Lampard’s Chelsea men partake in a London derby on Wednesday, with one week of football under their belt the Blues are eyeing a fourth consecutive win.
The clash with West Ham has plenty of intriguing narratives surrounding it and here are the things to look out for:
After coming out victorious from a tough week, Chelsea’s next three games are easiest on paper. West Ham and Watford are locked in the relegation struggle while Crystal Palace has been mediocre at best this year. While no fixture must be taken lightly, Lampard must seize the opportunity to rotate his players as much as possible.
Kante, Rudiger, Willian, Pulisic, Azpilicueta and Mount have taken part in all three games so far and the effects have begun to show. Mount and Kante were part of the midfield that was overrun by Leicester City and their fatigue was on display. Pulisic, while bright, came off with a minor injury, signaling that players are yet to reach optimum fitness levels after the long break.
The players he did rotatewere all in defence, where the entire backline bar Rudiger was changed. While Zouma put on a fine display, Emerson and James were ripped apart and the latter had to be subbed off.
With the club experiencing the most hectic schedule in its history, Lampard has his work cut out to develop an effective system of rotation. The next few games allow him to do just that, starting with West Ham on Wednesday.
2. Concentration and attitude
There is a worrying trend that has been consistent in the last few years at the club, stretching back to Jose Mourinho’s second stint. Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and now Lampard have all watched their teams beat the best teams in the country—be it Spurs, City or Liverpool—and then go on to struggle against opponents of a lower profile.
This trend was on display again against Leicester on Sunday. Having earned rave reviews from their manager and the rest of the footballing world for the win against City, the Blues seemingly took their foot off the pedal against the Foxes. In a first-half display labelled as the worst of the season by Lampard, Chelsea was lucky to have not conceded.
The players were extremely casual on and off the ball and Lampard subsequently gave them a ruthless hairdresser to get their heads in the game. The players need not be reminded of what is expected of them every time they step on the pitch and it will be interesting to see the attitude they display against West Ham. With Lampard slowly hinting at a take-no-prisoners approach, it could be a definitive factor in their futures at the club.
3. Lampard’s in-game management
After an abysmal first half, Lampard made a triple substitution at half time against Leicester on Sunday—and it was a stroke of genius. Every player he brought on was vital to the victory; Ross Barkley scored the goal, Mateo Kovacic controlled the midfield and Cesar Azpilicueta made game-winning blocks.
Lampard’s made a habit of this as of late, with Tammy Abraham winning the penalty that led to winning goal against Man City and Pulisic changing the game against Villa. The Englishman has analysed the game to perfection and brought on players that have turned the tide in Chelsea’s favour.
Games against the likes of West Ham seem too easy on paper, but can be deceptively tricky. It will be interesting to see how Lampard avoids potential disaster or reacts when disaster strikes.
4. Man-management of Gilmour and James
In the process of making the game-changing triple substitution, Lampard hauled off the trio of youngsters in Gilmour, James and Mount in quite a ruthless move. While Mount’s substitution can be pinned down to fatigue, James and Gilmour were simply underperforming.
While being taken off at halftime is always demoralizing, Lampard’s “not good enough for the badge” hairdresser at halftime might have aggravated the psychological impact on the young duo. Lampard, however, went on to publicly state his belief in the youngsters after the game, which is in reminiscence of the best man-managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola, who would rip their players privately and back them in the media.
Lampard has proved with his handling of Pulisic, Alonso, Giroud and Arrizabalaga that he knows how to get the best out of his players, even if that requires showing them some tough love. It will be interesting to see how manages the relatively inexperienced Gilmour and James, especially when their involvement will be necessary to survive this jam-packed schedule.
5. Jorginho’s involvement—or the lack of
Chelsea’s on a bit of a roll as of late, winning five games on the trot which has included beating the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Leicester. It’s been one of the best runs of games under Lampard and has involved just one consistent element; zero minutes for Jorginho.
While the first three games had the Italian suspended, the matches against the Citizens and the Foxes were two of the most important ones this season, which Jorginho was available for. Lampard, however, has not afforded the Italian even a measly substitute appearance in favour of adapting Kante to a new role at the base of the midfield. Even Gilmour’s development has been favoured to returning Jorginho to the fold.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see whether Lampard utilises Jorginho against West Ham, a game in which he expected to rotate his team. If the Italian is continually given the cold shoulder in the foreseeable future, it could signal the exit of the highly divisive midfielder. A Sarri-Jorginho reunion, perhaps?
6. Declan Rice scouting mission
Just as the club did with Ben Chilwell on Sunday, Chelsea will get a closer look at a potential summer transfer target in Declan Rice on Wednesday. The former Chelsea youth player has been impressive for West Ham the last couple of years, arguably being their best player and a leader on the pitch.
While he may be highly regarded by the likes of Jody Morris, where Rice fits positionally in this Chelsea squad is the definitive parameter for this potential transfer. While he started out as a centreback, Rice has transitioned to a defensive midfielder and mustered his best performances from the position.
Chelsea has the particular need for a top centreback, not the need to add another player to an already congested midfield. With West Ham potentially going down, Rice could be available for a realistic price than the rumoured—and ridiculous—£70 million. His purchase hinges on his ability to marshal a defence rather than command the midfield and those aspects of his game will be closely monitored on Wednesday.
7. The last east/west London Derby?
There have been a plethora of London derbies in recent years due to as many as five London clubs consistently playing in the Premier League. The sheer magnitude of these derbies damages their aura, subsequently making them less exciting than the Merseyside and Manchester derbies.
But with West Ham in the danger of being relegated, could this be the last time we see the micro-geographical east/west London Derby for a while?
The matchup itself has rarely excited the fans and Hazard’s wonder goal from last season might be the derby’s only remarkable moment in recent memory. The game probably means the most to the man at the helm, Frank Lampard, whose legendary football journey began at West Ham.
If this does end up being the derby’s last installment for the foreseeable future, let’s hope it is an unusually entertaining spectacle. A boring Chelsea domination will do too.
What are you looking out for on Wednesday? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!