Frank Lampard’s first season at Chelsea has been topsy-turvy with highs – like beating Tottenham home and away, with their most recent victory against Spurs at Stamford Bridge giving them an advantage in the top four football bet – and lows – like losing to Southampton and Bournemouth at home.
One of the main things that has hampered the Blues’ season is their leaky defence. Having conceded 39 goals in 28 games, Lampard’s side have the joint-worst defensive record in the top 10 – level with Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley.
The former Chelsea midfielder has fiddled around with his defence on numerous occasions this season, chopping and changing from the classic back four to the more modern three centre backs accompanied by two wing-backs. He has tried different partnerships from Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori to Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger, but still the Blues continue to concede.
Since the turn of the New Year, Chelsea have kept just three clean sheets in 14 games, a run that has seen the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Blues’ regular between the sticks, dropped by Lampard for 38-year-old Willy Caballero.
In Chelsea’s most recent home game against Spurs, who were lacking attacking prowess with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min both out injured, Lampard’s side were 2-0 up and coasting with just minutes to go until some trademark sloppy defending led to an own goal from Rüdiger, putting the Blues under immense pressure for the remainder of the game.
But could a forgotten man at the Bridge be the defender to make a difference next year? Ethan Ampadu, who is currently on loan at Bundesliga side Red Bull Leipzig, has made just one Premier League appearance for the Blues since moving from Exeter City and it came back in the 2017-18 season.
However, whilst minutes have also been few and far between in Germany, the 19-year-old hugely impressed when called upon by Leipzig in their first-leg last 16 tie against Spurs – catching the eye of the Stamford Bridge faithful.
The Welsh international kept a clean sheet against the Blues’ London rivals and made one successful tackle, five interceptions, 93 passes – accumulating a pass accuracy of 95% – and had 109 touches of the ball.
The top-class performance led to fans and pundits raving about the youngster, including Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker, who tweeted: “He certainly impressed last night. Very talented and was organising and bossing his teammates throughout the 90 minutes.”
He certainly impressed last night. Very talented and was organising and bossing his teammates throughout the 90 minutes. ?? https://t.co/fVSTFDRdnn
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 20, 2020
It was Ampadu’s second Champions League start for Leipzig, the other coming against Benfica in a 2-2 draw. The loanee is yet to start a Bundesliga game for the German side but kept a clean sheet in the final 30 minutes against Werder Bremen after coming off the bench in the 3-0 win.
The 19-year-old also kept two clean sheets in his last two outings for Wales, away to Azerbaijan and home to Hungary, respectively.
“I would like to go back [to play for Chelsea], I aim to, but I am focused on Leipzig,” Ampadu said after the Spurs game.
“I am always watching Chelsea and seeing what is going on.
“It is good to see the young players are shining at the moment. They are in the top four so fingers crossed they can hold on to that.”