For Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, Declan Rice may be the answer to his side’s defensive woes. The Blues are sorely in need of a new centre-back having been outplayed by Sheffield United on Saturday, slipping to a 3-0 defeat in Yorkshire. Yet this Blues side require proven talent at the back in order to improve – and signing a midfielder before then playing him out of position may not be the way to go.
Chelsea went into Saturday’s clash with Sheffield United knowing they needed to win to boost their chances of having Champions League football next season.
Yet Lampard’s side were abysmal at Bramall Lane, with Chris Wilder’s side emerging as deserved winners on a chastening afternoon for the away side.
David McGoldrick put the hosts in front in the 18th minute, with Oli McBurnie then doubling their lead.
And while Chelsea improved in the second half they conceded a third with 13 minutes left on the clock, with McGoldrick grabbing his second of the match.
For Lampard, it was another reminder that he’s in need of a centre-back.
Andreas Christensen was woeful amid the heat of the battle, with the 24-year-old easily bullied by McGoldrick and McBurnie up top.
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And Antonio Rudiger was dreadful, too, with the Germany international unable to handle Wilder’s energetic attack.
At the moment Chelsea’s priority transfer target is Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz, a player Lampard believes can enjoy a bright future in west London.
But when it comes to signing a centre-back he’d prefer to sign a midfielder and play him out of position instead.
At the current time, Chelsea are interested in West Ham’s Rice. The England international previously played for the Blues until the age of 14 and, having rebuilt his career in east London, a return could be on the cards.
However, it could be in a new role. Lampard thinks Rice can become what John Terry once was for the club: a leader at the back and storming centre-back.
It’s easy to see why. The West Ham star is slick with the ball at his feet, possesses outstanding vision and is an impressive tackler of opposition players.
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But it would still be a gamble nonetheless because, on Saturday, it became patently clear they’re in need of tried and tested defensive talent.
Rice, as a midfielder, would have to adjust to that. And there’s no indication that he’ll be able to play there consistently, having done so for West Ham at times.
You only have to look at the impact signing top class defenders can have to know Chelsea require more in that department.
Harry Maguire hasn’t lived up to his £80million price tag at Manchester United but has impressed nonetheless, helping to shore up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s backline.
Virgil van Dijk is already a Liverpool legend just over two years after moving to the club from Southampton.
And Leicester have only got as far as they have because of the impressive performances from Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans.
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Meanwhile, speaking after Saturday’s match, Lampard admitted he was disappointed with his Chelsea side.
“They were better than us, they were stronger than us physically and with the ball, so you lose the game,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“You feel and hear every noise [on the touchline] and all I could hear was Sheffield United voices. They are a good team and if you come here and perform below par this is what will happen.
“We matched them shape wise but were too slow and weren’t getting our wingers into the game. We tried to get control, which we did but weren’t threatening.
“At 2-0 down you make it difficult for yourselves. Disappointing. Mistakes.
“You analyse all season and review and move forward. We need to put that to bed quickly and fight for the top four. I learned a lot and I won’t forget that.”
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