Has Lampard's defensive woes followed from Derby to Chelsea?
Background photo: Brian Minkoff, CC-BY-SA 3.0
Frank Lampard is making a strong statement with his Chelsea academy graduates. All six Premier League goals for the Blues this season have come from former loanees. Tammy Abraham, four, and Mason Mount, two, are laying down an early marker.
While Chelsea's attack is exhilarating, the side's defence inspires little confidence. To simply put it, Lampard's men are vulnerable at the back. The stats agree. They're yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign.
Given only four games in, mistakes can be forgiven. However, Chelsea’s poor defence resembles a worrying trend which plagued Derby County last season. Lampard's Rams mustered only 11 Championship shut outs in 46 matches. They allowed 54 goals. Five teams conceded fewer.
Derby's sixth-place finish was largely due to their ability to score. They netted 69 times during the campaign, outscoring fellow play-off chasers Middlesbrough (49), Bristol City (59) and Nottingham Forest (61). The Rams, however, had a worst defence than two those teams, conceding 13 more goals than seventh-placed Boro.
Derby deservedly made it to the playoffs, but that's where their defensive frailties came to the fore. Despite totalling five goals in the three matches against Leeds United and Aston Villa, they were ultimately thwarted by the porosity in their rearguard.
While Derby rued another near miss, Lampard jumped ship to the Premier League. Apparently, his philosophy hasn’t morphed accordingly. Chelsea play attacking football, try to maintain shape, but eventually collapse under intense pressure.
The Blues' goal difference reads minus three. They have picked the ball from their net nine times already. It's a scary figure given they’ve faced only one big-six side in those four games.
But hey! Least we got Frankie at the wheel and the kids on the bus https://t.co/NaHK78BC6q
Every manager wants to stamp authority on his team. Lampard is no different. The 40-year-old was greeted at Stamford Bridge by two defenders who were former teammates. One a hothead, the other a diehard loyalist. The hothead was shown the door to avoid any disruptions. David Luiz' departure to Arsenal meant Fikayo Tomori would finally get an opportunity in Chelsea's first team.
Is it a coincidence Tomori appeared 45 times for Derby last season? Not much has changed for the 21-year-old since - same manager, good football, lacklustre defending.
Kurt Zouma has been disappointing, too. The Frenchman’s mistakes are becoming all too glaring. He crowned his gaffes with an own goal against Sheffield United on Saturday. So far he's failing to reproduce form shown at Everton last season.
Andreas Christensen isn’t doing any better. It explains why the Dane was dropped for Tomori against Sheffield United.
Ostensibly, Lampard is still figuring out his first-choice centre-back pairing. As things stand, Antonio Rudiger will likely walk right into the starting lineup once he's fully fit.
The centre-backs aren’t solely to blame for Chelsea’s obvious weakness. The fullbacks are also culpable. Emerson Palmieri and Cesar Azpilicueta often leave their team exposed when making attacking forays. This was identical with Derby's Jayden Bogle and Scott Malone last campaign.
Although fullbacks are expected to attack as often as possible nowadays, their attacking adventures can easily be exploited. To make it pay off, Lampard needs his defensive midfielders to work a little harder.
It’s crippling Chelsea can’t reinforce defence due to their transfer ban. Regardless, the Blues' current defenders can perform better then what they are. A clear strategy is required, one which focuses on protecting leads and closing out matches.
With tougher opposition still to come, Lampard must realize he has serious work to do on his defence than anywhere else. In football, a dream job can quickly turn into a nightmare if not properly managed.