Antonio Rudiger is adding a new dimension to Chelsea’s backline after being reinserted into the Blues’ first-team by Thomas Tuchel. Surprisingly, it’s in aiding the attack.
In his last start in the key game against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Rudiger displayed a feature that this author had expressed an interest in seeing from Andreas Christensen in a previous article. That was an ability to drive the ball forward very aggressively in assistance to the attack. Yet, it was Rudiger who is taking that thought to the higher level suggested, indeed, as was evidence clearly against Atletico. It was a sight to behold.
Christensen is certainly capable of taking that same incremental, additional aggressive step as has used his pace to drive forward nicely since his reemergence under Tuchel. Yet, he appears reluctant to fully exploit that ability by carrying the ball as far forward as he can, at times. Rather, he seems willing to pull up and be content to pass the ball wherever, instead of taking full advantage of what the defense is giving him. Rudiger, however, has taken that proclivity to its full advantage by driving the ball as far forward as he can before passing. That’s a good thing.
Rudiger has indicated recently that he feels he may possess the greatest pace on the Blues, Timo Werner notwithstanding. He also noted that Fikayo Tomori may also be faster than the German Flash. Tomori’s pace certainly is indisputable. Whether that is accurate or not though, Rudiger has recently certainly displayed that he is not only able to use his pace effectively in the counter-attack but is now also willing to do so. That a good thing for Chelsea. Andreas Christensen should follow Rudiger’s lead and take his counter-attacking game to the next level by following his example.
It was brilliant to see Rudiger, who had been consigned to the bench by former manager Frank Lampard for whatever reasons the former gaffer had. Yet, having been reinserted into the first team by Tuchel, Rudiger has justified the new manager’s faith in him by being a solid anchor on the left side of the back three on defense by making key plays game after game.
Yet, in addition to his defensive solidity, it’s Rudiger’s counter-attacking acumen that has caught this observer’s attention. It should be recognized and appreciated in all quarters of Chelsea Nation. It’s certainly a sight to behold as it creates advantages for the Blues that heretofore have been lacking in Chelsea’s lackluster attack. While it has yet to really make a splash by directly contributing to a goal, it nevertheless is another arrow in Chelsea’s attacking quiver that sorely needs a boost from wherever it can get it. As with the recent surge of the fabulous Hakim Ziyech, Rudiger’s emergence is a sign of good things to come.
In the past, opposing defenses could sit back in their own half waiting for Chelsea to slowly advance the ball with a tiki-taka methodical passing game in midfield. Now, with this trend-setting style begun by Christensen, followed by Rudiger, who has taken this tactic to a whole new level, defenses must concentrate on this additional “attacker” driving into their half (in Rudiger’s case deeply into their half) with super pace. This forces them to move quickly to meet this threat, thereby freeing up someone in Chelsea’s main attack in the process.
Chelsea has now put opposing defenses on alert, don’t take Chelsea’s backline starters for granted since they are fully capable of jump-starting a counter-attack, in style. They will advance the ball as far forward as possible and further stress defenders to react opening up space for the great attacking talent that Chelsea possesses, but, as yet, has failed to fully switch on. Yet, when/if that happens, it will spell big problems for any opposition with the stranglehold that Chelsea’s defense has placed on them since Tuchel implemented the 3-4-2-1.
Let’s look forward to Rudiger and Christensen driving the ball forward from Chelsea’s half, deep into the opposition’s end to help make the Blues’ attack all that it can be. Looking forward to seeing it.