After completing his move to Brighton in January, Tariq Lamptey described it as a ‘really tough decision’ to leave Chelsea.
After all, he had joined the Blues at the age of just seven, gradually making his way up through the youth ranks. The defender had even made his debut for the west Londoners in December of 2019, and not just in any game either – a Premier League clash with rivals Arsenal. That’s how highly Frank Lampard rated him.
His former club offered him a new and improved contract in order to keep hold of him. But for Lamptey, he could see there wasn’t a clear pathway to the first team – with César Azpilicueta still an integral member of the team, and young Reece James seemingly earmarked as the long-term successor to the Spaniard.
It’s one thing to recognise a potential long-term issue that could impact your progression as a player, but it is another thing altogether to act on it in such a swift and decisive manner – despite his ties to the club. It was a clear indicator of the determination and hunger Lamptey has to make it to the very top in the game.
What if the move to Brighton didn’t work out? What if he wasn’t actually ready for first team football?
The easy option would have been to stay put and continue progressing at the place where it all began for him – a club which also happens to be one of England’s very finest. But the 19-year-old backed his abilities and was adamant he was ready to play regularly in the Premier League.
And he was completely right to do so. The gamble has paid off.
Lamptey’s performance against his former club proved exactly why this is the case. Starting in the right wing-back role, he was, of course, tasked with his defensive duties – but he was also given the freedom to get forward and support attacks.
The game saw big money arrivals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz make their debuts for Chelsea and with this in mind, all the talk among fans was supposed to be centred around their performances and how they are settling in at the club. Y’know, because they cost a combined £117m, without add-ons.
Yet, it’s telling that Lamptey’s performance was a major talking point among fans, with many questioning how on earth the Seagulls were able to sign him for just £3m – and why Chelsea didn’t fight harder to keep hold of him.
Well, the simple answer to the latter question is because of the man occupying the right-back slot for the Blues on Monday.
Sure, Lamptey may not have scored a ‘worldie’ like James ended up doing, but he was a constant threat all evening – exposing Marcos Alonso’s defensive positioning time and time again. Getting forward to great effect, Lamptey was constantly looking to link up with those around him and find ways to get into dangerous crossing positions.
For a player still so young, it’s normal to perhaps see a lack of end product or rashness at the crucial moments. But Lamptey plays with such maturity, knowing when to take risks and what option will be best. It is his ability to spot a pass as well as being able to commit a man that is particularly impressive.
Standing at just 5’4″, it’s fair to say Lamptey isn’t the tallest player around. But as shown in his performance against Chelsea, this doesn’t impact him in any way due to reading of the game and awareness of what’s around him.
The away side looked to challenge the Seagulls backline by trying to cut through the gap between the centre-backs and wing-backs. But Lamptey’s blistering pace saw him charge back at full speed to nullify the threat posed by Lampard’s men on the flanks.
There was one particular moment which perfectly summed up his mature and composed character, while also highlighting his quality. Tracking Mason Mount back into his own box, the Chelsea number 19 looked to cut in onto his right foot and either pick a pass or get a shot off.
In this position, how many times have we seen a defender just simply stick out a lazy leg and trip the attacker, giving away a penalty in the process? Countless times.
But Lamptey refused to be tricked into diving in, instead he merely stood his ground and waited to see what Mount would do before then nipping in and poking the ball away. Such is his determination, he raced to the loose ball, before showing the skill to find half a yard to skip away from Mount and pick a pass.
For a player still so young, Lamptey plays with such maturity and composure. Knowing when to give opponents respect and when to take control of a situation, his judgement in defence is a key attribute of his.
It was a risk for Lamptey to leave Chelsea, but at Brighton, he has found himself a home and a place where he will be given regular first team football. If only Gareth Southgate didn’t have so many options at right-back, eh?
Should he continue down the route he is currently on, England’s boss will find it hard to overlook Lamptey for much longer.