After three games in charge, two in the Premier League and one in the Super Cup, it seems Frank Lampard is getting to grips with his dream job… so far.
Two defeats in the first two and one draw against Leicester City on Sunday. Chelsea lost their first two games with a disappointing 4-0 loss to rivals Manchester United in their Premier League opener and losing to rivals Liverpool on penalties in the Super Cup. In both of these games, Chelsea were unlucky and their performances didn’t justify them to lose those games. It seemed that the 120 minutes of the Super Cup played a part as Chelsea struggled against Leicester City. The 2016 Premier League champions can count themselves unfortunate that they didn’t leave Stamford Bridge with all three points.
Three games in, no need to panic
It is far too early to question Lampard on his managerial position, but the main thing you need to accomplish in your first few games as a Chelsea manager is winning football matches. Besides winning trophies –which sometimes can either determine you stay or get sacked. At a top side like Chelsea, you are required to go out and win every match that you play in.
After a while, if it isn’t going the way it was hoped so, the fans begin to question the position of the manager and the current project of the club. However, Lampard is surely an exception to this continuing regime at Chelsea. As the all-time leading goal scorer, and a club legend, Lampard will have the support from the board and most importantly, the full support and backing from the fans.
From a Chelsea fan’s point of view, Chelsea should stick with the project of the manager and now it is the right time to play the youth that we have at our disposal. My perspective as Lampard as a manager is that so far, he has stuck to his word, and his managerial ability is paying off during matches (even with two defeats). After the season, he can review his squad and when the transfer ban is over, Lampard can identify key areas in his squad that he needs to invest in.
I believe in time, the fans will see that Lampard was appointed for the long-term project of the club. The transfer ban has given a great chance for youth players at the club and with Lampard overlooking those players, it is only the right way to move forward. Lampard will surely be in the Chelsea dugout at Stamford Bridge for a long time…depending IF Chelsea changes their usual regime of sacking managers.
Tactical decisions paying off
From observing his tactical displays as a manager, he is quick to address certain issues when the team is under threat or struggling to cope with the opposition’s play. It showed against Liverpool when he opted to expand Chelsea’s fluidity in the midfield by switching his preferred 4-2-3-1 system to a more established 4-3-3 to counter Liverpool’s offensive style. This was a tactical display which paid off for Lampard as having Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic in the same team bought a better balance in the midfield. This wasn’t the case at Old Trafford as Manchester United’s midfield three got the better of the double pivot Lampard likes to play.
It was a similar story against Leicester, although the scoreline wasn’t in the opponent’s favour, Chelsea and Lampard were unable to get the right balance in the second half to win the match. Especially when England youngster James Maddison for Leicester began to run the game where he missed a big chance to win the game late on.
As a manager, Lampard was quick to address situations that put his team in jeopardy during matches. During matches – especially as a new manager – you are going to come across matches where you are the better team and the opponents have a spell in the game where the complexion of the match goes in their favour. The match against Leicester is a prime example of this. Also, against Manchester United, this was another similar scenario but Chelsea lost the game by a big margin. It was far too late to address the situation because of the scoreline and the opposition at 4-0 up could see the game out comfortably. This made Chelsea have to adapt to United’s counter-attacking football, where the scoreline didn’t project how the game was played as Lampard’s side were dominant for the first 60 minutes.
Stays true to his word in youth
From the get-go, the Chelsea head coach has reiterated his faith that he has in his squad, especially the youngsters who he has at his disposal. Obviously, the transfer ban that Chelsea football club are currently serving makes Lampard have no choice in doing so, but he has already given chances to the younger players in pre-season and the first three games.
The first starting XI he chose in the Premier League showed his backing in youth with 20-year-old Mason Mount playing out on the left side of a 4-2-3-1 formation. He also started Mount against Leicester where he scored his first goal for the club on his home debut. Lampard managed Mount during his one year spell at Derby County and it seems that the Chelsea head coach sees a lot of himself in the young attacker. His ability to press in Lampard’s high-intensity system and it showed on seven minutes when Mount won possession near the Foxes’ Kasper Schmeichel to give Chelsea the lead.
In the Super Cup against Liverpool, Mount started on the bench where another 20-year-old Christian Pulisic started the match. The American international showed he was no stranger in showing his ability as he played a brilliant through ball to Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud who slotted his shot across the goal to put Chelsea 1-0 up on the night. He also scored a brilliant solo goal which was flagged offside, which would have marked his first goal in a Chelsea shirt-besides pre-season. He was subbed off for Mount in the second half and the England youngster managed to do the same as Pulisic in scoring a goal, but again, it was flagged offside.
Another youngster who came on the pitch was Fikayo Tomori who also was on loan at Derby County last season with Lampard. It showed Lampard is confident enough to trust his young players in big games and especially a team who are very good going forward like Liverpool. He showed calmness on the ball, distributed out from the back well and showed his pace when threatened. He didn’t play against Leicester City on the weekend but he made the bench where it was possible he would feature. But, as the game was open in the second-half, Lampard’s three substitutions were in the attacking areas as Chelsea were looking to secure all three points.
Maintain or change it up a bit?
As a manager of Chelsea football club, change is an occurring theme. However, change shouldn’t be the case for Lampard and the way he wants his Chelsea side to play. No wins from the first three games of the season would get most people worried. But, playing two of the so-called ‘big six’ in under a week, and a Leicester City side who caused Chelsea a lot of problems, I hope questions aren’t raised. Chelsea looked the better of the three teams for large parts of those matches, but let’s all understand it still is the beginning of the season. However, if it were a reoccurring theme throughout a full campaign, then that is when people have the right to raise questions.
It is impossible to under-estimate the seriousness of the loss of Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been Chelsea’s best player for the best part of six seasons and selling Hazard without being able to bring anyone in to replace him is a hard task. Even though Pulisic signed for the club in January he was immediately loaned back. From what we have seen his arrival already has shown promise in the opening matches especially his performance in Istanbul. If he continues to perform when selected in Lampard’s XI, Chelsea will have an abundance of winger’s at the club including Willian, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Pedro and Pulisic himself.
Signs that N’Golo Kante has returned to his rightful position in a midfield two is the correct thing to do and this will help Jorginho to show his creative ability. Last season it seemed he was restricted under Maurizio Sarri where he had to worry about the defensive phase. The Italian playmaker seemed to be the one who was always at fault if Sarri’s system wasn’t working and it was questioned if he is cut out to be a Premier League player. There is no doubt he is an outstanding player and so far his performances in a two-man midfield –especially against Liverpool and Leicester City has shown that he will be a key player for Chelsea this season.
Going back to the long-term, the Blues are soon to welcome back from injury Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger, and young full-back Reece James. All these players will strengthen this Chelsea side and will provide Lampard an extra dimension when tactically managing matches where Chelsea requires a goal, or to close the game out. Lampard could have done with these players against Leicester where the Blues looked tired in the later stages of the matches and lacked any real goal threat in the second half.
The question is, if Lampard still does not get a win or two against the likes of newly promoted Norwich City and Sheffield United in Chelsea’s next league games, questions will soon raise whether his Chelsea appointment was a premature one. Like I have mentioned, even without a win in three matches, there has already been enough to suggest Lampard should be given time in the managerial role. This is solely because what he has accomplished at the club as a player, the performances so far in those three games, along with quoting he wanted his dream job at Chelsea for the long haul.