Chelsea’s season so far under new head coach Frank Lampard has been (to put it lightly) full of its ups and downs. Frank’s time as head coach began with us facing a transfer ban and his predecessor Maurizio Sarri stepping down after his one-and-only season at the helm.
Owing to the transfer ban and the change of coaching staff, the club seems to have moved towards using the ‘loan army’, with the best prospects from our world-class academy coming into the fray and being trusted by Frank and Jody. This transition started somewhat shakily, but the academy prospects really started performing and pulled us into the top four. Frank was even hailed at the time for his accomplishments considering the resources at his disposal. However, there have been several slip-ups, and inconsistency has been at an all-time high this season. Fortunately, our rivals slipping up has kept us seated in the Champions League spot. We have seen promise from the young squad and the inexperienced head coach. And yet, what has become prominently visible during these patches of inconsistency has been our inability to create enough in the final third, and our defensive frailties as a unit.
So far, Lampard has taken a pragmatic approach, going from game to game with different line-ups and shapes. The most used formations have been 4-2-3-1, the 4-3-3 and the 3-4-3. The constant changes, chopping and changing of the line-up and shape have worked at times when they’re match specific, but they could likewise be contributing to our defensive woes. Considering we still do not know what our best formation is (or our best line-up), its not hard to deduce that these inconsistencies might stem from the constant rotation. This has partly been forced upon due to injuries, suspensions and fixture congestion. But apart from these reasons, there have been many questionable line-ups that Lampard repeatedly used for several games this season. The most noteworthy exclusion in the recent run of games has been Matteo Kovacic. He has arguably been one of our best performers this season, but has inexplicably been missing from the starting XI in many of our recent games.
In my opinion, Lampard should decide a team and shape that fits his style and what he wants to play in the future, and stick to it. I’m not saying that pragmatism is bad, but he should change the shape more sparingly and restrict it to the games where he feels that it’s absolutely essential. Another thing he needs to do his find the right combination of players that fit his system the best, and find a way to accommodate the best players that he has and make them the core of his system. The first season is a sort of trial run, but that is also when the core or the backbone of any project starts forming. For a successful project to develop, we need to build the right core and find some sort of consistency in the way we set up for these last few months of the season. We also must remember to take care of the fact that we need to get top four, at the very least, in order to attract good players and further develop the project. These are pertinent considerations necessary for us to become serious challengers for major trophies again.
The only worrying thing right now is that when someone poses a question as to what Frank Lampard’s system is at Chelsea, I really do not know how to answer that. And, in my opinion, that is a cause for concern. So, what is the answer? Consistency or Pragmatism? I would say consistency with a dash of pragmatism is the way forward, and not the other way around.
Lampard could have further problems deciding what shape and what line-up to go for with the impending return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic. But let us hope to find a base and a crux for this team, and let that base gel until the end of the season. This will allow us to focus on squad building around that ‘chosen’ core (which hopefully does not include the likes of Willian, Barkley, Alonso, Batshuayi, etc.). Experimentation is good, but we should draw a line and be wary of stepping into the zone of over-pragmatism; a fatal mistake we saw Unai Emery make with Arsenal.
Written By: Konark Antani
Edited By: Kristen