He was Chelsea’s second-cheapest signing of the summer after Davide Zappacosta, yet Antonio Rudiger’s had arguably the greatest impact on the team’s fortunes this season, especially after producing such a formidable performance during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Strong, quick and powerful in the air, the German international possesses all the physical traits to be a success in the Premier League, but he has the shrewdness and guile to match it too. He’s economic if not exactly inspiring with the ball, he’s calm under pressure and he reads the game well.
It’s easy to forget Rudiger didn’t convince everybody during his first few months at Stamford Bridge. That strength came across as clumsiness, that risk-free ball use came across as limited ability, and that impressive reading of the game struggled to prove effective. During his first twelve appearances for Chelsea, the Blues’ only clean sheets came against Everton, Stoke and Qarabag.
But the 25-year-old’s importance to Chelsea has grown as the season’s gone on, to the extent that he kept captain Gary Cahill out of the team for long periods by making the left centre-back slot his own, and Saturday’s FA Cup final illustrated that progression.
Arguably Chelsea’s best performer in the tight and cagey 1-0, Rudiger played a big part in keeping United quiet despite the majority of their attacking play – 41% – coming down the Red Devils’ right-hand side, and his influence only grew as the Blues spent the majority of the second half defending their own third.
Rudiger in fact made the most clearances and blocks of any Chelsea player, while ranking third for tackles. Equally impressive as his defending though, was the cleanness to Rudiger’s performance despite being such a predominantly physical player – he also completed 86% of his passes and didn’t commit a single foul.
So, Chelsea fans, has Rudiger – who Transfermarkt value at £36million – proved the signing of the season in west London? Let us know by voting below…