As Chelsea rolled past Norwich City to maintain their place in third place at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, the game seemed to ask more questions than provide answers.
Olivier Giroud missed countless chances in the first half before he finally got on the scoresheet thirty seconds before half-time to give the Blues the lead. Despite Norwich already being relegated, that was the only real action in an incident-less clash in West London.
Frank Lampard’s side have already acknowledged their struggles in attack for next season though. They have already completed the signings of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax and Timo Werner from RB Leipzig for a combined fee of around £80million and continue to be linked strongly with Leverkusen superstar Kai Havertz.
They are desperate for more goals in their side and have addressed the issue well, with time to spare before the new season for those players to bed in and be able to hit the ground running. It’s the other end of the pitch that is desperate for adjustments though.
Despite the clean sheet against Norwich, Chelsea have conceded 49 goals in the Premier League this season. That’s the most out of any club in the top half of the table and the most they’ve conceded in a single season since 1996/97 when they conceded 54.
It’s a long way away from the days when Jose Mourinho’s Blues, including Frank Lampard in midfield, conceded just 15 goals in their 38 games. While it’s unrealistic to expect them to re-live those past glories, its certainly not wrong to expect better.
Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have all played 15 games or more each in the league, which shows just how choppy Lampard has been with his selections. Add to that Cesar Azpilicueta playing 4 games at centre-back this season too and you have a man clearly unaware of his best defence.
With all those names and their experiences combined though, none of them stand out as top drawer defenders. None of them have any real leadership qualities to their name and none of them, in my opinion, love defending. As cliché as it is, you need to have defenders that love defending to be successful.
Virgil Van Dijk is one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the world, but there’s nothing that he enjoys more than killing the opposition attack dead in it’s tracks with an interception. Raphael Varane loves breaking the lines with his passing but the joy in his eyes is unmatched compared to when he wins a foot-race with an attacker trying to counter-attack and takes the ball from him. You have to love defending. Chelsea are severely lacking that profile in their side.
With a move for Kai Havertz reportedly set to cost upwards of the £70million mark, questions need to be asked about whether the priorities are right at Chelsea at the moment. For me, there’s nothing wrong with targeting the German if you also plan on adding to your defence. If it’s one or the other though, Lampard could be making a crucial mistake not investing in a leaky defence.
Manchester City are reportedly looking at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, who would fit in perfectly at Stamford Bridge. While they may not be able to compete for him, there are certainly other options. The likes of Milan Skriniar, Jose Gimenez and Ruben Dias are all likely to be attainable for a price of around what they’d pay for Havertz, if not less. They’d all walk into Chelsea’s line up and instantly become the lead figure in the side, while also being of the level. It’s not just enough to improve on a player you currently have who isn’t good enough, they need to be of the correct standard. Replacing Antonio Rudiger with someone better than him, but still not good enough for Champions League calibre strikers won’t help Chelsea long term and it’s something fans need to think about when they ask for players to come in.
Liverpool waited for Van Dijk because he was the man and they wouldn’t settle for less. It was an admirable stance to take and has clearly worked out well for them. Chelsea should take note of that with their defensive targets and make the decision.