Chelsea are a side that, barring one or two players, haven’t been talked about all that much in terms of FPL, and there are certainly reasons for that.
Blues attackers have been known to be wildly inconsistent over the course of the PL season, and their defence has looked awfully sloppy over the last couple of seasons.
While focus has mainly shifted to Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount as of this season, there has also been some talk, especially on FPL Twitter, about getting into the Chelsea defence.
The likes of Fikayo Tomori, Cesar Azpilicueta and the currently injured Emerson are names that I, personally, have seen thrown around since Chelsea’s disastrous opening day defeat.
And despite the upcoming run of 9 games in which Chelsea play just one other top 6 side, I can’t and won’t be an advocate for picking any of them in your teams.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid the Stamford Bridge outfit’s defence, as well as some viable alternatives that could prove to work instead.
Inability to defend set-pieces and crossesEmbed from Getty Images
Now, as I have said a great many times before, this is not solely a Chelsea problem. It is a Lampard problem.
The Derby side managed by Lampard also had an unusual tendency, by a professional side’s standards, to concede from corners and crosses, meaning it isn’t a problem with the personnel, but the manager and his system.
6 of the 14 goals that Chelsea have conceded in their opening 8 league games have come from crosses and set-pieces (not including penalties), which is a worrying stat, especially for a top 6 side.
Defending in general has proved difficult for Lampard’s men, who have just one clean sheet in 12 games in all competitions so far this season, which came against Brighton.
That’s right; even League 2 Grimsby managed to put one past them this season, although it was on a night where Marc Guehi made his first senior start for Chelsea.
Injury Prone N’Golo KantéEmbed from Getty Images
Many rightly think that N’Golo Kanté’s injury troubles are the reason why Chelsea are leaking so many cheap goals.
The Blues have conceded 5 goals with the Frenchman on the field this season, compared to 9 without.
Kanté has been plagued by injury since the back end of last season, and Chelsea have seemed exposed without the influential Frenchman.
His engine and defensive awareness has been something that Chelsea have relied on since his move from Leicester, and due to the lack of a natural replacement for him, Chelsea’s midfield has looked weak.
Mateo Kovačić has been deployed instead in Kanté’s role to cover him, but has always seemed inconsistent and slightly more error prone than the Chelsea number 7.
So… Anything good to say?
I suppose so, yes.
The good thing about Chelsea’s full-backs is that they currently have 4 assists between them so far this season (2 each for Alonso and Azpilicueta).
Even if the Spanish full-backs got one each for a pass to N’Golo Kanté, rather than an overly creative assist, it’s still a decent tally. However, I really don’t think it’s a tally that warrants price tags of £6.2m and £5.9m, given the other options that are available.Embed from Getty Images
But actually, coming down to the eye test, it seems like Emerson is more dangerous than any of these two.
Although he hasn’t registered either a goal or an assist yet this season, the Italian international has seemed a massive threat since the very first minutes of the season.
In his 5 games, he has registered 6 shots, 4 on target, and has hit the woodwork once.
However, he has averaged 3 crosses per match, which is marginally less than Azpilicueta’s 3.25 and Alonso’s 3.4 per match.
I believe that Emerson, when fully fit, will get his place back in Chelsea’s starting XI. Lampard clearly believes that he is an integral part of his strongest side, shown by the fact that he was prepared to make the left back’s injury worse against Liverpool.
So what’s the buzz about Fikayo Tomori?Embed from Getty Images
To be honest, I really don’t know. It might be a cheap way to get into a top 6 defence, but the youngster really hasn’t done a huge amount.
Yes, he got that screamer against Wolves. But he’s not going to be banging them in like that every week from 25-30 yards out.
Chelsea conceded 6 goals in their first 3 games with Tomori in the squad, although they have conceded just one in the last 2 games since.
The sad thing is, I believe the clean sheet is more of the exception than the rule for Chelsea, and so you shouldn’t really be picking up central defenders for a team like this.
However, I have compiled some alternatives at a similar price to Tomori, who may be likely to bring you some more attacking returns.
Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m – 1.1% ownership)Embed from Getty Images
While the stats aren’t convincing, I’m a big believer in the potential of Fredericks. Ever since watching how high up the field West Ham’s full-backs played in the PL Asia Trophy, I thought big things could be on for them, especially for Fredericks.
The English right-back notched his first assist of the campaign in GW8, and has started all of the Irons’ matches so far in the league this season, in which they’ve kept 3 clean sheets.
He covers an immense amount of ground, both defensively and offensively, shown by his heatmap for the season so far:
With the likes of Yarmolenko and Haller currently on form, it shouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for Fredericks to be able to register a few more assists in the next few games, starting with the off-form Everton on Saturday.
However, he will need to improve on his average of 2 crosses per game so far this season to be considered a real attacking threat, among the likes of Alonso and Azpilicueta.
Diego Rico (£4.2m – 11.3% ownership)Embed from Getty Images
This pick could be one that reaps massive rewards for his owners, especially in the immediate future against a defensively weak Norwich City side. Rico has been known to take set-pieces for Bournemouth this season, which was the source of one of his two assists so far this season.
And after the month that the former Leganes man has had, which resulted in him being named as the Cherries’ player of the month, it seems incredibly difficult to see Eddie Howe replacing the Spaniard in the near future.
Yes, he’s not so much of a differential anymore, but any full-back with an average of 6.4 crosses per match ought to be given the time of day. Rico has also created 4 big chances in just 5 matches this season, so there can be no denial of the fact that his attacking threat is massive.
Eddie Howe’s side face the following 5 fixtures, of which at least 4 should prove winnable for the south coast side:
Norwich (h), Watford (a), Man Utd (h), Newcastle (a), Wolves (h).
Let’s face it, 3 of these 5 have been haemorrhaging goals as of late, while Man Utd haven’t exactly been any good in front of goal. And Wolves may be tired due to their Europa League commitments, so I feel there is more than enough potential to justify picking Rico here.
George Baldock (£4.5m – 0.7% ownership)Embed from Getty Images
Ok, I’ll make an admission here. This one is VERY eye test-oriented, but hear me out.
Because of Chris Wilder’s massively attacking tactics, George Baldock and Enda Stevens play almost as wingers, rather than full backs. Which means, of course, that there is massive goals and assists potential for these two.
Baldock has only followed this up with one assist this season, but he still manages to be brilliant in defence as well, despite his manager’s style of play. He has started all 8 matches so far this season, so shouldn’t have any problems regarding being “nailed on” on the right side for Sheffield United.
Sheffield United were one of the standout teams defensively in the Championship last season, having conceded 41 goals in their 46 matches; a record only matched by Middlesbrough, who missed out on the play-offs by a single point.
However, the one thing that has partially held the Blades wing-backs back this season is the fact that their main striker has missed a fair few big chances. They have managed to miss 9 big chances in their first 8 games, with Irish international David McGoldrick missing a league-high 6 of these.
I initially thought it would only be a matter of time before McGoldrick began converting these chances, but the longer he goes without a goal, the more harmful it could be for George Baldock’s potential.
So, there we have it. There are a few decent reasons why you really shouldn’t dip into the Chelsea defence as an FPL manager. Not now, and most probably not for a while, barring a dramatic upturn in fortunes for the Blues or Lampard either being fired or him stepping down, which seems very unlikely to occur anytime soon.