The Blues defender has faced challenges on and off the pitch this season but returns to the scene of his first club trophy this weekend
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Antonio Rudiger says Chelsea have achieved their goals ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup final against Arsenal but admits that he is not satisfied with his own standards on the pitch.
The Blues secured qualification for the Champions League with a win against Wolves on July 26 following a season disrupted by the global coronavirus pandemic.
However, they conceded 54 goals throughout the Premier League season – their worst total since Roman Abramovich took control at Stamford Bridge in 2003 – and are 3-0 down on aggregate in their Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich.
“For me personally, first of all I do not want to give any excuses,” Rudiger says. “It has been a tough season with everything going on. Just in the performances, there were some good games and also bad games. It has been up and down.
“Me, personally with my season, I am not that happy. But at the end of the day as a collective, we achieved our goals and this is what matters. We still have two games to go and this is what I am focused on. Everything else I will analyse myself and go on to next season.
“If I reflect on the way we had to get to this final, it was tough. The season was tough for everyone. I had injuries, the coronavirus pandemic, it was really difficult. But we are there now and we want to do everything to win that trophy.”
Having undergone knee surgery in April 2019, Rudiger missed the early part of Frank Lampard’s first season as Chelsea manager and it took time for him to fight his way into the club legend’s plans.
It is clear Chelsea have issues to solve on the defensive front with Kepa Arrizabalaga, individual defenders and Lampard all copping criticism throughout the campaign.
And Rudiger admits the team need to collectively find a better balance in the upcoming games against Arsenal and Bayern.
“It is definitely something we need to work on,” he added. “I think it has more to do with consistency. On our day, yes, we can beat everyone. Then when it is not our day, we can also lose against everyone. This is the balance we have to find.
“It is like life, to find the goal in the middle is difficult sometimes. It is something we have to work on. We are aware of that, I am aware of that. We still have two games for this season and we have to finish them on a high.”
Rudiger can make it three trophies in three years since joining Chelsea with a win on Saturday following his £30 million ($39m) move from Roma under Antonio Conte.
As well as seeing his side run out 4-1 winners against Arsenal in the Europa League final last year, Rudiger also won the FA Cup in 2018. He was named man of the match in a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Wembley, clinching his first club silverware as a professional.
“It was my first club trophy and it was a special day, a special moment and I was really very happy,” he says.
“I also liked the ceremony and everything before the game. It was huge! Wembley, full crowd, half-blue, half-red, it was just amazing and a perfect day.
“The man of the match was not so important for me because the trophy is more important and we won it after a very difficult season. We ended the season well.
“You have to always enjoy these types of moments, these types of pressures because there are a lot of footballers in the world but not everyone gets to win the trophies.
“To do it in England, in this league, is tough. So you have to enjoy every moment and, if you are there, try to grab it with both hands.
“This is what I expected when I came here to Chelsea, to play for titles. For me, I don’t see this as a small cup – a title is a title. If I am there I want to win.”
The 27-year-old also praised the Premier League for supporting the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement; Rudiger reported racist abuse in a game against Tottenham earlier this season but police were ultimately unable to find the evidence necessary to prosecute a criminal offence.
“The authorities who came with the idea to take a knee and put Black Lives Matter on the jerseys and everything, I have to say thanks very much for your support,” he says.
“In that case, I see positives because I really hope that people care and you can see people care.
“This is an ongoing story. I believe it will never have an end. But if you see that authorities are taking actions and doing something, it makes you happy. This is who I am, I am a positive guy. I always try to look at the positive.
“But on this specific thing, racism, I am sorry but I cannot be any more positive. It is not only about me. It is about the players and other people. I want people to live free.
“Accept that some people are black, others are white, it does not matter. I really feel sorry for those people. It seems like an education issue.”