Chelsea victories are usually followed with praise for Hakim Ziyech.
But not after the 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon and former Blues midfielder Joe Cole has singled out Antonio Rudiger for some kind words.
With Thiago Silva not included in the squad for the trip to St James’ Park, it left Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard with a big decision to make regarding who would partner Kurt Zouma in central defence.
Fikayo Tomori and Andreas Christensen were the other candidates to replace the Brazilian, but in the end Lampard opted to hand Rudiger his first Premier League appearance of the season.
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And that decision paid off, prompting Cole to label Rudiger’s performance as “exceptional” as well as tipping his former club to win the Premier League title this season following their £200m+ summer spending spree.
“With the recruitment in the summer, you plug gaps. You brought Mendy in because Kepa wasn’t working, straight away that’s improved the team,” Cole told BT Sport.
“Left-back was a problem last year, Chilwell’s come in – duck to water – looks like he’s been here years.
“Thiago Silva, this is one I was wondering about where it was gonna go, because he’s 36, and he’s come in and been outstanding. You put those three, that’s 30% of the team that’s improved.
“Rudiger has come in today and was exceptional as well, so he’s buying into the project. The whole project is going in the right direction.
“I think we can do it.”
A Federico Fernandez own-goal and a second-half strike from Tammy Abraham was enough to see the Blues pick up from where they left off before the international break.
Furthermore, the 2-0 win put them top of the Premier League table before Leicester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur were in action.