We are in the winter break eagerly awaiting our next match against Manchester United which will be our chance at taking revenge for the previous two losses to them. With not much going on, we have time to look at the season so far. Losing arguably our best ever player in Hazard and having a transfer ban, things were not looking rosy when the season began but watching the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James defying expectations alongside experienced heads like captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho and N’golo Kante has been exciting. Now, before heading in to our toughest run of the season with games against United, Spurs and Bayern, let’s take a look at where we stand.
Top Four Hopes?
If there is any argument about our current position in the league then that should be credited to our squad, manager and underperforming rivals as they have managed to increase our expectation over the season. When the season started, there was not a single Chelsea fan who would have expected us to achieve a top 4 spot given our circumstances. Yes, it has been a roller coaster of emotions with frustrating defeats to teams like West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton and huge wins like the ones against Spurs and Arsenal but we are doing better than expected. Now moving ahead, with just 1 win in last 5 league games, we need to be well prepared and pick up points against our direct rivals for the last UCL spot.
Tactics and Style of Play
Lampard is in his second season as a manager and his first in the Premier League. He should know by now that there is a huge difference being a manager at Derby and at Chelsea. As a club legend he is loved by the fans and has shown his qualities as a manager highlighted by the win over Spurs and outwitting his former manager Jose Mourinho. But his inexperience has shown in not being able to come up with solutions to balance our attack and defence consistently.
Lampard favours a more direct style of football with high pressing and giving creative freedom to his players in the final third. This worked well at the start of the season with Chelsea playing some exciting football but as the season progressed, teams figured out that sitting deep and waiting for a break is the way to stifle Chelsea attack and expose the defence. Lampard’s solution to breaking down such teams has been overloading the box with Mount in the channels, Willian pushing forward and Kante/Kovacic breaking the lines and making runs into the box and getting crosses in from Hudson-Odoi and James. This usually leaves just the two central defenders at the back with only Jorginho to cover them, who is neither quick nor great at defending, when the opposition breaks and has led to Chelsea conceding a lot of goals. The huge space in our midfield is what helps the opponents to counter effectively.
Offensively, while it is a nice idea to have Kante/Kovacic support the attack but neither of them have the offensive capability to be decisive in the box. Rather, keeping them back to break up counters and help Jorginho recycle possession will leave more space for Mount to operate in who has struggled to play in an overly congested box and can solve both our offensive and defensive problems.
January Transfer Window?
Umm…Let’s just move on from here.
Ruben back soon. Midfield headache?
We all are excited for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to be back in training and hopefully he will be fit and firing soon. His return also gives us a new type of midfielder which we are lacking, a box to box type. One who can defend and attack equally well. With Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount, Ross Barkley and now Billy Gilmour in the first team and Ruben returning to fitness, nobody wants to be in Lampard’s shoes. If Lampard continues to play with a double pivot, then the attacking midfielder spot will be left to just Mount and Barkley which means the other 5 midfielders will be fighting for 2 spots. And, for those who believe Ruben should slot in behind Abraham instead of Mount should know doing that would be wasting Ruben’s immense physical and defensive talents. Our current midfield pivot is not working so Ruben should bring some much needed balance in the middle. But who will partner him you ask? It should be Kante, whose speed and incredible ability to cover ground and make tackles be that destroyer in the middle giving solid cover for Ruben. Jorginho needs players to come short to play quick passes and move the ball around opposition midfielders. He is not Fabregas, who could spray the ball all around the pitch like an NFL quarterback. With our current style of play, which is more focused on getting the ball forward quickly to hurt opposition before they get back in position, is not one which suits Jorginho. Kovacic’s versatility and ability to dribble can rotate with Ruben. If in the future we decide to change our style of play and revert to patient possession football will be when Jorginho once again becomes very important with his positional sense and press resistant ability. But until then Kante and Ruben should bring the balance that we crave.
Taking a look at our fixture list would both excite and scare Chelsea fans in equal measure. Manchester United coming to Stamford Bridge is the first match and will once again be a test of our ability to break down a packed defence as United is strongest when counter attacking and will look to play to their strengths in a tough away game. It is a must win match considering United is a direct rival for the last Champions league spot. United will look to play through their new star signing Bruno Fernandes and rely on the runs of their quick selection of forwards to counter-attack. Hopefully the winter break has given ample time for Lampard to analyze his next opponents and train his team on how to beat them. If not, the pressure will be too much when Jose Mourinho returns to the Bridge later on.
Written By: @CFCBleedBlue
Edited By: Jon