22 Defender Chelsea Ghana
The player who’s come to be known as Baba Rahman really caught the eye in the latter part of 2014. Having scored a couple of Bundesliga goals on his way out of the door at Greuther Fürth, the young Ghanaian left back found that his new home at FC Augsburg suited him down to the ground.
In the space of a year Rahman’s rise wasn’t far off meteoric. By the end of last year he was the subject of increasingly frequent praise from the spotters and sharers of European football’s “hidden gems”, a roaring success on the part of Augsburg’s transfer policy and one of Africa’s headline-hogging prospects as the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations loomed.
2015 has been…
A classic tale of two halves. Rahman played in all of Ghana’s matches at the Cup of Nations in January and continued to win plaudits in Germany, where his potential caused a stir and, inevitably, a debate about which big club would take him on. There was only ever one destination for Rahman: Chelsea’s rumoured interest dates back as far as January and they made their move in the summer.
By the time of his switch Rahman’s Bundesliga season had flourished into a stellar showing. His desirability went through the roof and his transfer fee similarly skyrocketed; Chelsea dug deep to get their man and it was very easy to see why. Rahman’s Bundesliga form seldom wobbled and his attributes are many.
When his team has the ball he operates fairly high up the wing, marshalling the left back area well when needed, but his style of defending is our favourite of his characteristics. He stays on his feet to pickpocket dribbling attackers, holding his ground and nicking the ball away cleanly.
His focus makes it difficult for his opponents to get a cross away and he’s not easy to fool. He’s big and wiry, difficult to get round, and he uses his physicality well under pressure and knows when to clear his lines.
When he’s pinched the ball, he’s calm in possession. He looks to use his long stride to travel forwards and find a give-and-go on the left flank. He offers a spark, the impetus to get things moving. He looks for a pass in-field and then gets on his bike, a metaphorical velocipede with serious speed capabilities.
Perfect he ain’t – beating a man and consistency in passing could be said to be his most significant weaknesses – but the Rahman we saw in the first half of the year surely expected better than what he delivered in the second.
Rahman made his move to West London in the summer and it seemed at the time to be a good fit for all parties. But Rahman didn’t make his Premier League debut until October and has so far failed to secure a regular place on the pitch, never mind pin down a starting position.
He’s had more luck in the League Cup and Champions League but hasn’t really grasped the nettle, and, despite being established now as Ghana’s regular starting left back, question marks remain over his ability to regain his 2014/15 form. And it really was only that year that persuaded Chelsea to spend big on Rahman, so there’s an old adage that can be perverted and applied him.
Form is temporary, class is permanent. In Rahman’s case, we’re simply waiting to find out which way round that works.
Until we see more of him it’s difficult to decide whether he’s going to fall short in the Premier League or just take his time hitting the mark. Of course, Chelsea’s form in general has done him no favours. The team’s fumbled season has likely made Jose Mourinho even more risk averse than usual, limiting the chances for young players.
Nevertheless, Rahman has had a slither of playing time and has been unable to force the issue. There’s no doubt he’s looked a little uncomfortable, arguably even out of his depth. Perhaps more than any other young player in his position, Rahman’s prognosis is “time will tell” but he might be moved on before we even really know.
D Stole the Bundesliga show but yet to crack Chelsea
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