Chelsea are finding new, creative ways to make mistakes: Perfect.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Mason Mount of Chelsea scores his team's first goal 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: Mason Mount of Chelsea scores his team's first goal 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) /

Chelsea are making more mistakes and more kinds of mistakes in all states of the game than in previous years. Frank Lampard’s young squad – and the veterans, too – could scarcely ask for a better education.

Chelsea are far behind where they were this time last season. Exactly one year ago today, in fact, the Blues executed near textbook Sarriball against Newcastle, making 913 passes and turning the ball over only 10 times on 81% possession, going home winners thanks to an Eden Hazard penalty and a DeAndre Yedlin own goal. This past weekend, the Blues defeated Norwich City by a one-goal margin, committing 19 turnovers on 54% possession. Per WhoScored, in the first three games of this season, Chelsea have not committed fewer than 18 turnovers and have not had more than 54% possession. At this stage last season, they had not committed more than 15 turnovers and had not had less than 62% of the ball.

If it seems like Chelsea were always in transition over their first few games, it’s because they were. Each turnover set the Blues into a different stage in the game. Depending on where the turnover occurred and if N’Golo Kante was on the pitch, Chelsea would frequently take the ball right back, once again putting them from one transitional state into another.

Not only are Chelsea committing more turnovers while having the ball less, those turnovers are occurring in more places on the pitch and in more stages of the game.

These constant transitions and the amount of space they cover on the pitch were responsible for the entertaining back-and-forth play that is casting Chelsea in the unusual role of “neutrals’ favourite” this season, but also contributed to the second-half drop-off in the first two Premier League games and the UEFA Super Cup.

Despite having the full preseason denied to his predecessor, Frank Lampard has not taken Chelsea as far along as Maurizio Sarri had at the same point in the season. There are two reasons for this: Lampard’s development plan for the team is much broader and deeper than Sarri’s, and Lampard’s pedagogy is similarly long-term.

As we have recounted numerous times, Sarriball requires about six weeks to teach the players the necessary circuits. A few hours a day of repetitive positional drills and 7v0 full-pitch passing sequences over a month or two is enough to embed the circuits in professional players and stimulate professional bozos on Twitter. Chelsea mastered Sarriball so quickly because the system was strictly defined and the pedagogy was direct. What this method lacks in variation it makes up for in efficiency. As a result, the Blues were approaching their peak in late August, hit their peak after the international break in September and maintained that peak throughout the season.

Of course, in any endeavor – let alone one as competitive as sports and football – maintaining a peak means riding a plateau.

We don’t yet know what endstate Frank Lampard is working towards. However, we see how he is reaching it both in what we know about his training sessions and these early error-riddled games.

During preseason The Telegraph reported how little downtime players have in Lampard’s training sessions. Whereas Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri had frequent breaks to lecture the players and reset the play, Lampard opts for continuous scenario-based drills that flow one into the other. Rather than directing players where to go in training in preparation for specific transference to the game, Lampard’s training prepares players for the decisions they will face in the game. They operate in a limited, constrained environment to learn whatever it is Lampard wants them to learn in training, and then it is on them to recognize those situations and apply the decision-making and execution in the games.

This is how and why Chelsea are committing strange, almost creative errors this season, especially on the ball. In a given situation, they don’t “know” what to do because no one told them what to do. They have to figure it out. And for a club that has not had this system of training in about four years, has a handful of players with little to no first-tier experience, and no fall-back safety option (e.g., get it to Eden Hazard to create offence, or vouchsafe the ball with someone like Nemanja Matic to protect possession while everyone resets), there will be a lot of early mistakes.

More. Chelsea have their first run-in with VAR non-calls: Many more await. light

Chelsea’s learning curve this season will be the inverse of the number of errors and turnovers they commit (note to self: start compiling this data now). Lampard is giving the players room to learn by doing, which means learn by occasionally – if not frequently – failing.

For players at every stage of their career, this is invaluable. The young players will be ready for anything they will encounter in the years ahead, and the veterans are being challenged to draw on their experience, share it with their teammates but also work their way out of the comfort zone. This is what separates players who continue playing at the top level into their mid- to late-30s, and those who bail out for Arsenal at the first whiff of adversity.

The main job for Lampard and his staff, then, is ensuring the players learn from their mistakes, so they can avoid them in the future and move on to more advanced mistakes.

Next. Five lessons learned in win at Norwich City: Formation and trust take shape. dark

More advanced mistakes are only possible through more advanced play, which comes after the foundations are solidly in place. That’s the reward for these early season mistakes, and a worthy investment compared to having the side peak in less than two months.