Chelsea announced over the weekend that they had completed the signing of Antonio Rudiger in a deal that could be worth £33 million if all the clauses are met. The centre-back emerged as a priority target over recent months and the Blues were quick to clinch a deal just a week after the defender helped Germany to success in the Confederations Cup. After moving to a 3-4-3 formation last season, it was inevitable that Antonio Conte would have to bring in a centre-back this summer to add competition and depth to the squad.
What will he bring to Chelsea?
The German international is a powerful defender, who can dominate attackers with his impressive physicality on the pitch. He should be able to adapt quickly to English football and the club will have few doubts in that regard as he has previously succeeded in Germany and Italy. The Bundesliga is similar to the Premier League in terms of style and it is believed that it is an easy transition between the two. Meanwhile, Italy is famed for impressive defensive and tactical coaching. He will have learnt a lot from his time with Roma and Conte has obviously seen enough to believe that he can have success in England.
Last season, he averaged 2.49 ball recoveries per ninety minutes, which is very similar to the 2.48 that was managed by Gary Cahill. David Luiz was better than both with an average of 2.95 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. Given that Chelsea played a formation that allowed their defenders to be aggressive when looking to win the ball back, it is difficult to put too much emphasis on these numbers as Rudiger was playing a different style.
In possession of the ball, Rudiger is comfortable as shown by his pass success rate of 83%. Although this is lower than both Cahill (88%) and Luiz (84%), he is talented with the ball at his feet. At times last season, Chelsea’s build-up play from defence was slowed down due to the limitations of Cahill’s game. Unlike the club captain, Rudiger looks comfortable in possession and his powerful running style allows him to stride out of defence with purpose to launch attacks.
Conte understood the importance of improving his defensive options and Rudiger provides power that was previously lacking in that department. His stats don’t make for incredible reading, as his aerial success rate (54.55%) also falls under the average posted by the two Chelsea centre-backs. However, he is only 24 and the Blues’ manager has seen something in him. There are few better defensive coaches in the world than Conte and that will benefit Rudiger. The German international can be reckless at times in his positioning and attempts to win the ball back. He isn’t the finished article yet, but it is clear he has potential to develop into a fine player. The emphasis is now on Conte to bring the best out of him.
Where will he fit in at Chelsea?
The majority of supporters believe that he will replace Cahill, but that may not happen straight away. Despite his flaws, the England international did get better as he adjusted to the new formation. Conte knows that he can trust the defender and it is likely that he starts the season with him in the back three, as Rudiger develops on the training ground. It could be that the German international is slowly implemented into the team and when he does earn a starting role, it could see Cesar Azpilicueta shifted to the left side of the three centre-backs, with Rudiger playing on the right.