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‘Lampard sensible enough to sell Luiz but needs centre-half’ – Defence remains Chelsea’s Achilles heel, says Sutton

20:05 BST 18/07/2020
Frank Lampard Chelsea 2019-20
The former Blues striker sees a leaky back line holding the west London outfit back, with Manchester United set to test them in the FA Cup semi-finals

Frank Lampard made a “sensible” call in offloading “error-prone” David Luiz to Arsenal, says Chris Sutton, but centre-half is considered to remain Chelsea’s Achilles heel as they approach another transfer window.

The Blues sanctioned the sale of a Brazilian defender to Premier League rivals across London in the summer of 2019.

They were working under a recruitment embargo at that stage, preventing them from bringing in a replacement.

Chelsea did, however, welcome Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori back from loan spells at Everton and Derby respectively, while they already had Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on their books.

Lampard has had to keep faith with those at this disposal, but has seen leaks at the back prove problematic – with the Blues boasting the worst defensive record in the Premier League’s top-half.

Sutton believes those issues need to be addressed with a sense of urgency, with an in-form Manchester United side set to provide another stiff test of Chelsea’s credentials in an FA Cup semi-final clash at Wembley on Sunday.

The former Blues striker told the Daily Mail ahead of that contest: “Frank Lampard was sensible enough to sell the error-prone David Luiz to Arsenal at the start of the season. But he hasn’t been able to nail down his preferred centre back pairing.

“We’ve seen Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen start together this season. We’ve seen Christensen and Kurt Zouma. We’ve seen Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. And so on. No club in the top 10 have conceded more goals than Chelsea’s 49. That’s their Achilles heel, and they need protection. 

“N’Golo Kante has missed their last three matches because of a hamstring injury. He’s set to miss this semi final, too, and you worry for Chelsea in midfield because of that. 

“Not only must they try to contain [Mason] Greenwood, [Marcus] Rashford and [Anthony] Martial, they have [Bruno] Fernandes raring to become a pain in their backsides, too. The standards of United’s play have increased since the Portuguese playmaker’s arrival. He’s raised the bar. 

“Special players can have that impact – it’s as if their talent is infectious. On Sunday he will be feeding United’s forwards with through-balls while also looking to test Kepa Arrizabalaga himself, most likely from outside of the box. 

“Chelsea will want to plan for that, but this isn’t Jorginho’s forte. Nor is it Mateo Kovacic's. This is a job for Kante, but he is not fit enough to play the part. So while Lampard has a problem to solve there, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer seems to have found a promising combination in his own midfield. 

“The partnership between Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic is thriving. The latter’s contribution might fly under the radar, but he is vital to Solskjaer’s way – hence why he was recently rewarded with a new three-year contract at the age of 31. 

“Often you will see Matic drop so deep that he is in between centre backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. But when on the ball in this position, watch his passes. 

“He looks to break through the opponent’s lines and often manages to do so, direct into the feet of Fernandes. Solskjaer has found a formula that is working for him at present. It is up to Lampard to throw a tactical spanner in the works.”