Underwhelming. If one word could summarize Chelsea’s season so far, this would be very close to perfection. With a total of 9 games played so far, the Blues have picked up 3 wins, 4 draws and 2 loses, despite the fact that the squad has seen massive investment this summer. With the existence of the corona virus pandemic, life in every field of life has not been the same notwithstanding football and the English top flight. The pandemic may have given Chelsea the upper hand in securing the signings of their top targets ahead of other clubs, but it has also negatively impacted the club in terms of on field performance. The feelings of frustration expressed by most fans indicate just how much winning is a deeply rooted culture at this club. However, I believe the calls for a change of management are extremely premature given the situation and general context of the season so far. With so many shocks and high scoring games, a number of limiting factors cut across all 20 teams and Chelsea has especially borne the brunt of them.
In high level sport, a certain amount of preparation time is required for optimal levels of performance to be reached in terms of team fitness and chemistry. Chelsea barely had a pre season, with a single friendly against Brighton and training sessions highly interrupted by player quarantines and an international break. There has not even been the opportunity for the team to play 11 v 11 in house games with the academy players due to the regulations surrounding professional sporting bubbles in the UK. This has left many players well short of match sharpness and little injuries picked up , notably to Hakim Ziyech, have not helped the team hit their best levels physically. Chelsea have as a result currently been left in a pretty compromising situation, where players only have the opportunity to pick up serious match fitness in games.
Additionally, the nature of this season’s fixture lists and schedules has not done the blues any favors. With about 3 games each week, Frank Lampard is left with very little time in between games to set up the team to his satisfaction. From what has been seen so far this season there is strong evidence that seems to suggest the short preparation period has caused him to prioritize some team aspects over others. In the game against Sevilla and today at Manchester United it was clear the team’s defensive shape was Lampard’s priority in training. There have been massive forward steps taken in terms of our overall defensive shape and pressing, but this has come at the expense of cohesion in our attacking play. In the days leading up to Southampton, I can say preparation was geared towards our attacking play given the wonderful movement and chance creation we saw. At the moment there is a struggle to find the all important balance, but with more time and the quality in our squad, Frank Lampard should be able to find that in the coming weeks.
Lastly, over the summer six new players have been added to the team, all of which are now most definitely part of our strongest starting team. Five of these players, namely Timo Werner, Kai Havertz , Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech are from different leagues and need to adapt fully to the pace and demands of the Premier League. Ben Chilwell who was already a seasoned Premier League player seems to have hit the ground running the quickest out of the lot, proving an understanding and full physical adaptation to the Premier League is key. Given the signs from the games we have played so far it is clear to see that the new boys are definitely going to get better over the next few games. Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy today showed us some brilliant and commanding defending and goalkeeping respectively today against United and the German duo Werner and Havertz were delightful going forward against Southampton, clearly showing us they have got what it takes to push Chelsea to the next level. Hakim Ziyech is only just feeling his way back to full fitness as he was last fully involved in competitive football as far back as March but I have no doubts that his sheer talent and footballing IQ would help him acclimatize to English football adequately.
It definitely is frustrating for us Chelsea fans, as the team is only slowly but surely coming to grip with Lampard’s ideas and searching for balance and stability. However I believe we would be extremely short sighted to call for his head now given the circumstances surrounding this season. We should look forward to the future with excitement because in the end the quality of the squad we have got will show with a well defined structure, and who knows we could go on a “Conte-esque” winning run that could put us well and truly into the reckoning for the title. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but have patience, everything is going to come good.