The last time Fikayo Tomori played for over a month ago, in the FA Cup fourth round win over Hull City, which Chelsea won 2-1 and in which he was our Man of the Match. We’ve played four games since (winning once); he made the bench in the first two, didn’t even do that in the last two. Not exactly a positive trend.
The last time Fikayo Tomori played a non-cup match against lower league opposition was two months ago, away to Arsenal, which Chelsea won 2-1. We’ve played ten games since, winning four. He played in two of those (the two FA Cup games). In the eight games he didn’t play, Chelsea’s record is a rather poor 2-3-3.
That is not to say that Fikayo Tomori guarantees wins — though we’ve lost just 5 of the 21 starts he’s made — but his absence certainly hasn’t improved the situation.
So what gives? Why is Tomori the latest occupant of the Josh McEachran Memorial Basket ... and how long is he going to stay there?
Tomori seemed to have the center back spot on absolute lockdown in October and November, forming a (semi-solid) partnership with Kurt Zouma. Then Antonio Rüdiger returned from long-term injury and Tomori was dropped; then Andreas Christensen rose from the forgotten and replaced Zouma to form the current preferred partnership. Did Chelsea’s defensive record improve? Not particularly, no — though focus has been largely on our foibles in attack (and at goalkeeper).
Tomori played for Lampard last season at Derby, too, and played more minutes than the vast majority of players at the top levels of the professional game all across Europe. So it’s probably not anything personal that’s dropped the 22-year-old seemingly to the bottom of the depth chart, almost as quickly as his ascent to the top from a summer of uncertainty.
People have obviously noticed and Lampard was finally quizzed on it in yesterday’s press conference. He ... sort of ... answered the question.
“I have four centre-backs to choose from, so generally every week two of them are unhappy. And then people question you when you stick with a back two or back three. There is competition in that area.
“With Fiks, he always has to train at the top level, that goes for all of the young players because when you are out of the team, however much it hurts, you need to show a good attitude and train very well. At the moment he is and he has a long career ahead of him at this club, without a doubt. It’s been more about selection issues.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
So ... yeah. Make of that what you will. Sounds like a tactical issue for Lampard, but now also a training or attitude thing? (Frank does love that line about personality in training.) But then there’s the bit about not wanting to be seen as a tinkerer (which he is) and about it being just a selection thing (so tactical?) and about how those not playing will be unhappy (especially if it’s always the same two not playing!).
Hopefully Tomori’s getting clearer messaging from the boss behind the scenes.