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Slating Tiemoue Bakayoko: Why pundits & boo-boys can't run him out of Chelsea

COMMENT: A warning to the mob: you're not going to get rid of him that easily. He may be down, but Tiemoue Bakayoko has seen all this before - and knows how to work his way through to the other side.

Dismissal at Watford and barracked by his own fans, this past week has been described as the lowest point of Bakayoko's career. But he's seen worse. And emerged from it better and stronger.

The midfielder is still the same player Chelsea spent £40m on in July. AS Monaco didn't sell them a pup. Bakayoko is 23. He didn't win his first cap with France until last year. And it can be argued had only the one, genuine full season of consistent football under his belt at ASM before Chelsea ferried him away. In other words, he's a project. Great athlete. Great energy. Drive. Desire. He has it all in his locker. But Bakayoko is still raw. As Antonio Conte said on Friday, adjusting to the Premier League is difficult for any player of Bakayoko's type, never mind one joining at 22 years of age going on 23.

"For sure he is a young player. Last season he won the title in France with Monaco, to arrive in this league and adapt very quickly is not simple," argued Conte.

Just consider how another former ASM player, Bernardo Silva, is handling his time at Manchester City. For all the hype around the Portuguese, he's not exactly pulled up any trees.

For those away fans at Vicarage Road, Bakayoko personifies their frustrations this season. Big reputation. Big price-tag. But it hasn't fallen for him. We've seen the odd glimpse, but not enough. The barracking he copped as he was sent off was merciless - and must be said, unhelpful.

But that's nothing compared to the ex-pros and their attacks on the Blues man. And we say attacks because it does have the whiff of something personal. For many, Bakayoko is their scapegoat.

Upon arriving at Chelsea, Bakayoko was always pushing uphill. Forget the battles he'd face on the pitch adjusting to the hurly burly of the Premier League, it was to be just as ruthless through the media.

As he walked through the Cobham gates in July, out went local lads Ruben Loftus-Cheek, on-loan to Crystal Palace, and Nathaniel Chalobah, sold to Watford. That was never going to sit well with those on the sofa. Chelsea selling two potential England internationals was grist to the mill for those fed-up with how the Premier League was treating it's young, local talent. That at the time Bakayoko, from France, would arrive essentially as their replacement just made it all so, so easy. Here was their punching bag.

But as much as they've piled on this week, it's worth nothing the same personalities were claiming Chelsea had done stellar business bringing in the lad from Paris' 14th Arrondissement.

Jamie Redknapp said at the beginning of the season: "It has been difficult because there have been so many comparisons and people talking about Nemanja Matic and the importance that he has to Chelsea.

"I think Chelsea have got a good player here. Make no mistake about it. 23 years of age and I think in a few years to come, he will only get better."

Graeme Souness also stated: "What he showed was that at 23, he understands the game. He was disciplined, he was filling area and he was making challenges.

“We saw a player who understands the midfield role."

But now, apparently, the opposite is true. From a football man of Souness' standing claiming Bakayoko "understands the midfield role", today we have pundits suggesting the Frenchman has no idea what he's doing.

"I don't know what Bakayoko is," declared Ian Wright. "I don't know what he is doing any more than if you play Fabregas further forward or Drinkwater further back.

"He doesn't look like a midfielder that would break in and score like Alli and Lampard."

So is he a worldbeater or a no-hoper? Or could it be, Bakayoko is simply a young midfielder from a foreign league trying to settle into a new team and new surroundings? Yeah, we know being measured in your analysis isn't the stuff of today's pundits. But surely there must be some skerrick of educating the public beyond the hysterics?

In any case, as much as Bakayoko is hurting at the moment. And he is hurting. He also has the mental tools to work his way through this. Rejected from the Clairefontaine academy as a teenager. Shunned for his first 18 months at Monaco by Leonardo Jardim. Bakayoko has seen it all before. He knows he has it in him to fight back. Those claiming Watford was a lowpoint clearly missed Bakayoko's debut with Monaco - hooked after a half-hour by Jardim no less! It took some time, but he fought back.

Bakayoko will do the same with Chelsea. And - with the help of the Blues support - it doesn't have to take as long as it did at Monaco.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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