It’s no secret that Chelsea will struggle to contend for major honours this season. Champions League, Premier League, League Cup; you name it. New manager Frank Lampard has won it all at Stamford Bridge. But, doing it as a manager is a totally different beast, and it would be remiss of me to not remind you all that Lampard is in an impossible position. The majority of the footballers at his disposal consist of youth players or a muck of washed up senior players he’ll have to wade through for the majority of the season. Through the first four league games of the season, it’s time to give perhaps an early review of Lampard’s managerial career at Chelsea and take a deeper look into what his services can bring to the club, this season and beyond.
On the pitch, Lampard’s Chelsea have performed differently than the Chelsea that played under Maurizio Sarri. Lampard’s team’s shape adapts based on possession, playing a 4-5-1 while off the ball with all the midfielders in line and a possession based 4-2-3-1 with Emerson and Azpilicueta acting almost like outside midfielders, while Abraham and the attacking midfielders press on.
These tactics have been able to conjure the best of some players, with Kovacic now a whopping 13 for 13 in take ons as a midfielder, and Emerson being one of Chelsea’s most reliable players this season. These players have been able to be so dynamic because of Frank Lampard.
However, because of the back line, it doesn’t really matter since the opponent is usually gifted a handful of opportunities to score and it buries us during the course of the game. Last season, Chelsea had the league’s third best defence conceding 39 goals in 38 games, with 10 of those 39 coming in two games. So far this season, Chelsea have conceded nine already, meaning they’ve already conceded 23% of last seasons goals through just four games. It will be interesting to see how Lampard works to plug this leak we have at the back.
Off the pitch, Frank Lampard’s work has been admirable. Not only did Frank hand opportunities to younger players, but he’s now penciled them in as important squad players, who will eat significant minutes on the pitch. He’s also established last season’s rotation players to the top of his team sheet, namely Mateo Kovacic, Emerson and Andreas Christensen; something his predecessor Maurizio Sarri failed to do. Lampard has also worked to remove any remaining toxicity in the locker room, having axed ex-teammate David Luiz on deadline day. The environment around the club has greatly improved, but the results haven’t yet followed.
Not everything has been rainbows and flowers so far. Working chronologically, I would like to start at Old Trafford, and we all know how that one went. A 1-0 back and forth sort of game, and then a collapse. Three goals conceded in 15 minutes and the game is out of sight. Is it mentality? Maybe nerves? How about quality? It could be all three.
Fast forward a few match weeks to 31 August, and we are 11th in the table behind Sheffield United, West Ham, and Crystal Palace. And maybe while those particular teams may not remain in the positions they’re in, the current form of Chelsea’s squad suggests their position is a sign of things to come. Since Lampard is just over a year into management, growing pains are to be expected. And quite honestly, a lot of the pains haven’t been to any fault of his own but rather the players he has at hand. You can chalk it up to experience, you can say that we’re a project or mention how Klopp just won his first major honour at Liverpool but the fact of the matter is that the state of the club is disappointing.
Lampard is missing a few key players and that could be forcing his hand in tactics and team selection, and ultimately if nothing changes it will mean we have even more deadwood to get rid of and Frank will have to depend on Marina and Petr Cech to bring him reinforcements in the coming windows.
There are reasons to be optimistic under Lampard, but also to worry. It’s best that Chelsea fans understand the situation the club is in and the difficulty of the task that Lampard has been handed.