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Many people thought Chelsea would struggle this season under Frank Lampard having endured a transfer ban. However, the club and the players have handled the situation remarkably and sit comfortably in third place in the Premier League.

At the heart of Chelsea’s success, and the only player Chelsea spent money on in the summer where they made his loan deal permanent, was Matteo Kovacic. A lot of praise also has to go to the academy graduates this season. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have made the step up into the Chelsea first-team where they have excelled so far in the opening stages of the season.

Other players who deserve mentions are Jorginho who has gone up another level this season after overcoming his doubters in the previous campaign. Also, new signing Christian Pulisic has shown why Chelsea spent a hefty fee to bring him to the club as he now has five goals in his last three Premier League starts.

Jorginho’s partner in the double pivot Kovacic has done the same and excelled in a deeper role this season. Last season under the previous manager Maurizio Sarri, the Croatian midfielder was alternated for most of the season with Ross Barkley and was frequently played out of position. However, like Jorginho, he has overcome negative criticism to become one of Lampard’s most essential players.

Kovacic’s performances this season will give Lampard a selection dilemma once the squad return from international duty. N’Golo Kante returned to the side on the weekend after recovering from injury, but the question is how do you get all three in the same team as well as the attacking influence of England youngsters Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek?

Chelsea faces an uphill task as we face the Premier League reigning champions and for me, Matteo Kovacic has to start. Lampard can’t drop a player who has risen his game and arguably playing in world-class form in his position. Although Kante is Chelsea’s best player when he is at his best, Lampard should opt for a three-man midfield where he accompanies Kovacic with Kante and Jorginho after serving his one-game suspension.

What Kovacic brings to this Chelsea side

When Loftus-Cheek returns from his long injury lay-off, he will be essential in the attacking phase. Kante will be used for his defensive qualities and Jorginho for his leadership aspect with his ability to dictate a football match by controlling possession. But Kovacic is equally as important in all three aspects. He isn’t a goal scorer as his last goal came at his previous club Real Madrid back in 2017. The Croatian midfielder is one of the best in his position at dribbling out from a high press where he turns defence into attack.

Chelsea often find themselves struggling to play out from the back, and so often when it can’t be passed out, the ball will go to Kovacic and he will dribble or turn out past two or three players which leads into an attack.

Lampard appreciates Kovacic’s ability at doing this as it is a key way of defeating the opposition’s attacking threat. The Chelsea boss also has reiterated that he likes rotating his youthful squad in each game, but with six wins in a row in the Premier League, he will be reluctant to change a winning formula. For that reason, when the players who are out injured return, he can’t drop Kovacic as he is proving why he is so essential in that winning run.