The season is now underway and for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea bow, it wasn’t the kind of result he would have wanted. A 4-0 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday afternoon now positions the Blues second from bottom of the league table, but we all know we shouldn’t judge the league standings until about ten games into the campaign.
Much of the Chelsea fans feeling disappointed with the result and performance, the scoreline didn’t flatter how Manchester United were as Chelsea were in control of the match for large periods. Lampard himself agreed that the opponent’s four goals came from four mistakes with a lack of concentration and game management not up to par.
For his first game in charge of Chelsea in the Premier League, he opted for his trusty 4-2-3-1 formation which he used throughout pre-season. He also stuck to his word where he promised to give youth a chance this season with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount given their first full debuts in the Chelsea XI.
The Chelsea head coach didn’t fault the first 60 minutes of his sides’ performance but reiterated the errors which led to the goals. He was quick to mention some of the injured players who are currently recovering from long-term injuries and said that they will help play a big part of the Chelsea squad this season.
When they return from injury, Lampard will have an abundance of choice in his squad and with these four returning from injury, there is no doubt that the Chelsea head coach wants them to make their return from injury sooner rather than later.
Injuries are not an ideal situation to have whilst you’ve just got your first taste of the Premier League, but Lampard knows that these four players’- once they are fully fit – will benefit his Chelsea side this season.
One position where Lampard has a lot of depth is the No 10 role. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley have been alternating that position during pre-season and both were the most impressive during Chelsea’s matches. Both have to step up until Loftus-Cheek makes his long-awaited return in the Chelsea side. The 23-year-old suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the friendly against New England Revolution, causing him to miss the Europa League final victory against London rivals Arsenal in Baku in May.
The England man is continuing his rehabilitation schedule and isn’t expected to return until late November. Having recently signed a new long-term contract at the club, Loftus-Cheek is seen as the focal point in Lampard’s 4-2-3-1 formation, which means that Mount and Barkley must bring their fine pre-season form into this campaign. If they are unable to do so, Lampard will want to have Loftus-Cheek in his team now as he already knows he is the main player in that position… once he is fit.
The 18-year-old is seen as the heir to recently departed Eden Hazard. When the Chelsea youngster has played for Chelsea, he shows his attacking prowess, his ability to take players’ on, and he has the end product to find his fellow attackers on the pitch.
The Blues youngster made an impact under Maurizio Sarri last season but with one year remaining on his contract, Bayern Munich have pushed hard to acquire the England international during the summer.
Lampard insists the 18-year-old is progressing well from the serious injury suffered against Burnley with the likelihood of an earlier-than-expected return, which will please Lampard as well as the majority of the Chelsea fans.
Once he is fully fit, it is likely the Chelsea head coach will utilise Hudson-Odois abilities by playing him on the left in his favoured 4-2-3-1. An attacking trio of Pulisic (20), Loftus-Cheek (23), and Hudson-Odoi (18) is something Lampard is looking to use when he has them fully fit and at his disposal.
The one player that Lampard will easily slot into his starting XI, following the sloppy defensive mistakes made in Chelsea’s opener at Old Trafford. Kurt Zouma from the kick-off didn’t look at all the player he was on loan at Everton where he thrived. It seems Chelsea lacked the leadership in the back four on Sunday, and with David Luiz moving on to London rivals Arsenal, Lampard needs Rudiger in the heart of his defence a lot sooner than expected.
The German international offers the experience and leadership qualities that Chelsea need right now. From watching him last season, it seems the Chelsea fans appreciate Rudiger a great deal because of the heart and desire he shows in every match that he plays.
The former Roma centre-half has stepped up his training regime at the club’s Cobham HQ, but is understandably keen to make sure his injured knee is ready which he then can make his return to the Chelsea XI.
However, it seems that Lampard is keeping an even closer eye on Rudiger’s pending return following Sunday’s heavy 4-0 loss at Old Trafford.
Before the start of the season, Lampard privately stressed to Rudiger during talks at the club’s training ground about how important he viewed the defender to his plans.
The Blues boss is understandably eager to have his key man available as soon as possible and sees Rudiger partnering either Kurt Zouma or Andreas Christensen for the duration of the campaign.
Another player who will be licking his lips about the forthcoming season and his may see his chances of playing time increasing is Reece James. He is currently out injured with a broken ankle whilst he was on England duty. Frank Lampard claimed that injured right-back Reece James will be a ‘big player’ for Chelsea following the 4-0 defeat against Manchester United on Sunday.
James, 19, returned to Stamford Bridge this summer following a hugely productive loan spell at Wigan Athletic in the Championship where he won two Player of the Year awards. He only missed one match out of 46 in the championship and helped Wigan remain in the division.
It seems that Lampard will use James a lot this season as he is seen as the long-term replacement to the current Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta. It seemed that the Spain international was at fault for two of the Manchester United goals and he endured a difficult afternoon when it came to the attacking phase of the game.
Although James seems to be an established defender, his attacking qualities seem to go unmentioned as he provides the strikers with excellent crossers and has an eye for a shot at goal. This is something Chelsea fans can agree on that not many Chelsea players’ utilise enough.
Once fully fit, James will be given game time straight away in Lampard’s side. I believe if he is given the chances in the team, he will push Azpilicueta out of the team. But, the Chelsea captain has played in other positions in recent years and has shown he can play Left-back and even as a Centre-half.
Following the disappointing result against a rival it seems for a Champions League place, Lampard will have to look at his Chelsea XI and see where it went wrong. Obviously, we can’t judge how the season will fare after one game, but with the Chelsea players’ who are returning soon, a fully fit Chelsea squad will help Lampard in the first few months in the Premier League.
Other players’ who are nearing fitness are N’Golo Kante and Willian – who recently returned from the Copa America with Brazil. Willian will always make any Chelsea squad better, but now the Brazilian is over 30, as Chelsea fans we hope that he doesn’t halter Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic’s development. Kante is already back in the Chelsea side and even if he isn’t fully fit, a half-fit Kante is enough to play in Lampard’s team because he is the most influential now that Hazard has departed.
The XI that started against Manchester United in Chelsea’s opener will look a lot different when the players’ mentioned are back from injury.
4-2-3-1 (Chelsea v Manchester United)
Kepa, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Emerson, Jorginho, Kovacic, Pedro, Mount, Barkley, Abraham
4-2-3-1 (Chelsea team with players’ returning)
Kepa, James, Rudiger, Christensen, Emerson, Jorginho, Kante, Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham