It was a pretty absurd signing from the very beginning. Actually, absurd is perhaps the wrong word here. The right word would be ‘luxury’. Since Chelsea already had N’Golo Kante, the signing of Bakayoko was more of a luxury than anything else.
Nevertheless, his arrival brought hopes—and why shouldn’t it? After all, he was the fulcrum of the Monaco team that won the Ligue 1 last season. The all-action powerful nature of the midfielder makes him a force to be reckoned with—much akin to Kante.
However, after 6 months at the club, the fans are running out of patience as the Frenchman is far from the player that we saw last season. Indeed, Chelsea legend Frank Lampard wasn’t impressed with what he saw from the midfielder, claiming that he lacked confidence and wasn’t putting in enough effort.
“His [Bakayoko’s] body language is slow, he sticks half a leg out at the ball,” Lampard said on matchday after Chelsea were held out for a 0-0 draw against Leicester.
“Fans will stick with you if you show reactions and urgency but he’s not moving quickly enough, and he has to switch on.
“You can have a dip when you come from another league but we are in January now, and I really think he needs to start picking up.
“I think he might be struggling; it may be a confidence issue.”
His lack of form isn’t the only problem, however, as an in-form Bakayoko doesn’t really solve Chelsea’s problems entirely either. Indeed, even in the matches where he’s played decently, Chelsea have lacked creativity from deep midfield.
And you can’t entirely blame Bakayoko for that—he is simply not a creative deep-lying playmaker. The midfield doubt-pivot of Kante and Bakyoko or Drinkwater and Bakayoko isn’t really as mercurial as Conte would like.
While Cesc Fabregas does add some flair into an otherwise dull midfield, he is more of an advanced midfielder who likes to move forward and make a difference in the final third. The Spaniard has mostly thrived in a free role without much tactical responsibility.
However, Chelsea are lacking the kind of player that bears the weight of tactical responsibilities with guile while also providing the necessary creativity to the forwards. And Bakayoko is probably not that sort of player.
The Frenchman is at his best when he is allowed to surge up and down in a box-to-box role. Right now, Chelsea already have that sort of player in N’Golo Kante. Having two similar players in midfield that take turns to move forward puts a team at risk of being exposed to the counter.
Chelsea’s defence, however, have done well so far as they are currently on a three-match clean-sheet run. Their attack, meanwhile, have been firing blanks. The Blues have scored zero goals in their last three games and are in desperate need of creativity in midfield along with precision in attack.
Ousting Bakayoko out won’t solve all of Chelsea’s problems. In fact, the Frenchman is actually a great talent and could be a great asset for his team. Right now, however, he should be left out of the starting XI and be replaced by someone who could pluck the chords from deep and help tick the clock of the defending champions.