We’re five Premier League games into the season. Two wins against Brighton and Crystal Palace, two draws against West Brom and Southampton, and a loss against Liverpool. For a team which should be comfortably making top 4 this season and challenging for the title in the next few years, this start is simply not good enough.
As always, there is pressure on the Chelsea manager, but Frank would certainly be feeling it from the media right now. After spending huge amounts of money on Havertz, Werner, Ziyech, Chilwell and Mendy, he was going to have to impress. This disappointing start has lead to many concerns over Lampard’s ability to make it to the top level…. but what actually is his fault? I analyse and try to give my opinion on as many of the concerns around the gaffer….
There’s one thing which Frank Lampard can’t be blamed for – and that’s individual mistakes. Individual mistakes are certainly the main factor which are costing us at the moment – a silly red card from Andreas Christensen against Liverpool, Thiago Silva slipping on the ball against West Brom, Kurt Zouma failing to clear the ball as well as Kepa against Southampton, and many other mistakes which opponnents have fortunately not been able to take chance of.
These types of mistakes are made under every manager and there’s not much Frank can do, although we do have to question the concentration and mentality of the players at times as the numbers of individual errors seem to be increasing heavily. Or it could be a lack of pre-season, just returning from international break, too many signings in one window – who knows, but the players need to sort it out, because Lampard is taking the blame for them right now.
And what Lampard can’t even be blamed for is that he’s been playing the youngsters too much (in general), because it hasn’t been them which has been costing us the games. Reece James, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham – I’m struggling to remember the last time they made a clear cut mistake in the Premier League which has cost us points. In fact, it’s been the more experienced ones – Silva is one of the best centre-halfs of all time and has already made a clear mistake, as well as Zouma and Christensen who have incredible experience in big games and Kepa who is the most expensive goalkeeper of all time.
However, although he can’t be blamed for playing the younger lads, his lineup selections and in game management certainly can be questioned at times:
This is something which Lampard definitely needs to be questioned on a lot more in my opinion, especially as with someone like Mason Mount, it’s the midfielder getting the blame and abuse on social media rather than Lampard: I’ve seen multiple tweets of people admitting to hating on Mount because Frank overplays him and instead of Hudson-Odoi on the wing….that makes zero sense.
Last season Mount was one of those players which split the fanbase, but was starting to get on their good side after impressing in the latter stages of the season with some great performances against Aston Villa, Norwich, Wolves on the final day and many more. Yet unfortunately, Mason became a victim of his own success, as Lampard relied on him so much meaning he got tired in some games and simply could not play to his highest level on a consistent basis. The thing is as well, Mount is by far my favourite player at the club, and even though it’s brilliant to see him play week in week out, I’m not sure if that’s really best for Chelsea at the moment.
But, I do get it from Lampard. Frank absolutely adores Mount’s work ethic in training sessions and after all he is the second most fit player in the squad after N’Golo Kante, so he definitely can be played a lot more compared to others. He’s so important in the press and when he’s on the ball glimpses of brilliant quality are shown throughout the game. Although the problem comes where it seems as if he’s being forced into the team at a risk of himself, or at the loss of another. For example, I remember last season he suffered quite a bad injury against Valencia and had to be substituted off, but after a few injections and only a few days later he was playing against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and it just was never going to be one of his good games. Even a few days ago, Pulisic is outstanding on the left and Mount is solid on both wings, yet it was Mason playing on the left and the American out wide on the right hand side. Sometimes tactically a switch up can work, yes, and througout the game there is a lot of switching in positions, but there is just that feeling that he’s being played in one or two extra games every month.
Some other slightly questionable lineup choices include Kepa and Christensen. Personally, I do try and look from Lampard’s point of view, and it does make sense. Andreas has in some games been incredible under Lampard and Frank certainly wants to credit him for these performances, but he unfortunately just lacks the consistency to play 3 good games in a row without making a mistake, and at the age of 24 these mistakes should be leaving his game very soon. Like Frank and the club, I still have a lot of faith in Christensen so I understand his involvement. But what I don’t get at all is the complete exclusion of Fikayo Tomori from January onwards till now when he had a great partnership with Zouma, and has barely done anything wrong. Obviously we don’t know the ins and outs of the training sessions, but I really can’t see the England defender not trying his best. The club also have a lot of explaining to do after somehow managing to keep Christensen, Silva, Zouma, Tomori and Rudiger all at the club, but that’s for another article.
With Kepa, like I said, I get it. He wants to give him confidence and for his career not to be destroyed and known as the biggest flop in football, and he has shown signs of confidence after making two decent saves against Southampton and impressing for Spain in the international break. But sometimes Frank just needs to be ruthless and stop playing him, because against the Saints he was a huge part of the second goal conceded with Zouma, and for the final one although many keepers wouldn’t have been able to save the last header, conceding a goal with 0.02xG isn’t always a good look on the eye. Caballero also does have a mistake in him – but is he really worse than Kepa? No.
I won’t be too harsh on the coaching staff about in game management as I have clearly seen improvements over the last year, but at times for me it’s still not there. Against West Brom, we were 3-0 down and he brought on Hudson-Odoi at Half-Time – great. That substitution arguably got us the point, as he was by far our best player on the pitch, scoring his second Premier League goal in a lovely move involving Kai Havertz. But when it went to 3-2, and we were steaming ahead and looking very likely to pick up the winning goal, Frank decided to go even more crazy and we basically played a 2 at the back formation, with Werner and Hudson-Odoi as fullbacks. Yup, you read that right. And although the incentive is there of trying to push as many players forwards as possible, it just meant that the complete change threw us off guard and we were unable to move the ball at the same speed as before.
Even a few days ago, as much as the excitement levels to see Hakim Ziyech play for Chelsea and come on the pitch was at its highest, I’m not sure if it was the best of substitutions to make. We were only leading by one goal and these were his first official minutes this season, and therefore was always going to be caught on the ball a few times and be lacking match fitness. For me, subbing on Hudson-Odoi who was sitting cold on the bench would have made a lot more sense, as he would’ve kept the ball ticking and is a lot more match fit, as well as his pace being a real option if we ever needed to lump the ball forward and play it in behind Southampton’s high line.
But, like I said in game management is something I can’t critcise too much as Frank is the one with the coaching badges not me, so he knows what he’s doing. I’m just trying to show what I would have done.
Using Tactics That Can’t Work With This Squad…
The way we are playing, I think it’s very clear that Lampard wants Declan Rice in this team, and my days he would be perfect. But, my concern is that we’re playing with a style that requires someone like Rice in our team, and we simply don’t have anyone similar to his specialities, so why on earth are we still doing so?
Defensively, in the midfield, I would say we are close to a shambles. Frank doesn’t know his best pivot, whether that’s Jorginho-Kovacic, Kovacic-Kante or Jorginho-Kante. In some games, each one works, and in some they don’t, and that’s where it’s close to impossible for Lampard as the players don’t make it any easier for him. In reality, whichever pivot we use, there is too much space between the defenders and the midfielders, and that’s costing us heavily. At times it’s both Jorginho and Kante pushing high up the pitch to press, things which Lampard encourages them both to do, and we are simply cut through which a few simple passes from the opposition. In transition or on the counter we get hit hard and there’s a complete overload on the defenders, with no midfielders seen on the television screen.
We don’t have a traditional Centre Defensive Midfielder in the squad (yet) but we keep on playing as if we do have one…. so what should Frank do? Frank has two options in my opinion – play the 4-3-3 with Kante as the deepest midfielder, or a double pivot, with a clear emphasis on the two defensive minded midfielders to sit back, especially as someone like Havertz as a 10 can drop back and link the play between the midfield and attack. Personally, against the teams who won’t have much of the ball, we play the 4-3-3 with Kante as the deepest, two 8’s such as Havertz and Mount either side, with Pulisic, Werner and Ziyech up top. That means we can play our best players all in one and still have some sort of shape. Against the bigger teams, where Kovacic is much more likely to play due to his ball carrying abilities, a 4-2-3-1 makes a lot more sense, BUT WITH AN EMPHASIS ON CUTTING DOWN THE SPACE BETWEEN THE DEFENCE AND MIDFIELD!
I don’t think anyone can blame his man management in the slightest. It’s probably been close to perfect.
From day one, you could see it was there. Luiz was frustrated at Lampard’s tactics and supposedly showed him some disrespect in training. What does Frank go and do? Sends him away from group training, and showed to the players that that attitude would not be accepted at all. A similar incident happened with Marcos Alonso a few weeks ago. Against West Brom, Alonso reportedly watched the second half after his substitution in the team bus rather than the stands, and Lampard went absolutely ballistic at him for not supporting the team, with reports saying some players had never ever seen him that angry before.
And that’s the main thing. He bleeds blue, he knows what Chelsea means to the fans and he knows how much of a pleasure it is to play for this club. He’s just like one of us, and that’s something you’re not going to find in many clubs.
Not to forget, his incredible balance between the youth and signings. Chelsea have had the best academy in England for years now, but never ever used them in the first team, with them being sent on loan multiple times and never getting that opportunity. Frank saw it differently and although due a transfer ban made his choice less difficult, he recognised the abilities of James, Abraham, Mount and Tomori and the young boys became the stars of last season and the main talking point around the club. Come one year later, we are only signing incredible players such as Havertz and Werner, compared to previous panic flops like Drinkwater, and the younger lads are still getting many opportunities. He’s getting it spot on. Even Hudson-Odoi who had the chance to join Bayern Munich and isn’t getting much game time under Lampard wants to stay at the club and get into Frank’s plans – and that’s what it’s all about.
Lampard Out? Not a Single Chance!
Don’t get it twisted, I’m no where near wanting Lampard to get the sack as much as I have questioned him in this article. I don’t think I can and ever will be.
He needs time. We signed him because the club wanted to change their ways about doing things, and try and support their managers as much as possible. This is a long term project and something completely new to Chelsea fans, as we’ve seen the more ruthless side from the owner and board in recent years. But that means if the club are willing to give him time, so should you. Our new players need to adapt to the League and gel together, especially as so many arrived together at the same time. Just like the young lads, he’s inexperienced too and will make mistakes along the way, but in the end the final product we should get will be exceptional, I’m sure.
And to the people who say I’m being bias due to his playing career: you’re correct – I am bias to our greatest ever player in club history, and although it shouldn’t get in the way of me judging him as a manager, I think it always will because he was that good for us.
Written by Paree
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