The New Blues: How Lampard Is Reshaping Chelsea for the 20-21 Season
After a monster transfer market window this summer, Chelsea have been getting contrasting results from the first games of the season. Here’s our analysis of Frank Lampard’s team made by using Wyscout tools for match analysis.
Although Frank Lampard’s Chelsea haven’t hit the heights many expected them to yet this season following a massive summer of spending, there have still been some positive signs.
Bringing in Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech, who was actually signed earlier in the year, plus Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr on free transfers, they’ve done some fantastic business to bolster their squad. But with too many mistakes accompanying their defensive and goalkeeping issues, Lampard still has work to do to get his team firing on all cylinders.
Importantly, though, much upside has been found in their offensive mechanics, as their weapons upfront have shown some encouraging signs that they’re understanding is improving with every passing week.
With Lampard’s Blues being a team that’s keen to dominate possession and impose themselves on their foes, it’s been riveting to see how the likes of Havertz and Werner have fitted into his framework. Usually deploying a base 4-2-3-1, the two Germans have coalesced nicely with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi. With Havertz usually as the number 10 and Werner nominally starting on the left-wing, their presence has given Chelsea another dimension going forward.
No matter the combination of players Lampard has selected, Chelsea’s front four have been a real handful with their complementary movement a key foundation towards their impact. To start with their use of rotations, and these have ensured backlines have struggled settling into a rhythm, for Chelsea persistently interchange roles across the frontline.
Take their matches against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace for example, and it was common to see the wingers switch flanks, the 10 swaps out wide or to play as a striker and the striker rotate to the wing. Doing so with such fluidity has not only opened passing lanes but regularly drawn defenders out of shape and caused dilemmas on who they should be marking in their designated area of operation.
Chelsea have expertly taken advantage of the disconnects in opposition rearguards, which has also been amplified by their sharp opposite movements, where one player will drop short while the other bursts in behind.
Making the most of any confusion, they’ve subsequently created and exploited openings in between the lines, in the half-spaces, out wide, in behind or inside the box.
Courtesy of these rotations, defenders haven’t found it straightforward to get touch tight, thus allowing Chelsea’s attackers to gain valuable separation from markers, something that’s been especially beneficial prior to them embarking on runs in behind or into the box.
Some neat interactions between winger and fullback have occurred to add some extra variety. With at least one winger often drifting inside to combine with the other attackers centrally, the fullbacks are afforded spaces out wide to motor into. From here, they can subsequently draw a tracker or dribble upfield before firing in a cross or a cutback while notably supplying width and depth to attacks to stretch the opposition horizontally and vertically.
If the winger hugs the touchline so they can be isolated vs. their opponent, this serves as the cue for the fullback to get upfield on diagonal underlapping bursts. This has proved a good strategy to surprise defenses by catching them off guard, with the fullbacks able to draw markers or pop up inside the box unmarked. Watching Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso perform these actions with quality timing and directing definitely showcases how vital Chelsea’s fullbacks are.
The way Chelsea populate the area with numbers inside the area has been another plus, for this has given the ball holder many options at different heights and depths to aim at. Cleverly coordinating their runs has duly posed dilemmas for defenders, with runners usually attacking a combination of the far post, back post, centrally and one peeling off to the edge of the box giving them a top presence here. Manufacturing overloads or numerical parity on many occasions, opponents are afforded minimal room for error in their decision making. The fact they have some impressive headers of the ball in the form of Abraham, Havertz and Olivier Giroud enhances their threat from crossing situations.
Smart vertical and diagonal runs in behind have been an integral element too, with the likes of Werner, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Havertz and N’Golo Kante, who’s excellent at penetrative runs from deep, getting on their bike when their teammate is in position to launch a long ball into their path.
Switching their focus to their build-up, and they have been keen to split the central defenders to stretch the first line of pressure to make room for the holding midfielder to drop in between them to create an overload to aid their progression attempts. Not only has this ensured Jorginho and his central defenders have extra time to assess their options, but it’s allowed a Chelsea man to dribble upfield into the open spaces, where they hope to provoke a press to then find a free man ahead.
When just constructing with two center-backs, the two holding midfielders will often form a 2-2 box shape to connect play and lure out opposition mids. In doing so, this can successfully draw enemies to both open passing lanes into the attackers or create room to find an open teammate.
Furthermore, in wider areas, Chelsea have shrewdly formed triangles and diamonds while creating overloads, which has helped them beat the press in these zones. Using a mixture of the nearby fullback, central midfielder, center-half, attacking midfielder and winger, the image below shows how well this can work.
What’s more, by overloading one side, this consequently draws over the opposition block, thus leaving the far side open so Chelsea can isolate their winger or fullback following a switch of play.
On the occasions where they haven’t been able to beat the press, going long has been a viable option due to the aforementioned aerial targets they possess. They can then populate the area around the target to win the second balls high up to immediately spring forward.
Upon observing their offensive numbers, and they rank first in the EPL for passes per minute of possession (17.5), second for most total passes (2383), equal second for progressive passes (314), third for progressive runs (78), fifth for passes into the final third (241) and sixth for shots (51), with this demonstrating their attacking force.
Having conceded eight goals from their four Premier League games, many of which have been avoidable, with some sloppy errors costing them dearly, Chelsea’s defense is still a work in progress. With Lampard still yet to completely settle on his first choice back four, it’ll be expected once he does that Chelsea will improve in this regard. Although it must be said their Expected Goals against of 1.19 per game is being outdone by their actual conceded goals of 1.50 pg, which illustrates how their mistakes have hurt them.
While pushing so many numbers high can leave them exposed in transition and they need to deal better with set pieces, some upside has come from their intense counter-pressing after they turn over the ball. Quick to react and harry their nearby markers and the ball holder, adversaries have been forced into turnovers, allowing Chelsea to win back possession high to launch attacks rapidly vs. unset backlines.
Considering they kept a clean sheet and looked far more secure in their last clash against Crystal Palace with towering new keeper Mendy in goal and Chilwell making debuts in a backline that also consisted of Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma and Azpilicueta, things might be looking up for them. Indeed, tracking their progress defensively will be intriguing, for once their new look rearguard gels, they have all the ingredients to become a formidable unit.
Possessing a collection of wonderfully talented players in all areas of the pitch, it’ll be fascinating to see how they fare in the future under Lampard’s tutelage. With so much excitement surrounding their attacking options and mechanics to break teams down, if they can supplement this with some solidity at the back, then the sky could be the limit for the Blues.