Chelsea are improving their frontline with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech on the way but it’s the defence that will give Frank Lampard nightmares… he must sort the lack of leadership and goals conceded from set pieces if they are to battle for the Premier League
- Frank Lampard has impressed at Chelsea and has an extremely young squad
- Blues could challenge for the title next season but they have defensive issues
- They need a leader and are conceding way too many goals from set pieces
- West Ham defeat showed exactly what Lampard must address over the summer
Chelsea’s maiden season under the stewardship of Frank Lampard has been impressive to say the least, with the Blues on course for a Champions League spot.
While their attacking threat has been impressive, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham coming to the fore, the club’s defensive capabilities leave a lot to be desired.
As it stands Chelsea sit fourth, battling with Leicester for third spot while the likes of Manchester United and Wolves look to gatecrash the party from below.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea provided a defensive disasterclass against West Ham on Wednesday
Timo Werner is coming in to boost the Blues’ attacking threat but their defence still needs work
Wednesday night saw Lampard’s side lose ground on the sides around them with a 3-2 defeat at West Ham, courtesy of a whole host of defensive issues that desperately need sorting ahead of next season.
Chelsea’s wealth of young talent means they could feasibly close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City above them and challenge for the title in the coming seasons, but the Blues’ back-line needs some serious work.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the problems facing Lampard and what he needs to do to fix them…
Chelsea let in three goals against West Ham to squander their lead and lose ground on rivals
While the front-line did their bit for the team, all four defenders had nights to forget
West Ham woes
On paper, it all started so well for Chelsea against West Ham as Willian tucked home a penalty just before half-time. In reality, that spot-kick came between a comedy of defensive errors for the Blues.
Just before the opener, West Ham had a dubious goal of their own disallowed when Tomas Soucek beat Cesar Azpilicueta to the ball from a corner. The Spaniard got away with it the first time but just a few minutes later once again the West Ham man got the better of him to head home an equaliser.
While those defending the Blues captain might point to the height difference between the two players, when it had happened once it is criminal to allow it to occur again, especially with 6″3 Tammy Abraham the spare man on the post.
Later in the game, it was the other full-back’s turn to struggle as the Hammers netted a late winner. Marcos Alonso was attacking with Chelsea as they searched for a late winner themselves, and his speed to track back when the attack broke down was embarrassing.
Cesar Azpilicueta (second left) lost Tomas Soucek twice on corners and he scored the second
Antonio Rudiger showed Andriy Yarmolenko onto his stronger left foot to let him score winner
As Gary Neville stated on commentary, you ‘learn that at age six’, and his lack of awareness to chase down Andriy Yarmolenko and stop the break was unforgivable.
Instead, it was left to centre back Antonio Rudiger to defend the substitute, but he allowed him to turn on his stronger left foot and rifle home. Again, it showed a complete lack of awareness in the opposition’s ability, as though the German hadn’t done his research in the build-up to the match.
So, three down – how did the fourth defender Andreas Christensen get on? Arguably just as bad as the others. In fact, he drew specific criticism from pundit Ashley Cole on Sky Sports, with the ex-Chelsea man slamming his lack of awareness.
‘He’s got to recover and block that space,’ he said of the Danish centre back while watching the Hammers’ equaliser to make it 2-2. ‘He recovers too late, he doesn’t see where Antonio is and he’s ball-watching. You’ve got to be able to see the striker out the corner of your eye. He’s done nothing. He left so much space. He has to start realising the danger.’
So that’s four defenders, and a whole host of mistakes from each of them that resulted in a disastrous 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium.
Andreas Christensen (right) was nowhere to be seen when Michail Antonio slotted home
Marcos Alonso’s tracking back left plenty to be desired when Yarmolenko broke in injury time
Of course, a bad game against West Ham doesn’t necessarily equal a bad player, and Christensen for example was especially impressive against Manchester City last week. That said, many fans believe the current back four is far from strong.
Earlier in the season, a different centre back pairing of Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori was preferred, while Wednesday night saw Zouma stuck on the bench and Tomori still struggling for match fitness after an injury.
In terms of age, they certainly have youth on their side, with Rudiger the oldest of the four at just 27. Zouma is 25, Christensen 24, and Tomori just 22.
The talent is there, but Lampard does not appear to have a first-choice pairing and has chopped and changed across the season. Back in 2014-15, Gary Cahill played 36 times and John Terry all 38 as the Blues romped to the Premier League title.
The defence needs consistency and Lampard must find his strongest pairing and stick to it next season… whether it’s two of the four mentioned, or by improving his back-line in the transfer market.
Kurt Zouma (right) was preferred earlier in the season but he is now warming the bench
Fikayo Tomori (right) is another centre back option for Lampard but is currently sidelined
Worryingly, Chelsea are near the top of a fair few statistics detailing defensive frailties.
This season, only Norwich (11) have conceded more goals from corners than Chelsea’s nine. Only Norwich (17) and Aston Villa (15) have conceded more goals from crosses than Chelsea’s 10. A reminder that both of those sides look likely to be heading to the Championship come the end of July.
Chelsea are a side that have ambitions of challenging for the league title, yet in some statistics are sandwiched only by relegation fodder.
Some more, you ask? Only Aston Villa (11), Norwich (10) and Wolves (9) have conceded more headed goals than Chelsea’s eight this season.
Although the presence of another top-half team in this stat will be a welcome sight, they are of course nowhere to be seen near the top of the other lists.
Chelsea are present all-too-often in the lists of negative defensive stats, and Lampard will be well aware that he has to address those issues as a priority in the coming months.
The curious case of Kepa
When Kepa Arrizabalaga signed for Chelsea in a £71million deal back in 2018, plenty was expected from the Spaniard. After a controversial two seasons, his approval ratings are at an all-time low.
The last thing Lampard needs on top of his back-four woes is to have to sign a new goalkeeper, but reports recently have claimed that the Blues will be in the market for a new man when the window opens.
At 6″1, he is one of the smaller keepers in the Premier League and one of the negative traits held against him is his inability to command his area and come for crosses.
Against West Ham, Blues fans were furious after he looked extremely unconvincing for the Hammers’ first equaliser. As the cross comes in from the near side, Kepa sprints off his line, straight into a wall of bodies, before bouncing back towards his goal-line. It’s too little too late, though, and seconds later he is picking the ball out of the back of his net.
Plenty was expected of Kepa Arrizabalaga when he became the world’s most expensive keeper
Chelsea need a leader like John Terry (above)
As previously mentioned, Terry and Cahill formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Chelsea defence back in 2015-16, and one huge absence at the back now is the lack of a leader.
Both players marshalled the back-line, ensuring that everybody knew what they were doing, while Petr Cech behind them was no shrinking violet himself.
In the current Chelsea team, the captain is Azpilicueta. Although he has performed well on occasions this season, he brings far fewer qualities to the role than someone like Terry did just a few years ago.
Lampard needs an out-and-out leader in the centre of his defence, to pull the side together and ensure that they are water-tight.
In Christensen and Rudiger they don’t have it, and arguably Zouma and Tomori are also not ready to take the baton. Maybe JT could dig out his boots for one last hurrah?
Gary Cahill was brilliant for the Blues but he is now across London playing for Crystal Palace
Players they could buy
Given Chelsea’s talented young squad, and with Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner on their way in already this summer, they don’t need to spend a lot of money.
Their attacking threat is more than enough to challenge at the top of the league – but the back-line needs some tweaks to bring them level with some of their rivals.
Ben Chilwell is a potential target that has been spoken about for some time, and he would fill perfectly into the left back slot currently occupied by Marcos Alonso.
Declan Rice is another name being bandied about and he would be perfect for this Chelsea side. Reports have claimed that Lampard wants to turn him into a ball-playing centre back, and he would also bring the leadership qualities desperately needed in this side.
With those two signings to bolster the back-line, plus the additions of Ziyech and Werner in the summer, it would be easy to see Chelsea pushing Liverpool and Manchester City all the way at the top of the Premier League.
Declan Rice has been linked with a move to Chelsea; he captained West Ham on Wednesday
Ben Chilwell (right) could also boost the Blues’ defence by slotting in at left back next season
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