He’s sure to get a rousing reception from the home crowd, and after a difficult opening match away at Manchester United last weekend there were promising signs in Wednesday’s UEFA super cup match against Liverpool.
Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 shape at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season, we used the ball well but looked exposed defensively, particularly on the break. A high press had obviously been worked on in training, but the execution wasn’t perfect. On occasions we were left with players out of position as Manchester United played around the press. Wan Bissaka was often found in space down our left as Barkley had to tuck in from his left midfield position to cover the press of Mount further forward, and too many players seemed to press at once, leaving us stretched behind. This was combined with the back four playing high as we moved up the pitch. This left us susceptible to balls in behind when the home team beat the press when playing out from the back. In transition when we lost possession we were vulnerable wide with our full backs high up the pitch. Combining these frailties with mistakes when playing out from the back and in midfield resulted in a heavy defeat. The score line didn’t tell the whole story though. Plenty of chances were created which was a positive, as was the manor in which we used the ball in the opposition half. This would be carried through to Wednesday’s match.
Despite a penalty shootout defeat in Istanbul, great credit must be given to Lampard and his coaching staff, as well as the players on the pitch for the reaction shown in this match. It was a performance that gave hope for the future in what is most certainly a transitional phase for the club. Firstly it was fantastic to see that the issues from the opening match had been addressed. With such a short turnaround between the two matches it was commendable to see how much the team had improved. The change in shape to a 4-3-3 system shows adaptability from the manager. The issues with the press had all but been eradicated in only 3 days. Without the ball we were generally better everywhere. There was a better understanding of who needed to press and at what time, that was backed up by those behind being better drilled on the positions they needed to be in when this was executed. It seemed that the three-man midfield set-up in 4-3-3 was better suited to this. The positioning of the defensive line had also been improved, and the only team that looked like getting caught in behind was Liverpool. The style of football Lampard would like to implement in possession has also become clearer in these two matches, with some fantastic interchanges linking the midfield with the wingers and centre forward. The tempo at which the ball was moved was the biggest take away here. When these moves come together they will be hard to defend against if chances can be taken in the final third.
Moving onto this weekends match, although big improvements were seen against Liverpool, it is still early days and enthusiasm needs to be kept in check. After going to extra time and penalties midweek, rotation will be necessary. For instance it is unlikely Kante will feature after playing 120 minutes in his first match back after injury. Also there are question marks over Christensen’s fitness after he was subbed late in the super cup. This would leave a likely centre back pairing of Zouma and Tomori, although Rudiger is reported to be in contention, but realistically is not likely to start. From a tactical standpoint it will be interesting to see whether Lampard sticks with 4-3-3 after Wednesday’s better performance, or if he feels 4-2-3-1 will better suite the players selected. Maybe he has another formation up his sleeve? The front three were particularly impressive in Istanbul, but again due to the match going to extra time it may be necessary to freshen things up. This is also another extremely tough fixture, with Leicester having finished strongly last season under Brendan Rodgers, and making a solid start last weekend in the home draw with Wolves. A match in which the foxes enjoyed seventy percent of the ball. Yes they have lost Maguire to Manchester United, but they are an extremely well organised outfit defensively and completely outplayed us at Stamford Bridge last season when taking all three points. Defensively they were superb that day, particularly in midfield, whilst Perreira and Chilwell are up there as one of the best full back pairings in the league. Both caused us problems when attacking last season, but are equally adept defensively. Rodgers has quietly assembled a strong squad that don’t have European distractions, and have already adapted to the manager’s style from his time in charge at the back end of last season.
The statistics do lie in favour of the home team though. Leicester have only won in the league at Stamford Bridge on five occasions, while Chelsea have taken maximum points at home to Leicester thirty three-times. We have only lost one out of our last twenty-two home league matches; you’ve guessed it, that was this corresponding match last season. Visiting manager and former Chelsea youth coach Brendan Rodgers has never beaten Chelsea in twelve attempts.
Whatever Sunday’s result, remember this is hopefully a long-term plan, and under difficult circumstances this season expectations need to be adjusted. Let’s hope we can build on the positives of Wednesday’s match as the team continue improve under the new manager.