Antonio Rudiger: Passing practice makes perfect

Antonio Rudiger has been one of our most consistent performers this season and the defender has identified one area in particular in which he has improved under the guidance of Maurizio Sarri.

Rudiger has started every Premier League game to date and also established himself in the German national side with his physicality, pace and power helping making him a mainstay in the heart of our defence.

But it is another side of his game that he says has really come on since Sarri arrived in the summer, and the statistics reflect this.

‘Last season I mostly played only long passes,’ Rudiger noted. ‘This season it has changed of course with another coach and another system. For me it was very important to adapt very quickly to it and in that case I think I am doing very well.

‘He told me you have to try to build the game up from behind and not only play long balls, and I took that seriously and that’s what I am trying to do: play from the back.

‘I want to play so I have to try! In life everything is about adapting quickly.’

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That is something Rudiger has done since joining from Stuttgart in the summer of 2017 and he reflected on the progress he has made in west London in the past 18 months which has seen him emerge as such a dominant figure in the Premier League.

‘My first game was Burnley at home. They shocked us. In the first half it was 3-0 to them, and I was like "what is going on here?!" It was new because everybody was strong. In the Bundesliga you have certain strikers like [Robert] Lewandowski who is very good, but he’s not physically maybe so strong like some guys here. I realised you had to be really ready mentally and also physically.

‘I never underestimate any team and try to always go with the same mentality, whether you are playing big matches or against lower teams. This is what I am always working on, and trying to do the best in training every time and working on the things I am not so good at.’

Top-four test

Our next assignment is a tough one, away to fifth-placed Arsenal at teatime on Saturday. Six points separate us and the Gunners, as well as in-form Manchester United, and Rudiger acknowledged the significance of our trip to the Emirates after what will be our first midweek free of action since September.

‘It was an important win [against Newcastle]. Now we run away a bit from Arsenal and next week we are playing against them. It’s a derby and also a very important game for staying in the top four.

‘We have to secure the top four as quickly as possible. If something different happens we can still be title contenders then why not, but if we have the chance to go ahead of Arsenal and also Man United we have to win our games.’

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