You don’t have to be a mind-reader to work out what John Terry was probably thinking as he watched Arsenal score their second goal in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.
He must have been thinking what every Chelsea supporter who was watching on TV was thinking: ‘What’s the referee got against us – and what’s happened to our defence?’
Hector Bellerin was in his own half when he picked the ball up and powered forward. From a Chelsea point of view, what followed was a comedy of errors involving all three of their centre-backs. In quick succession Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christiansen and Kurt Zouma showed why Chelsea’s defence needs major surgery this summer.
It’s all well and good Chelsea spending big money on world-class forward players such as Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech – and almost certainly Kai Havertz – but they are not going to challenge for the title again until Frank Lampard addresses his problems at the back.
He needs to sign at least one commanding central defender this summer and it could be time to call on the services of an old friend who knows all about defending in west London, someone who is being linked with the vacant manager’s job at Bournemouth.
Chelsea made exactly the right decision by making Lampard manager last summer and you could make a pretty good case for saying that they should try to bring John Terry back as well. Terry has done a good job as Dean Smith’s assistant head coach at Aston Villa. He is happy and under contract at Villa Park but it seems to be written in the stars that he will end up back at Stamford Bridge one day.
Captain, Leader, Legend, Defensive Coach doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but Chelsea’s defence needs sorting out and it shouldn’t be a job that’s beyond their greatest-ever defender, the man who won it all at Stamford Bridge and played a record 717 times for the club.
When it comes to defence the statistics are damning. Last season Chelsea let in 54 goals in the Premier League – more than any other side in the top half of the table. To put that into context Chelsea only conceded 15 times when Terry captained them to the title in the 2004/05 season.
There are major differences between that Chelsea side and the players who wear the blue shirt now. In those days, Chelsea had Petr Cech in goal and Claude Makele protecting the formidable centre-back partnership of Terry and Ricardo Carvalho.
Chelsea had leaders all over the pitch. Big characters with big personalities who were born winners. Finding modern day equivalents in the transfer market is not easy although Liverpool have managed to do it by signing Virgil van Dijk and Alisson for a combined fee of almost £150m.
‘Chelsea will sign a goalkeeper – but it won’t be easy’
Chelsea will sign a goalkeeper this summer and sell Kepa or find a club who will take him on loan. It’s not going to be easy because Chelsea made him the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when they signed him for £71m from Athletic Bilbao two years ago. Cech, who is now the technical and performance adviser, is playing a big part in the search for a new No 1 and the options include Jan Oblak, Andre Onana, Nick Pope and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Chelsea need a real presence in goal, someone who is not afraid to confront his defenders when they let him down, someone who will command his area and play out from the back.
Signing a world-class centre-back is going to be even more difficult especially because Lampard will have to sell before he can buy. He would be willing to listen to offers for Rudiger, Christiansen and Zouma in order to secure a replacement but there are not many world-class centre backs available at the moment and the best young option – Dayot Upamecano – has removed himself from the market by signing a contract extension at RB Leipzig with the expectation that he will eventually move to Bayern Munich.
Whatever happens it promises to be a hectic few weeks before the season is due to start again on 12 September. Werner and Ziyech have arrived, Havertz looks to be on his way and in an ideal world he would be followed by a goalkeeper, a left-back and a centre-back.
Meanwhile, there are question marks over the futures of almost a third of Chelsea’s first-team squad. As well as Kepa and the three centre-backs, Chelsea would listen to offers for a long list of players including Emerson, Jorginho, Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater and Michy Batshuayi.
Last summer Manchester United spent £80m on Harry Maguire to try and address their soft centre at the back, 18 months before that Liverpool spent £75m on Van Dijk. That is the kind of money you are talking about when it comes to signing world-class centre-backs.
‘Terry could improve the existing defenders’
In the meantime, Chelsea could improve the defenders they already have by bringing Terry back. On paper you could argue that when it comes to natural ability Arsenal’s centre-backs on Saturday were no better than Chelsea’s, they were just better organised and that was the result of good coaching. Every NFL team has a small army of role specific coaches and Liverpool even have a throw-in coach, so – should he choose to leave Villa – there is no reason why Terry shouldn’t come back to sort out the problems at the back.
Roman Abramovich has shown a lot of faith in Lampard and the Russian billionaire is not as impatient as he used to be when it comes to expecting instant success from his managers. Having said that, Lampard will only get so many chances to get things right. He know better than anyone that unless Chelsea progress and improve on their fourth-placed finish next season then serious questions will be asked about his future.
In the meantime, it’s time to get the band back together again. Lampard and Terry. Why have one legend when you can have two?
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