Since taking over in July, Chelsea have exceeded popular expectation under Frank Lampard’s young management. Utilizing the wealth of youngsters at his disposal amidst a transfer ban, Lampard has steadied the ship with some solid performances and
Despite the reality-check of a trouncing at Old Trafford on matchday one, Chelsea have sealed impressive performances against Wolves, Ajax twice in the Champions League and gutsy displays against every top-six rival they’ve faced. Regardless of it all, a burning question remains about the genuineness of their top-four aspirations.
After their regular November dip in form – Chelsea are winless in three since the international break and Lampard finds himself and his team with a point to prove.
The loss to West Ham last weekend was not only the first to a non-top six rival but also the first time Lampard’s young side failed to score since matchday one. The four changes made from the away European fixture midweek took a toll on the team’s rhythm, with Pedro and Olivier Giroud match rusty in attack.
Olivier Giroud, on his first start in any competition since August 18, led the line for Chelsea – or so the team sheet claimed. This was not a noteworthy performance from the Frenchman.
In the first half, he touched the ball 13 times (via Whoscored), and twice in the opposition box. Cross after cross from Reece James evaded the head of Chelsea’s centre forward.
Now with Liverpool having gained an 11-point gap from Man City and Leicester only eight behind the Reds in second, Chelsea need a performance to prove they are top-four material. Particularly with Tottenham’s redemption under José Mourinho now only six points away in fifth as per Skysports.
Chelsea would hope to welcome back top goalscorer Tammy Abraham for Aston Villa and John Terry’s visit, or opt for Michy Batshuayi, who pertinently has a thing or two to prove having sat out the weekend loss.
Christian Pulisic has become a key member of Chelsea’s attack in recent weeks and looks to keep it that way. Mason Mount has seen his brilliant early-season form evaporate in recent weeks and the academy graduate would be keen to keep results up.
In as much as Chelsea and Lampard are under less pressure this season, they would rather put up a fight to retain their top-four place. Lampard knows first-hand about the winning mentality embedded in the club.
In truth, defensive problems have smeared Lampard’s time in charge and cost them in games.
Although Kepa showed improved form against West Ham, making three saves, the defence still has a lot to improve. The imminent return of Antonio Rüdiger from injury is sure to add quality and experience in equal measure to the defence.
The Blues are now just six points above Spurs in the Premier League table and it is ten days or so that could massively define the rest of their campaign.
For now Chelsea are faced with their toughest test this season, one they created themselves by being, according to Lampard “ahead of the curve”.
Are Chelsea proper top four candidates? Wednesday night at the Bridge couldn’t come quickly enough for more insight on that.