Scoring goals through penalty kicks doesn’t make you a brilliant scorer, but compliments have always been easily showered on Frank Lampard, even when he doesn’t deserve them, and most of the credit in his “better” performances this season for Chelsea have come thanks to the creative trio in front of him, consisting of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata.
In one of his final appearances for the club he’s been playing for since 2001, Lampard came on in the 25th minute for the injured Ramires and got himself an assist and his 13th goal of the season via penalty, although it was mostly thanks to the passing of Hazard and Mata that won him the spot kick, and Oscar’s high quality finishing that earned him the assist.
Chelsea are heading away from its old guard, there’s no denying it. The only ones left are Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech, with Cole signing an extension for next season, but Lampard still left up in the air. Each manager has his own ideas on how to make the changes – subtle or more drastic (like Villas-Boas), but the future is in its expensive trio of attacking midfielders, no matter the capacity they’ll be used in.
And that is what Chelsea have to build around, not Lampard in the middle, who has scored 13 league goals this season, but five of them have come from penalties, and the rest, or most of the rest, are goals that you’d expect any other player to score. He does not command the same attention he did in previous seasons, leaving him quite free to take shots at goal, but worse is his tactical use defensively, never being one to make the most of the central midfielder role without leaving too many defensive holes.
For that, Chelsea will need to find themselves someone better in the transfer market to play alongside John Obi Mikel and give the side a much more confident center instead of the gaping, wide hole that was taken advantage of by the likes of Manchester City or some European rivals like Juventus and Shakhtar during Chelsea’s weakest performances this season.
As for what happens up front – Demba Ba seemed like a steal when he came over in January, but with only two goals since his arrival, even Fernando Torres seems like a better option to start with, although the Spaniard brings along his own set of confidence and goalscoring problems.
The important thing is the win, beyond all of the tactical thinking. Chelsea are now firmly set at third place after their two rivals drew over the weekend, giving them three points more than Tottenham and one more than Arsenal, while the Gunners have played one more match than them. It now leads to their toughest two match stretch of the season, playing both Manchester United and Tottenham in the span of four days.
Hopefully, United will continue to look as quite disinterested as they have in recent weeks, while Spurs will choke on another road game. Not coming out with at least four points from these matches and especially beating Spurs, means the Champions League might be impossible to reach next season.