It’s fair to say that Chelsea haven’t quite found their feet under Frank Lampard’s management yet, but there are some encouraging signs. Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have taken the opportunity given to them and turned in some great early performances to really stake a claim for regular first team football. Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho both look to have been given licence to be far more adventurous with the ball and to play higher up the pitch. When they are attacking a side and going forward with the ball, Chelsea do look capable of both creating chances and finishing them, if Tammy can keep his confidence up.
However, there are still teething problems at the back. While Lampard was clearly comfortable letting David Luiz leave on deadline day, you can bet your bottom dollar that Chelsea would have been looking to bring in a replacement had they been able to. Kurt Zouma has returned after two seasons out on loan to try and reclaim his place in the side. Before his ACL injury, Zouma was looking like the future of the Chelsea defence, but that injury really hit him hard and he’s struggled to force his way back into contention. Now, he has the chance to make one of the centre-back spots his own and he has to take it. Yes, he scored an own goal against Sheffield United that cost us all three points but I don’t put the blame squarely on his shoulders, and nor should anyone else. The fact of the matter is that Chelsea, as they often did last season, did not properly re-engage after the break, quickly conceded and were on the back foot for the rest of the half. To be honest, Chelsea were lucky to have been 2-0 up as it was through defensive errors that the Blades had conceded those two goals in the first half. It was a case of naivety for the young lads and lack of game management to see out the game.
And that speaks of Lampard’s lack of experience as a manager in the Premier League and as a manager in general. With 70 minutes on the clock, still 2-1 up, most managers would have probably taken off an attacking player and shifted to a more defensive strategy to get over the line and win the game. Lampard is learning in this process too, and the fans and the board will need to be patient. This is not going to give us instant success. Chelsea managers in the past have been able to come in, make three or four signings and immediately challenge for trophies, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Maurizio Sarri all won major trophies in their first season in charge (as it turned out, last season was Maurizio Sarri’s only season in charge). Chelsea have also won four trophies while a caretaker manager was in charge.
But that is not going to be the case this season. Lampard is having to do the one thing no other Chelsea manager has had to do, and that the fans have been crying out for them to do, in the whole of the Abramovich era. Rely on the academy players to make the jump to the first team. That said, a lot of the excess fat has been trimmed from the squad; players that would have previously gone out on loan (again) have been sold and fringe first team players have been sent out on loan in favour on the younger players Frank is keen to bring into the setup.
And the international break could actually work in Chelsea’s favour. With no fixtures for the best part of two weeks, Frank and his staff can work with the players who aren’t on international duty on the tactics and mindset throughout games to put an end to the defensive leaks. It is also worth noting that a number of key first team players will be returning from injury after the international break and that the lineups named so far this season have not been our strongest. Antonio Rudiger, Pedro and N’Golo Kante are all in contention to be involved against Wolves on the 14th and Lampard’s hand will be further strengthened by the return of both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek later on in September and October. Reece James is set to return sometime in the next month or so as well and there are rumours that he will go straight into the side ahead of Cesar Azpiliceuta, who has not started the season well. That is a shame because Cesar has been so reliable for Chelsea for so long, but teams are starting to target Chelsea’s right hand side as a weakness. With such a number of players to come back into the first team, Chelsea will only get stronger in squad depth and quality of players available.
Chelsea have got a run of games at Stamford Bridge after the international break, and they need to use that as motivation. To stay unbeaten at home and start to build a more solid base to move forward. From the five games we have seen from Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, there is something well worth developing. The players, particularly in midfield seem to be liberated from Sarri’s strict edicts to keep the ball. Both Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have looked far more dynamic in the five games they’ve played this season than the whole of last season, and Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have shown they have the quality to trouble Premier League defences. If Frank and his team can find a way to properly manage the periods of the game where Chelsea don’t have the intensity up and aren’t pushing forward and to see the game out, then I really think they could challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the big trophies. But it won’t be this season.