Antonio Rüdiger was supposed to be leaving in the summer, but a move never materialized and so he bided his time on the bench. After a few weeks and a “heart-to-heart” with then head coach Frank Lampard, his situation started to improve slowly, and, to his credit, he eventually worked his way up all the way from fifth-choice to second-choice behind Thiago Silva.
Even before Lampard became the latest Chelsea managerial sacking, Rüdiger had seemingly turned his situation completely around — case in point: Fikayo Tomori hitting the loan trail once again. As things stand now, Rüdiger has started seven of our last eight Premier League matches, and under Tuchel has slotted seamlessly back in on the left-end of the three-man backline, just as he did when first arriving at Chelsea during the time of Antonio Conte.
While Rüdiger had to deal with unfounded media speculation about his role in Lampard’s demise, in another narrative world, we would be praising his hard work, his commitment, and his dedicated to the cause and to winning back his starting position.
“I’m a competitor, I want to play. Obviously it is frustrating [but] I just said to myself ‘work, try hard to get back into the first team’. Now I can say I’m receiving the good from the hard work that I did before.
“[...] I was always calm and relaxed, I’ll be very honest. I was not going crazy because I was not playing at the beginning and when you’re not in the squad, you think ‘oh wow, what’s happening?’ But then suddenly I was back in the team and got some games. From that moment on, my head was ‘I’m staying here at Chelsea and trying to fight for my spot’. In the last games of Frank Lampard, I was featuring even more.”
However, even though Rüdiger’s minutes have been trending up, his future does remain a fair bit clouded. Chelsea are slated for a defensive overhaul in the summer, and Rüdiger could very well be on the chopping block once again. He’s one of the oldest center backs in the squad (second only to Thiago Silva), and he will have just one year left on his contract at the end of the season.
While we did get some rumors of a contract extension right around this time last year, that’s not happened yet this year — either in rumor or actual contract form.
“The thing is I cannot give myself a new contract. The talks have to come from the board, from Marina [Granovskaia], I’m very calm when it comes to that.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; source: Sky
Rüdiger may be calm, but it’s well past the ideal time for an extension. With both Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen also approaching similar big decisions, the upcoming summer could indeed be fairly dramatic.
Until then, let’s hope Rüdiger can continue to chip in decently enough to keep Tuchel’s excellent defensive record going.