It has proven to been a difficult breakout-season for the 22-year-old centre-back Fikayo Tomori. The young Englishman came into the first team this season after having played under Frank Lampard at Derby last season on loan, hoping to make an impression at his parent club. He played a key role at Derby, and was subsequently named the club’s “Player of the Year”. The unexpected departure of David Luiz coupled with a transfer ban, opened up a vacancy on the Chelsea first team, and with a lot of faith from newly-appointed manager Lampard, Tomori received the coveted call to have a place in the side. He was impressing everyone with his solid displays in the Premier League, and paired with Kurt Zouma in a back three, was slowly becoming one of Lampard’s first choice defenders. He was also rewarded for his great performances with an England call-up from Gareth Southgate.
However, with the return of Rudiger and Christensen, and Tomori playing a few bad games due to his inexperience, he was dropped to the bench and has yet to find a way back into the starting XI ever since. Having played on very few occasions after that- sometimes finding himself not even on the bench- one can’t help but ask, why has this happened?
It may be because of Lampard’s preferred pairing being Rudiger – Christensen, as it is our most experienced pairing. In spite of uninspiring performances from Rudiger, he has retained his place in the side because of the fact that Lampard prefers experience in that position. This has lead to both Zouma and Tomori being on the sidelines this year. Tomori was given a start against Bournemouth in the league in our last outing, but he failed to make an impression, and we ended up with a 2-2 draw. He was subsequently left out of the starting XI for the FA cup game against Liverpool and the Premier League home-clash against Everton as well. Coincidence or not, we managed to keep clean sheets in both of those games. The Bournemouth game showed precisely why Tomori has been left out recently, as he was caught out of position when Bournemouth’s Josh King scored a tap-in at the back post. Many Chelsea fans took to social media to criticize his performance as well, saying he may still need a loan spell, and that he looked “rusty”. Lampard himself emphasized the need for young players like Tomori to work hard in training and have the right attitude while they’re out of the team, and to fight to get back into the side.
It is beneficial that our young players all seem to have great mentalities, and Fikayo seems to exemplify this, taking to this challenge in a positive manner. He has admitted that being out of the team has been testing for him, but he believes he knows what needs to be done to get his spot back, and realizes that competition is always going to be a factor at a huge club like ours.
Speaking to the Chelsea FC website in an interview prior to this weekend, Tomori said the following:
“It’s been a difficult period for me, but I’m working hard to try and get back in the team. There is a lot of competition for places, not just in my position, so there are going to be disappointed people when they’re not playing. Throughout the whole season the manager has said if you train well and show why you should be in the team, he will put you in, and then it’s up to you to try and stay in the team. There have been many examples where people have come in and done well. Training is competitive and intense, and then when you get on the pitch someone is banging on the door which keeps everyone on their toes. I’m just staying positive, and in the grand scheme of things the most important thing is that the team wins.”
The road to winning back his place from Christensen, Zouma and Rudiger is going to be immensely difficult. All the center-back options except Tomori maintain the experience factor Frank is looking for, so he will have to make good of whatever chances he gets and impress whenever he plays. He is an enterprising young defender, quick, physical and can play with the ball at his feet. His sterling mentality and frame of mind are the ingredients for him become a great defender. As long as he has the patience and willpower to put his head down and keep working hard, it will not be long until we see him back on the pitch.