The biggest issue facing Frank Lampard once he took the Chelsea job was undoubtedly replacing Eden Hazard’s influence on the squad.
The brilliant Belgian accounted for 50% of Chelsea’s league goals last season, with his departure to Madrid leaving a huge void. As suggested in our analysis of the future of Chelsea’s attack Post-Hazard, the attacking midfield could become a key area in Lampard’s philosophy. This tactical analysis provides insights into the attacking midfield position.
Barkley’s pre-season form suggests Chelsea fans are set to see a new player from the one who joined in January 2018. After a season playing as a ‘number eight’ in Maurizio Sarri’s midfield; he is free of the shackles of the Italian’s pass-and-move philosophy. Barkley has shaken off the abysmal form in which he ended last season.
Now playing in a number 10 role behind the striker in Lampard’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system, Barkley has more license to make runs into the box and take his chances. With a game left of pre-season he leads the squad with three goals and three assists.
Beyond the numbers, he looks more confident and plays with a purpose. Either leading the front press or looking to break the lines when on the ball, Barkley is certainly reborn. A free-kick against Reading and an outrageous 45-yard assist for Christian Pulisic against RB Salzburg are particular highlights.
His experience of playing in the Premier League is important as the blues embrace the new era. It is of course left to him to replicate his blistering form when the season kicks off.
Mason Mount enjoyed a successful year on loan at Derby County under Lampard’s tutelage; registering nine goals and four assists for the Championship playoff finalists. Chelsea were quick to hand him a new long-term contract to signal his importance to the new era; his knowledge of Lampard’s methods an added advantage.
He has continued last term’s form this pre-season with three goals and is in direct competition with Barkley for a starting spot.
Chelsea’s best attacking midfielder on paper, Loftus-Cheek ruptured his Achilles tendon at the end of last season. The England international is a technically-gifted physical presence in midfield and his eye for goal is a particular delight.
His 10 goals in all competitions offered a glimpse of his ability in an injury-prone season, as his 1.2 shots per game.
He would be chomping at the bit to feature for Lampard on his return from injury.
While Barkley has hit the ground running in pre-season, Mount is impressing just as much. Loftus-Cheek however, has a battle on his hands to displace the duo when he returns to full fitness.
Replacing Hazard is a big ask and the attacking midfield department would have to chip in with attacking numbers. As evidenced by pre-season, the candidates are set for an interesting competition for places, a competition that would only benefit the squad