Gung-ho: Lampard’s Chelsea horribly exposed

Chris Henderson, 19 August 2019

Deep into the second half on Sunday afternoon, as the Chelsea defence endured wave after wave of pink attack, Frank Lampard watched on helplessly like a man on a service station bridge staring open-mouthed at a motorway pile-up.

As the trill of Oliver Langford’s full-time whistle put an end to Chelsea’s second-half mauling, Lampard’s overriding emotion must have been one of sheer relief.

With his hands strapped in the transfer market, it is of course early days for the new manager and the reliance on youth will take time. Club legend or not, the Russian finger forever trembles ominously on the managerial trigger.

Lampard, a man of humility, intelligence and undying loyalty to the Chelsea cause, will get more time and goodwill than most. But there is an interesting irony to the infamous lack of patience from the Stamford Bridge Directors’ Box. That haste transmitted onto the pitch on Sunday, like it had done at Old Trafford a week before.

Chelsea’s youngsters showed early promise with an intense high-press, but Lampard was rightly realistic about the scale of the task ahead. “I don’t want to be seen as an attacking team that flies out of the blocks but you can give us a little sucker punch,” said the Chelsea boss. “That can’t be the way.”

Chelsea all too often forced the game, with mixed success, hurtling into enemy territory without the mere notion of a battle strategy. While this approach led to the first goal, it also caused the second-half capitulation. For all the bluster and banging at the front door, they left the back door wide open.

The sight of Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma galloping back towards their own goal as Jamie Vardy and James Maddison buzzed around them at will must be the stuff of nightmares for the Chelsea manager. Quite why they persisted with a defensive high line against the venom and velocity of Leicester’s attacking talents is anybody’s guess. The equaliser was inevitable.

Jose Mourinho once famously said that 11 César Azpilicuetas would win the Champions League. Once a well-drilled and disciplined marine, the Spaniard now cuts the figure of a world-weary soldier, with cigarette box tucked neatly into his t-shirt sleeve, watching on in horror at enemy planes circling overhead, wondering where it all went wrong.

Brendan Rodgers’ men even seemed surprised by the second-half generosity from the hosts. When his side watch the footage in training this week, they will know for sure that one point was simply not enough.

Over the summer, the visitors lost their leader and captain in the form of Slabhead Maguire, and appear to be no worse off. The same cannot be said for the loss of last season’s talisman at the Bridge – Eden Hazard. The Belgian is no longer around to bail them out.

No-one could deny the gusto with which Chelsea have approached their first two league games, and there have been genuinely positive signs in the midst of the melee. But the star of their pre-season, Ross Barkley, perhaps did more for his cause for a starting berth by not playing a single minute of Sunday’s match.

Incidentally, the ridiculous hashtag #LampardOut was used more by people calling it out to be nonsense than those genuinely calling for the manager’s head.

The Blues now begin a kinder-looking run of fixtures; Norwich (A), Sheffield United (H) and Wolves (A). It’s early into the season and Lampard can still turn things around, but it needs to happen quickly.

The nagging feeling remains, however, that this side looks increasingly like a train careering wildly off the tracks.

By |2019-08-19T17:51:33+00:00August 19th, 2019|

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