With Antonio Rudiger’s long-term future at Chelsea uncertain, what would Thomas Tuchel’s side be losing were they to fail to extend his stay at the club?
The 28-year-old Germany international has entered the final six months of his contract at Stamford Bridge, and Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, and Juventus have been sniffing around a potential free signing.
Rudiger has been one of the most influential players since Tuchel arrived in west London and the passion he displays whenever he pulls on the blue shirt has seen him emerge as a real fan favourite among Chelsea supporters.
Analysis of Rudiger’s defensive and offensive output illustrates his importance to Tuchel’s Chelsea, and why failing to tie him down to fresh terms, and losing him to a European rival for nothing, would be an unthinkable prospect.
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Tuchel’s reliance on Rudiger
Rudiger was often overlooked during Frank Lampard’s spell in charge of Chelsea, but he’s been brought back in from the cold since Tuchel’s appointment and is one of the first names on the teamsheet.
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Image: No Chelsea defender has featured more in the Premier League under Thomas Tuchel than Antonio Rudiger
No defender at Chelsea has featured more in the Premier League under Tuchel than Rudiger. He’s racked up 3,150 minutes – over a thousand more than the next best on the list.
In Tuchel’s formative first 12 months at Chelsea, where he has experimented with systems and personnel, the fact Rudiger has featured as frequently as he has speaks volumes for his importance.
The Transfer Show’s Dharmesh Sheth reports that Chelsea will have to make Antonio Rudiger the highest paid defender in the Premier League to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
Why Rudiger is in demand
It’s not often a player of Rudiger’s calibre becomes available, let alone on the enticing prospect of not having to weigh out a transfer fee.
He is 28 years old, in the prime of his career, and this next contract could prove to be the last big one he signs as he enters the later years of his career.
It would be an abdication of duty were the big European clubs linked with Rudiger not to explore the opportunity to secure his services on a free, so the interest should come as no surprise.
Image: Rudiger's dominance of the left flank gives Chelsea's full-backs licence to roam into advanced positions
In addition to the opportunity of capitalising on Rudiger’s contract situation, he also brings unique qualities on the pitch, where his output is not typical of your average centre-back.
Since Tuchel arrived at Chelsea, Rudiger’s defensive action area is concentrated down the left flank and features frequent drives into opposition territory.
His presence in those areas gives Chelsea’s wing-backs the licence to drift forward or into midfield, a fundamental hallmark of Tuchel’s success at the club. Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso can roam forward safe in the knowledge Rudiger has them covered.
The Good Morning Transfers panel take a look at Antonio Rudiger’s potential next steps with his contract due to run out at Chelsea in the summer.
Furthermore, a large proportion of Rudiger’s defensive actions occur in the middle third of the pitch, where only Jorginho has won possession more times.
Rudiger ranks fifth among Premier League defenders for this metric, meaning Chelsea often have an extra, combative body in midfield which allows Tuchel’s side to overpower teams.
Rudiger a catalyst at Chelsea
In addition to Rudiger’s defensive prowess, he has played a crucial role building play from the heart of the Chelsea defence over the past 12 months.
Whenever Chelsea may be struggling to break a team down, or things may have quietened down inside Stamford Bridge, there are few greater catalysts than a marauding run from the back by Rudiger.
Image: Rudiger sits top of the charts at Chelsea in key offensive metrics
Indeed, since Tuchel’s appointment, no Chelsea player has carried the ball further than Rudiger’s total of 5.88km, while the centre-back has completed more passes, more long passes, and had more touches than his team-mates.
Rudiger more than holds his own when his offensive output is compared to his fellow Premier League centre-backs, with him ranking third for goals scored, big chances scored, passes completed, forward passes and touches, and fourth for shots on target since January 26, 2021.
Image: Rudiger is among the Premier League's best forward-thinking defenders
Rudiger stats and presence on the field make a compelling argument that, were he not to commit his future to the club, Chelsea wouldn’t just be losing a defender, but a player with a demonstrable ability to create from deeper positions, and a key component to Tuchel’s successful start to life at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel: Rudiger doesn’t need ‘pampering’
Tuchel has insisted Rudiger will not need any “pampering” as Chelsea continue talks with the Germany defender over a new Stamford Bridge contract.
Rudiger’s deal expires in the summer and the 28-year-old can now negotiate an agreement with overseas clubs. Tuchel and Chelsea remain determined to convince him to stay in west London, but the Blues boss believes actions will speak louder than words when it comes to the quest to retain the defender.
Thomas Tuchel sees Antonio Rudiger as a top professional and someone that won’t be distracted by his current contract situation.
“I don’t know if it helps if I take him out for a lot of coffees, maybe it pushes him out,” said a chuckling Tuchel. “I don’t feel that he needs a lot of coffees with me; he’s a guy who needs to trust you, he needs to feel the connection, to feel the trust, and he wants to feel it by minutes and by actions.
“I don’t feel Toni that he needs a lot of words, pampering, coffee talks and invitations to dinners and whatever. He’s a top professional, this is what he has proved. He’s very important and nothing has changed.
“We’re in talks, it’s in good hands, because I trust the club 100 per cent and I have trust in my player. So it’s a no-problem situation for me, obviously also for Toni. He can still deliver, he had a fantastic match now in a back-four, so he’s super reliable.”
Tuchel coy on Emerson return, Digne links
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Ben Chilwell’s season-ending knee surgery has the Blues seeking extra left-wing-back cover this month. Tuchel confirmed Chelsea are still looking into the possibility of recalling Emerson Palmieri, who is on loan at Lyon.
The Blues are also understood to retain an interest in Everton’s Lucas Digne should no agreement be struck for Emerson’s Chelsea return this month.
Asked for an update on the wing-back search, Tuchel replied: “I will not give you any details on that but in general I will not hide from the fact that we have a long-term injury with Ben Chilwell who will miss the whole season. And of course, we know and appreciate Emerson as a player and a person.
“He had such a huge influence although he didn’t have too many minutes last season, because he’s a top guy and a top professional and he is still a Chelsea player. But it’s not only what I wish for. We’re looking into it on this position and that’s one of the options, but I will not comment further.”
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