Toni Rudiger sees the fresh start at the beginning of the new season as a great opportunity for Chelsea to take another step forward, starting in our opening game against Brighton.
With the Premier League table reset and every team starting from the same point, Rudiger is excited by the challenge of proving ourselves all over again and the opportunity to improve on last season’s performance presented by that clean slate.
‘For me every year is a new challenge and everyone starts at zero,’ he explained. ‘It’s a brand new start. We play in different circumstances this year. Last year it was a little bit more difficult because of having no transfers and a lot of young players and everything. Even though we have the young players this season, they are one more year experienced and that’s good, and also new players coming in, so also very good.
‘We cannot talk any more about last season, we just have to be there from the start and get three points. Other teams will also be up for it, we can only look at ourselves and do the best we can.’
However, the German international was quick to point out that the same applies for every team. On the face of it our opening three fixtures seem like very different challenges, against a Brighton side who performed well in the closing stages of last season to steer clear of the relegation battle, champions Liverpool and newly promoted West Bromwich Albion.
Even in the case of Brighton, who we met in a friendly just two weeks ago, he insists it is dangerous to make assumption based on the past, especially at the start of a new season.
‘At the end of the day you never know how they are going to play on game day. Over the past few years Brighton’s team, we know each other and everything, but on the day of the game it’s always that you never know what to expect. We need to think more about us and not too much about our opponents, because we have to get ourselves right and then go on.
'This is the Premier League and I’ve learned from the past because my first game here we played against Burnley, who everyone expected to be in the relegation zone, and after 45 minutes it was 3-0 to them. So for me it doesn’t matter really because it’s a game, three points are on the line, and you have to take each game how it comes and go game by game, first Brighton and then the rest.’
The start of the season certainly has an unusual feel to it this year, with the new Premier League campaign beginning just five weeks after our final game of 2019/20, while Rudiger and many of his Chelsea team-mates were away on international duty last week, with the obvious impact that had on the shorter preparations.
‘It’s strange for everybody, not only for us. We only had a little break but at the end of the day you stopped and most of us rested. It’s not easy for everyone but that doesn’t matter, there are no excuses, you have to go from day one.
‘There wasn’t as much time working and we had the international break in between as well, but personally for me that was good because I got game time, two 90 minutes, so for me it’s kind of okay. It was alright because I had one game in the friendly match with Chelsea and then two games with the national team.’
Rudiger also discussed his personal aims for himself and the team in the 2020/21 season, including putting the injury problems which hindered his start to last term firmly behind him.
‘Last season because of injury I missed the whole of pre-season and I missed the whole of the first half of the season almost, so now I’m delighted that I’m fit and I can keep going from pre-season and try to start the season as good as possible.
‘So for me the most important thing is to stay healthy, that’s my number one thing, to play as many games as possible. And, of course, we are at a club that expects us to win titles and be up there with the teams like Liverpool and Manchester City and compete. Last season the top four was the target and we achieved it. This season is new and we want to be competing at the top with those two teams.’