DECISIVE DEEFENCE: HOW FRANK LAMPARD TURNED CHELSEA'S BIGGEST WEAKNESS INTO THEIR BIGGEST STRENGTH
Last season, Chelsea’s biggest downfall was unquestionably their defence.
The blues conceded a whopping 54 goals in the Premier League, the 10th most despite finishing in 4th place.
Going into this season then, it was vital that the London club fixed their backline by bringing in some reinforcements.
The area in the backline that pundits focused on was left-back.
Marcos Alonso was praised for his ability in the final third but slaughtered by fans and pundits alike for lacking in the defensive department.
Alonso is more of a wingback than a traditional full-back hence his defensive woes.
This however is no excuse for the hole he would leave in the left-side of the backline.
This season in the three appearances he has made he’s completed just 0.3 tackles per game and 1.7 interceptions per game.
To replace the Spaniard the blues splashed out £50 million on Leicester City’s England international Ben Chilwell.
Since arriving at Stamford Bridge Chilwell has completed 1.4 tackles per 90, around 4 times more than Alonso.
Another major issue that Lampard faced was the consistency of his centre-back pairing.
Only captain Cesar Azpilicueta played more than 30 times out of Chelsea’s defensive options with Kurt Zouma coming closest to his total of 36 appearances.
However, Azpilicueta, known fondly as Dave by fans and teammates, plays mainly at right-back, showing the inconsistency in the centre of the backline.
It was vital then that the Blues brought in a reliable partner for French man Zouma.
They did this in the form of a swoop for Brazilian and football legend Thiago Silva on a free transfer after he left French Champions PSG.
This move came under scrutiny in the summer due to Silva being 36 years old when they signed him.
However, Silva has proved any doubters wrong since his move, becoming Chelsea’s most reliable defender who contributes both by being an elite option for his side but also by using his leadership skills to organise the backline.
Silva has so far completed double the tackles per game as teammate Zouma at 1 compared to the French man’s 0.4.
He also completes 1.3 interceptions per game along with 4 clearances per game.
Silva has brought the experience and talent that they needed in the backline and could play a vital part in the development in some of the younger players during his time at the club.
A key player Silva could help is highly rated Wales youngster Ethan Ampadu when he returns from Sheffield United.
If Silva can positively influence his ability, then there’s a chance the Welsh man could take his place when he retires.
The final position that really needed addressing at Chelsea is goalkeeper.
Ever since his world record £72 million arrival from Athletico Bilbao, Kepa Arrizabalaga has come under immense scrutiny from the entire footballing world.
Kepa famously refused to be substituted in a Carabao Cup final against Manchester City for the penalty shootout, a game that Chelsea subsequently lost.
Even excluding that game, the Spaniard has never looked comfortable between the sticks in London, shown by his terrible save percentage of just 55% last season - the worst in the entire league.
Arrizabalaga is widely considered the biggest waste of money the club has ever bought, especially when you compare it to Liverpool’s deal to bring in world-class stopper Alisson Becker in the same window.
To replace Kepa, Chelsea looked to France and pounced on a deal for Stade Rennes ‘keeper Edouard Mendy.
28-year-old Mendy joined for a fee of around £22 million and has looked like a star ever since.
The Senegalese international stands at a whopping 6 foot 5 and has been a monster in the net at Stamford Bridge.
Across six league games this season, Mendy has conceded just one goal and kept five clean sheets, the most in the league despite missing 4 games this campaign.
Arrizabalaga made 3 errors leading to goals in as many games this season, showing why it was vital that Chelsea find a replacement and they look to have done that with Mendy.
As it stands, Chelsea have conceded the second least amount of goals this season, a big step up on last term.
Because of all the work that Chelsea put in this window, they are a real threat to the Premier League title and are almost guaranteed a top 4 spot if their current from continues, something that could not be said about them last campaign.