Chelsea need much more from €45m summer signing Bakayoko

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The Blues midfielder was rightly criticised for a mediocre performance at Anfield, despite his side recording a decent result versus Liverpool

Tiemoue Bakayoko has not yet reached the levels his price tag suggested he would at Chelsea, with yet another below par performance put in against Liverpool on Saturday. 

Blues 13/2 to beat Swansea 1-0

N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater performed their duties well in midfield, but Bakayoko wasn't matching their performances on the left-hand side, leaving Gary Cahill and Marcos Alonso exposed. 

Chelsea got a 1-1 draw and Antonio Conte's player rotation was mostly a success. His side only arrived back into London at 5am on Thursday morning after a Champions League trip to Azerbaijan, then had to travel to Anfield for their match on Saturday due to television scheduling. 

Bakayoko was rested in the 4-0 win against Qarabag, but he looked far from sharp for the match on Merseyside. Although he appeared physically fine, his mental sharpness was not at the level required of such a big-money signing. 

The 23-year-old was unable to cut out a key Philippe Coutinho pass, allowing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to free up Mohamed Salah to score against his former club for his 10th league goal of the season. The midfielder happened to face his harshest criticism yet on a day that Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored for Crystal Palace while on loan from Chelsea.

Tiemoue Bakayoko GFX

Bakayoko had a passing accuracy of 81.8% and won only 40% of his duels. Kante made twice as many passes as his midfield partner, highlighting a gulf in class between the pair, as well as the reasons why France are only calling up one Chelsea midfielder. 

The former Monaco man was effective neither offensively nor defensively, and his form is a growing cause for concern. But Bakayoko did excel against Tottenham and Leicester City in his opening games as a Chelsea player. He played while he was half-fit against Spurs, and he had impressed at the training ground with his attitude ahead of that huge match in a crisis period. In the following match against Leicester, he was fully fit and put in an all-star display. 

Chelsea then had a month without Kante or Drinkwater available. They dropped points in Europe and the Premier League, and only just squeezed past a very poor Everton side in the cup.

Bakayoko's failure to continue from where he started is not due to a lack of ability. His passing accuracy was 87.1% at Monaco last season, but it has dropped to 82.9% in a blue shirt. Kante and Fabregas are playing more forward passes while averaging 86% and 84% pass completion, respectively. 

Tiemoue Bakayoko GFX

Bakayoko's average contribution defensively has dropped while playing for Chelsea too, as his interceptions per game and clearances per game have fallen below the levels of last season. He is hitting slightly more shots per game, but his shooting has been poor so far, apart from the threat he offers aerially on set-pieces. 

Frank Lampard spoke about Bakayoko's display at Anfield, saying that Chelsea will have little patience for his poor displays.

"When you're a Chelsea midfielder, going to Liverpool, you have to understand that you can't affect the game on the ball for all of the game," Lampard said on BT Sport. "One thing you can do is be at it without the ball. Close people down, and when you close people down, you're not just helping yourself.

"You are helping the next person, you are making that pass harder to make — and today he didn't do it. He was too slow getting there, he let people get their head up and play whatever pass they wanted to. There's only so long that you can make these sorts of excuses.

"I think he seemingly has the attributes, he has had good games, made some nice passes, and there's games he looks slightly off it. He's going to have to realise very soon that he will have to get that level up, again and again. The basic level is getting tight to people and then after that you think, 'Okay, what can you do with the ball as well?'"

Chelsea Man United GFX Matic

Chelsea have got rid of Nemanja Matic and replaced him with a younger player in Bakayoko. The sale of Matic was always likely to leave Chelsea taking one step backwards to take two steps forward as a young player adapts to the league. 

Conte's plan for Bakayoko is similar to that for Kante last season. Kante arrived from a club not used to dominating games and possession, but he adapted brilliantly by developing an impressive range of passing. Bakayoko will improve but he needs to develop an identity, focusing on doing what he's good at while also handling the basic duties. 

He's lost his way a bit, but Conte's plan for him — which he revealed to reporters at Cobham Training Centre in September — will remain the same.

"I think he's very close to being totally involved in our idea of football. I think so," Conte said. "He can improve a lot with the ball. We are working about this aspect. We did the same with N'Golo when he arrived here. If you remember he was very, very good without the ball, to win the ball, to recover the ball.

Tiemoue Bakayoko GFX

"Now I think you can see a complete player with the ball, without the ball. Now he's becoming better with the ball, N'Golo. We want to work in the same way to have this process with Baka. This will be very important for him and for the team.

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"If you remember last season I told during many press conferences about N'Golo that he could improve a lot with the ball. I think he's working very hard to improve this weakness. But I think now he's a complete player, he's a top player with the ball, without the ball. He always knows when he has the ball what he has to do. This is very important.

"We want to improve also Baka about this aspect. Baka without the ball is a really strong player, a physical player. You can feel him during the game. I think he can improve a lot with the ball. We are working a lot on this aspect with him."

The future remains bright for Bakayoko but, at least in the short term, his performances are falling well below what's expected of a €45 million Chelsea player.

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