Few of the Chelsea squad could have been as thrilled to see illustrious central midfielder Frank Lampard installed as head coach in the summer of 2019 as Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.
It was the opportunity to work closely with a master of their daily post, ready to pass on his footballing wisdom to two players who had struggled to impose themselves on English football until then.
You can imagine the scene as Lampard walked through Cobham’s gates, the reaction likely resembling Frodo awakening in the healing houses of Minas Tirith to be greeted by Gandalf and the whole community.
Unfortunately, the real world is not filled with such wonder and fantasy, and the Chelsea boss has been unable to work his magic on his cohort of central midfielder, leaving himself with a problem that he hopes to be the nadir of a sharp drop in fitness. ; While his struggling attack grabbed the headlines, the midfielder is also working.
It looks like an age since Kovacic was named Blues player of the 2019/20 Campaign, with the Croatian falling victim to Lampard’s deployment of Mason Mount as a central box-to-box midfielder this season, rather than ‘an attacking midfielder or winger. .
While Kovacic was the peerless performer as a combative and action midfielder in Lampard’s first season, he watched that player’s shadow this time around, with him and Jorginho regularly swapping places. in the starting XI or both being on the bench for Kai Havertz.
His display in Chelsea’s latest and most blatant league loss to Manchester City was particularly tasteless, with Kovacic wandering between N’Golo Kanté and Mount in midfield, failing to perform both offensive and defensive duties so that Chelsea looked blunt and the City midfielder had the freedom of West London; he failed to make a single tackle during his 77 minutes on the pitch and only completed one of his mark-deep dribbles.
Meanwhile, Jorginho struggles to find consistency in imposing his unique Register style in the Premier League, and despite showing decent performances against Brighton, Crystal Palace and – more recently – Aston Villa this season, his shared work with Kovacic means he’s been limited to ten league games, while his Croatian counterpart has. 12.
With each day of the game that passes, it becomes clear that Lampard has no idea who is the most effective option alongside the indisputable starters Kanté and Mount, neither of which really fulfills their goal at the center of the park.
That could and perhaps should lead him into the transfer window in January, and he already has his sights set on the perfect solution to his dilemma: Declan Rice.
Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea were linked with a £ 80million move for the 21-year-old – who was ditched by the Blues academy in 2013 – to complete their heavy spending this summer, and although these fees remain exorbitant, its shape at this point means that its true value is gradually approaching this figure.
The attitude of Chelsea fans at the time was “kind … but perhaps a little frivolous after £ 200million spent”, Havertz having signed to play probably as one of three midfielders, with Kovacic in good stead. form and Jorginho above average. alternative; how times change.
Rice has excelled for West Ham this season, exceeding expectations exponentially after a strong campaign in 2019/20. He progressed exactly as West Ham would have hoped, become an accomplished defensive midfielder – which just happens to be exactly what Chelsea sorely lack.
A quick comparison shows that the England international has outperformed Jorginho and Kovacic in almost every department, although it should be noted that he played more than double the minutes of the two Chelsea men.
Defensively, Rice averages more tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks – but that is perhaps predictable given his emergence as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. What is surprising, however, is that he also improved Chelsea’s current midfield harvest.
According to WhoScored, the Hammers vice-captain averages 0.8 key passes per game and 1.1 successful dribbles, and he manages more passes and crosses than the Chelsea pair, despite Jorginho’s reputation as a player. quality ball.
But beyond the stats, his physique and stature means he’s far more capable of dominating the Premier League midfielder than Jorginho and Kovacic’s lighter numbers. He combines that physicality with a nice touch of aggression (which the lukewarm second half against City showed Chelsea badly need), isn’t afraid to fight his opponents and launch into a weird tackle. even at the expense of a fault. It seems these attributes were also recognized by Lampard, who would be keen to use him as a center-back if he gets his man.
It all makes it even more painful, painfully ironic that he was released by Chelsea academy eight years ago because of his lack of physicality AND Versatility (by The Athletic). Now it seems (at least) £ 80million will be the price to pay to right this wrong, and while it’s not clear whether Rice is Lampard’s desire or the club’s, whether it’s this month- This or this summer, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the The Blues need to eat their words and spit the money out.
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