Frank Lampard may have found a surprise answer to his Chelsea defensive problems
Chelsea conceded 80 goals in all competitions last season, an eye-watering figure for any Blues fan, regardless of how many games were played. Long gone are the days of conceding 15 goals in a single league campaign under a new-to-the-Premier League José Mourinho, Chelsea are now in need of shoring up at the back.
Enter Ethan Ampadu, the teenage Welshman who slowly but surely could prove to be a very shrewd investment by the club’s hierarchy. This transfer window has seen the club sign seasoned veteran Thiago Silva, to rectify the issues, often caused by individual mishaps but also structural deficiencies, at the back.
Thiago Silva boasts quite the list of major honours and personal accolades. The 35-year-old will be aplayer for the coming season and could extend his stay a further year by exercising a clause in his contract. The wisdom he will impart knowingly and unknowingly, on and off the pitch will be of considerable benefit to the young defenders currently at the club, namely Fikayo Tomori and the even younger Ampadu.
The 19-year-old’s latest outing was for country, not club, as was much of his time spent on the pitch during 2019-20. Wales’ 1-0 win over Finland in the UEFA Nations League saw a debut for Dylan Levitt andwin his 14th cap.
Alongside Tom Lockyer at the heart of the defence, Ampadu kept Swansea City’s Ben Cabango out of the side, having previously benched Joe Rodon, another Swans defender worth his salt in the second tier. It is clear already from Ampadu’s comfort in possession that he would be a player who – in the right team – could play at a canter at Championship level.
Not forgetting, Ampadu already has experience at Bundesliga and Champions League level, having spent last season on loan at RB Leipzig under the tutelage of Julian Nagelsmann. The German knows what it is like to be the youngest; managing TSG Hoffenheim in his late 20s, and at the ripe old age of 33, leading Leipzig to a Champions League semi-final.
The experiences 19-year-old Ampadu has already been subjected to will have shaped him, professionally and personally, for a career at the top level. His positional versatility also means his passing is more crisp and expansive than many other centre-backs.
He is sharp at releasing the ball, receiving on the turn and his ball progression, in general, is emblematic of a player many years his senior. All of this was on display against Finland; a consummately secure and reliable display.]There is no hurry to integrate Ampadu into Chelsea’s first-team, or any need to fast-track him to the starting XI despite the club’s defensive frailties. Those issues should not be shouldered by a teenager still learning his position, especially at a club with such immense resources.
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Instead, he should be gradually brought into the fold, nurtured by the more senior players around him and there is a fantastic environment for him to do just that. Thiago Silva, César Azpilicueta and co are vastly experienced international defenders, while there is a young core to the current Chelsea crop, meaning a seamless transition back to first-team affairs following his year-long jaunt in East Germany.
The future is bright for Ampadu, both at the club and international level. There are no immediate crossroads he must tackle, nor are there pitfalls he must traverse. His accession to becoming a Premier League centre-back is well and truly on its way, he just needs to be allowed to play his game now and then.