I was surprised when Chelsea gave Frank Lampard the head coach role at the club – writes Jasmie Baba.
Having watched him manage Derby for the whole season, there were criticisms I had that I could only see being fixed with experience.
Imagine my shock when he was given the top role at the Europa League winners who, because of their success in that competition, would be playing Champions League football this year.
Their opening four games has only solidified my scepticism at his appointment.
The main similarity between Lampard’s appointments both at Chelsea and Derby is undoubtedly that it got fans excited. It’s not the first time a footballing legend has been asked to manage their previous club; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid and Edgar Davids at Barnet. Well, you get my drift.
I was at Derby’s opening game of the season at Reading, where they went one goal down before a Mason Mount equaliser followed by a last-minute winner by Tom Lawrence sealed all three points. Lampard had injected new life into the Championship club with deals for young prospects such as Fikayo Tomori, Harry Wilson and Mason Mount. It’s almost fitting that when Chelsea came calling for Lampard, he would be reunited with Tomori and Mount. Mount has been one of Chelsea’s best players so far this season, while Tomori made his first Premier League start at the weekend. However, to onlookers watching on, that’s where the excitement stopped.
4-0 hardly the perfect start
The first game of Lampard’s Chelsea career was a 4-0 loss to Manchester United. I, amongst many others, listed that as a drubbing and it was of sorts, however watching the match, the scoreline flattered United. The Blues had more possession and slightly more shots on target, but their xG was lower than their opponents and United were just that little bit more experienced and clinical in front of goal. Tammy Abraham looked lively but there was nothing to show for it.
Next came Chelsea’s 1-1 draw to Leicester. It was a truly even game, basically the same amount of possession and shots. This time Chelsea had a lead to protect, and after 61 minutes Lampard replaced Tammy
Abraham with Olivier Giroud, someone with a stellar reputation of holding up the ball. Not even five minutes later the Blues conceded.
There was no real effort thereafter for the home side to get back into the game with Leicester probably feeling disappointed not to come away with more than a point. xG hinted at one goal apiece (1.23 v 0.98). It was Chelsea’s inability to keep tight at the back that cost them, and it wasn’t going to improve in their next game.
Three points, finally
The 3-2 win at Norwich brought a much needed win but it wasn’t easy. This time Abraham opened the scoring for the visitors yet three minutes later their opponents equalised. Mount then put Chelsea back in front, only for Teemu Pukki to equalise not long after.
After the break Abraham was the difference, netting his second and Chelsea’s third. This time Lampard waited to take him off for Giroud, and it seemed to work. Judging by Norwich’s stats they were lucky to even be drawing 2-2.
Before we get onto Lampard’s men twice throwing away a lead against a promoted side, prior to Saturday’s match, I saw the Chelsea line-up and wondered how Kurt Zouma was still starting. He looked out of his depth against United, and with Mount and Abraham performing well against Norwich, I wondered how long it would be before Tomori got his chance. In Chelsea’s next match he did, against Sheffield United, but not for the defender I had thought.
Zouma was left in, with Tomori replacing Andreas Christensen. It was interesting, mostly because Zouma had been turned inside out against Manchester United, and by far looked the weakest link. But it didn’t matter because after the first 45 minutes, the Blues were 2-0 up. Job done. Or so I thought.
After the whistle blew to kick off the second half, the Blues looked asleep, an attack being carved from the right-hand side, crossed in with Cesar Azpilicueta being left in the dark. The centre-backs couldn’t reach Callum Robinson, who whipped it past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Blades, although only creating half the chances Chelsea had, didn’t stop there, and in the final minute had taken advantage of both Azpilicueta and Zouma, turning in an own goal in the dying minutes of the game. Once again before Sheffield United equalised, Tammy Abraham had come off for 18-year-old debutant Billy Gilmour. With earlier substitutions of Willian for Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic for Michy Batshuayi, were these the greatest use of changing the team up and trying to see out a 2-1 win? Especially when he had taken Abraham off before and the team conceded.
These tactical decisions along with the defensive lapses from Zouma and Azpilicueta there are questions to be asked in the international break. Chelsea’s next three games are away at Wolves, at home to Valencia and then at home to Liverpool. Unless Lampard starts making better decisions both before and during matches, this could get embarrassing very quickly for Chelsea.
Follow Jasmine on Twitter @_babsj