Antonio Rudiger has played a grand total of 45 minutes of competitive football for Chelsea in the last six months, and he’s starting to go a little stir-crazy.
“I’m itching [to get back]. It is very long now. Even with my cruciate ligament rupture, I was not out for so long. But I am very patient.”
-Antonio Rudiger; source: Sportschau via Sport Witness
What’s undoubtedly adding to Rudiger’s frustration is that it hasn’t been a clean recovery from this latest knee injury, for which he had meniscus surgery this summer. But his initial comeback attempt, against Wolverhampton Wanderers in mid-September, was cut short thanks to a groin strain. Even the injury itself was in part due to a rushed return from an injury picked up a couple games prior.
Another factor that could be adding to that six-month itch is the emergence of Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma as Lampard’s preferred partnership. Whether by choice or force, the fearsome twosome have started 7 of Chelsea’s last 11 games in all competitions (7 goals conceded), including the last 5 in a row (4 goals conceded), and in 2 of the 4 others, Zouma had had to replace Andreas Christensen during the game (Christensen, too, remains injured). At this point, Rudiger may no longer be assured of immediately slotting back in as the first-choice starter if and when he does return.
“[Zouma] has been fantastic. There was a belief that I had in Kurt because there was interest in the summer after we all know he had a very good loan at Everton last year. But I believed in him as I believed in Tomori – that is why I made the decisions I made pre-season in terms of where we were going to look defensively.
“It has been nice to get some stability, albeit because of injuries, between [Kurt] and Fikayo in the last games. It has been good to get them playing together to see the little bond they are getting on and off the pitch. It is a nice little story and it must continue, I suppose.”
-Frank Lampard; source: talkSport
When preseason began, even with the massive changes about to happen at Chelsea, the starting defensive partnership looked set to continue from last season. Instead, the youth have taken center stage there as well. Of course, Rudiger himself is just 26 and only halfway through his 5-year contract. When he does return, he’s only going to make us stronger.