One point from two matches. Quite a few minutes of delightful football. Even more minutes of the same football leading to reckless abandonment and conceding. Should Chelsea and Frank Lampard be worried or optimistic about what’s to come?
Optimism has its limits
Lampard, as all of his press conferences and approach to football suggest, is optimistic in nature. He’s done some things in football, as a player, and quickly as a manager. Such as nearly getting an underdog Derby County side into the Premier League.
However, landing the Chelsea job, his dream job no one should be surprised to find out, came at peculiar timing. Just when the money hose was shut down. Roman Abramovich isn’t the big spender he was, but that’s not the issue. The Blues are operating under a transfer ban.
But that’s all well and known. What’s more interesting is figuring out how Chelsea start picking up points in a more rapid pace, considering Lampard doesn’t see this team flying too low from where they’re used to roam.
The first 15-20 minutes in their home opener at Stamford Bridge exemplified the fantastical side of the fresh Lampard reign. Quick, attacking, pressing football, leaving everyone breathless and the opponents clueless. When it comes down to it, Chelsea went into the dressing room wondering how they didn’t lead by more than one goal.
Mason Mount scored it, but like the rest of his teammates, it seemed as if the intense high pressing and also the midweek fixture (European Super cup vs Liverpool) began to take its toll very quickly.
And from the 25th minute onward, there was only one team on the pitch. Perhaps similar to the Old Trafford visit to Lampard and his men, only with far less clinical finishing. James Madison did link up with Wilfred Ndidi. Madison, like Ayoze Perez, Jamie Vardy and Youri Tielemans, let Chelsea off the hook.
Pressure is coming
Tempo, defense, balance. Oh, and a striker who can provide reliable production. That is what’s on Lampard’s plate at the moment.
As pleasing as it is to see Chelsea play their brand of high-pressing tactics, it’s killing the team. It’s impossible to keep it up for long, not without a defense that’s reliable. And not when Lampard, just like Maurizio Sarri before him, has yet to figure out how to partner N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in one midfield without it resulting in a defensive mess. Without a Eden Hazard to pull this team out of tricky situations, it’s all the more challenging.
Lampard, as Jose Mourinho said with his usual combination of insight and snark, is in a comfortable position of supposedly not playing under the expectations of great achievements. Champions League football would be a miracle. Perhaps even a European finish. But even if what’s expected of Lampard is far less than any of the previous managers in the Abramovich administration, it would be naive to think that more of these shortly exciting, ultimately disappointing performances won’t put actual pressure on someone who was one of the foundations in which Chelsea’s appetite for success was built on.