2. Don’t reinvent the wheel, even if it means shutting up in the workshop
In recent weeks as training time has increased and form has continued to decrease, Chelsea has attempted new things to get out of the slump. Nearly universally, these ideas have failed. Flirtations with the 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 have only left Chelsea’s midfield an open wound to add salt to. An increased focus on playing through the center has been nice, but out wide the lack of ideas is still readily apparent.
The 4-3-3 with dual eights worked during the winning run, albeit under a very particular set of circumstances with a very select group of players. 4-3-3 added more control to matches for the Blues at the expense of attacking spark. The Blues didn’t have to pay for that lack of spark until Hakim Ziyech went down injured and since then there have almost been too many changes to find what is missing.
When a new manager comes into a club, they almost always revert back to the basics. Lampard has rightly mentioned that as an issue in recent weeks and claims to have refocused training towards that, but the Blues look as though they still don’t know what they are doing. Everything feels forced, as it will tend to do during down periods, but it is still all a bit too complicated for some players.
Whatever has been going on in training, Lampard needs to bring it down even further. Very basic patterns of play need to be done on repeat until they are muscle memory. That will go against Lampard’s trust in his players’ decision making, but right now circuits a la Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri might be the way out of the hole.
Once the foundation is built, then Lampard can leave it up to the players what to do. But without the very basic structure behind it, the players will continue to struggle to make correct decisions while out of form.
And if that means Chelsea needs to stop the pretense of a press and possession play, so be it. One thing that was assumed about Lampard when he joined was that he would recognize the need to drop deep and aim to counter. He does this against some teams but not enough (albeit, some teams will never come out if Chelsea doesn’t either). If the Blues need to pull back their lines and pull back their press and look for counters like Jose Mourinho’s last Chelsea title winning side, so be it. The Blues simply aren’t in a place where they can afford aesthetic over results.