It’s now old news that the player who has been the scapegoat for Chelsea’s defensive woes so far is captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Not only is he in decline, he’s simply just not comfortable playing as a modern-day right back. The demands of this role are different in the type of intensive style that Frank Lampard likes to play, and he just hasn’t got the attributes.
However, wounds have been eased and a little consolation offered – in the sense that highly-rated 19-year-old Reece James is coming back to compete with him soon.
Reports have already suggested Lampard is ready to axe the 30-year-old over the coming weeks and reports have even emerged the Spanish international could be offloaded to Spain in the January transfer window with Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad waiting in the shadows.
Although Reece James is on the verge of returning to full training, it will be a good few weeks before he will reach full fitness again.
Meaning, realistically speaking, Chelsea have a good 3-4 games at least where they will need a temporary fix to their most problematic area and their weakest link.
Antonio Rudiger could be the short term fix there. He played at right-back for Roma and for Germany. He’s more than comfortable playing there and understands the role.
Chelsea have Fikayo Tomori, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma who are all competing well for the centre back spot. Rudiger will be as well. But his return shouldn’t necessarily warrant stopping game time for one of the other three for now, as the 26-year-old German can fill in at right-back.
Also encouraging this move maybe is the fact that Rudiger ticks all the boxes the Chelsea captain doesn’t. He has the pace to get up and back, something Azpilicueta doesn’t. He has good long-range passing ability, meaning he should be able to pick out strikers or switch play from wide positions.
Moving further, the German is good defensively and under recovery (another area Azpiluctea is weak at), and it’s more than evident he can run with the ball well(way better than Azpilicueta at least). He’s a solid passer and will be fine receiving the ball in tight areas. He will certainly be much better at blocking crosses and dangers than Azpilicueta has been.
Then perhaps the most expensive trait he offers is the fact that he also has leadership and is very vocal, something else that Lampard’s side have lacked at the back this term. Especially with the departure of David Luiz.
All of this doesn’t change the fact that Rudiger’s best position is at centre back. But until Reece James is in contention, he or even Tomori should be starting at right-back over Azpilicueta, or Chelsea will continue to leak in more goals.