Does Antonio Rudiger deserve a new Chelsea deal?

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith Updated: 19 May 2021 16:43 CEST 3 min read
Does Antonio Rudiger deserve a new Chelsea deal?

A player who has divided opinion over recent years, Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was sidelined by Frank Lampard, and most fans would argue it was justified.

Poor performances in 2019/20 led to the signing of Thiago Silva, and his restriction to a place on the bench wasn’t sniffed at by many of Chelsea blue.

Six months later, and Rudiger has become a vital piece of Thomas Tuchel’s new look Chelsea side; playing on a left a back-three, the German defender has looked revitalised by fresh impetus, and back to his best; a new contract could well soon be on the table.

His current deal expires next summer and if he continues his current form then Tuchel is likely to want to keep hold of the 27-year-old. A year ago, that certainly wouldn’t have been the case.

The figure we saw last campaign was a shadow of his former self; a powerful, dominant centre-back who appeared to stitch together the defence under Maurizio Sarri. It seemed we’d never see that player again, but Tuchel has got him ticking.

Signed from Roma for £31.5 million in 2017, Rudiger arrived in London with a hefty price tag and lofty expectations from fans.

In his first season he didn’t rip up any trees, but an honest assessment would suggest it had been an adequate first year in English football; 25 Premier League starts, two goals, 2.3 aerial wins and 4.3 duels won per 90, it was a decent first campaign.

Under Sarri, it was more of the same from Rudiger. In the Italian’s possession-heavy system, he completed 91% of his passes, the best of his career up to that point, and lost possession 7.6 per 90, again a career best.

It seemed that Rudiger was ideally suited to Sarri’s system, and you could argue that alongside Jorginho, he suffered most off the back of Lampard’s appointment.

Last year was when the tide really turned against Rudiger, and demands for a new centre-back stemmed from his lack of form, lapses of concentration and poor positioning.

Perhaps the most telling statistic from last campaign was the fact Rudiger lost possession on average 11.3 times per 90, a far cry from how he performed under Sarri the year before.

In comparison, Kurt Zouma, who has been dropped by Tuchel in favour of Rudiger, lost possession 10.3 times per 90, despite often being seen as erratic on the ball, whilst also winning 1.1 more aerial duels per 90 than his team-mate.

The form displayed by Rudiger in Lampard’s maiden campaign as manager is what led to him being dropped from the starting XI this season. Indeed, he has already started more Premier League games this season under Tuchel than under Lampard, despite the former-PSG and Dortmund manager only joining last month.

How good is Antonio Rudiger?

For all his critics, many would agree that under new management, Rudiger is flourishing, and whilst Zouma will feel unlucky to have missed out so regularly recently, the German centre-back has proved many doubters wrong in the past month.

Taking his 2020/21 stats in comparison to his Chelsea peers, Rudiger is fairly consistent; in fact, all four of Chelsea’s centre-back options have been fairly impressive this season. There’s a reason only Manchester City have conceded fewer than the Blues this term.

20/21 Premier LeagueAntonio RudigerChelsea CB rank
Tackles won per 901.11st
Interceptions per 900.74th
Aerial wins per 902.33rd
Duels won per 904.02nd
Possession lost per 907.32nd
Pass accuracy92%2nd

It still seems clear that Chelsea will be shopping for a new centre-back, especially with Thiago Silva now 36-years-old, but under Tuchel, Rudiger may still be first choice.