of the campaign.
For Lampard, it seems likely that Christensen will get the nod to start with Rudiger, with the partnership likely to be underway at Wolverhampton Wanderers on September 14.