Television pundit Paul Merson has claimed that only Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and N’Golo Kante can defend in the Chelsea squad.

After setting the pace with Manchester City and Liverpool early in the campaign, Chelsea have tapered off from the Premier League summit, having slipped out of the Champions League places and into sixth place behind a resurgent Manchester United and Arsenal, with Tottenham Hotspur in third.

While their inconsistencies in front of goal has figured as their primary concern during their alarming dip in form, recent matches has seen Maurizio Sarri’s side perform poorly on the defensive aspect of the game as well. Heavy defeats against Manchester City and Bournemouth highlighted the west Londoners’ fragility on the defensive phase.

Furthermore, a tame exit at the FA Cup against Manchester United sees Sarri under increasing pressure to get back to winning ways immediately in order to keep his job but the League Cup final against Manchester City at the weekend provides a perfect, if difficult, opportunity for the ex-Napoli manager to plead his case.

Football pundit Merson believes that against the Citizens, Chelsea should look to maintain defensive solidity instead of pressing in front. This is because he reckons there are only three players in the Blues squad – Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Kante – capable of putting in a solid shift on the defensive phase. The 50-year-old former England manager went on to say that others in the squad are not especially capable of harassing opponents in a coordinated manner in the final third.

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“You have to give yourself a chance,” said the television pundit. “In my opinion they have three players who can defend – Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Kante. The rest can’t defend. Don’t go and ask them to play a closing-down game when none of them can defend. Just try and get them back into a shape and work from there and make it difficult for City.

“I am very interested in Sunday to see if he is prepared to change. If you are not prepared to change and it goes wrong I don’t see there’s any point in sticking with him as you are never going to gain on Manchester City.”