Fikayo Tomori was Derby’s player of the year last season, with Frank Lampard as his manager. So when it became clear as the summer wore on that the 21 year old would be staying with the first team for coming season, nobody was too surprised.
The speed at which he has made an impact on that squad, however, is remarkable.
The defender was expected to be a rotation option at best, and there were plenty calling for him to be sent on loan, for fear of a lack of playing time. The sale of David Luiz changed all that, and that shock move in itself should have given us some clues about the scale of Lampard’s admiration for his young charge.
Handed his second start for his boyhood club on Saturday, Tomori was imperious in defence, and decisive in attack. As Nizaar Kinsella of Goal.com noted, his stats on the day told part of the story:
Fikayo Tomori vs Wolves
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) September 14, 2019
Tomori had been given an unexpected debut in Chelsea’s last game, against Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge. He played in a back four alongside Kurt Zouma on that day, and while the second half collapse that saw his team give up a two goal lead was by no means entirely his fault, he might have expected to have to wait for his chance to come round again, especially once Antonio Rudiger was declared fit following the international break.
Instead, Lampard switched to a 343 that saw Tomori stay in the team, but with added support alongside him. In that context he shone, dominating the ball for his team at the back against Wolves, playing intelligent football in possession and even bending in a superb goal.
⚽⚽⚽ @tammyabraham has become Chelsea’s youngest PL hat-trick scorer, aged 21. Eden Hazard was the previous record holder, aged 23, against Newcastle in 2014
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) September 14, 2019
The circumstances of the transfer ban meant that opportunities like this were always going to be there for the crop of youth players breaking through at Chelsea this season. What’s been notable has been just how quickly and how entirely Frank Lampard has been to trust them. Far beyond the lip service paid by previous coaches, this is record-breaking stuff.
Taking Tomori, a player struggling for minutes in the Championship not long ago, and thrusting him ahead of David Luiz in the pecking order was a risky move, and one that previous managers might have been afraid of making. The unique backing Frank has from the fans, and the license afford by that and the transfer ban, puts him in a unique position to back players like this. Chelsea as a club are already reaping rich rewards for it.