Chelsea Tactics and Transfers: Progress. Slow, tedious, necessary progress

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea (L) looks on from the bench with his coaching staff during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea (L) looks on from the bench with his coaching staff during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
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Chelsea are making progress. They have improved in each of their outings and the team is going to get better in time.

Chelsea are lucky that, by and large, they have a relatively easy opening set of fixtures so they can stumble their way forward slowly and not have it effect the team too severely.

With due respect to Leicester, they are a more cohesive side at the moment than Chelsea. They have played together for several years and have made good additions to the team. They are a stable and progressive midtable side with their eyes on Europa League qualification this season. Brendan Rodgers has proven himself to be an excellent coach, so a 1-1 draw isn’t a terrible result for Frank Lampard or the team.

It can, of course, be frustrating watching Chelsea labor to such minimal results. They’re better than this and they’ll have to show it at some point. But it’s simply absurd to get to spun up about things now.

What the team mainly lacks is time together.

The defence still looks poor and like they lack any sort of bond. Kepa Arrizabalaga is taking more risks than he has any business doing, which suggests a lack of communication with his backline and an ability to coordinate them.

They are not the sort of cohesive unit a defence needs to be in order to succeed.

Emerson has continued to look excellent in recent weeks and Kurt Zouma has steadily improved since his first match. Andreas Christensen continues his growth from the world’s most talented glass-jawed defender into a real footballer. His evolution is going to be an important factor for Chelsea over the course of the season.

The worry is how poor Cesar Azpilicueta seems to have been in recent weeks. The usually steady defensive stalwart has been troubled by errors in communication and judgment.

He has unusually been a weak point in Chelsea’s backline. If he doesn’t begin to show marked improvement in the coming weeks the Blues will need to be careful, lest he start to be targeted by opponents.

He was so thoroughly out-jumped for Leicester’s goal in Sunday’s match. He must either communicate the man-marking responsibilities better moving forward and delegate them to either of the giants he has as centerback partners, or time his jumps and position his body better.

Another defensive genius, of which Azpilicueta is still one, who was perhaps slightly vertically challenged was Fabio Cannavaro.

The Italian centerback and Juventus legend was one of the best defenders of his time and not one shred larger than Azpilicueta. He learned how important it was important to his circumstances to succeed and benefit his team. That is something that generally Azpilicueta does well but he has not done in recent matches.

One can, at this point, continue to shrug it off as his not having gained midseason form yet. But he will need to show a positive change soon, especially with Reece James waiting in the wings.

The midfield actually seems marvelous. Moving Mason Mount back to play a little deeper seems to have been a perfect move by Frank Lampard and he was rewarded with a goal by Chelsea’s new favorite son.

N’Golo Kante and Jorginho are still working themselves into a cohesive relationship but that will come in time. It has been particularly nice to see Jorginho add some bite and fire to his game.

The attack is still a total worry, however. Christian Pulisic adds an inarguable spark and his creativity is perhaps the only real bright spot for Chelsea so far. He has a magnificent head on his shoulders and when he has more time with an attacking set of partners he’s going to be a devastating player.

The issue is Chelsea’a usual lack of a goal threat. Even the idea of a goal seemed foreign to Chelsea’s strikers on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud is still smart in his play and Tammy Abraham works very hard but they’re not there yet. Abraham seems almost too light for this level and is still having trouble getting all of his body parts moving in the same direction sometimes.

And one does wonder what Michy Batshuayi apparently has done to get himself out of favor with yet another Chelsea manager. On the current showings from the strike force, he may as well be out there.

Chelsea are improving but it is going to be a very difficult season. They’re one of the most talented teams in the division but it’s obviously a very talented league.

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Frank Lampard is going to have to learn who his players are and who he can trust to make a difference when he needs a result.

He and the team are moving in the right direction. I worry that many people thought this was going to be both a pleasant and quick process. If you do, that’s a lie you likely told yourself because you want things to be better than they are. Chelsea have been held together for years with spit, glue and fear.

Changing any of that is going to be difficult and we’re going to have to watch players we know and love be deemed not good enough.

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This Chelsea at this moment isn’t good enough but they’re on their way. In mid-August that’s all a reasonable person can really hope for.