As Frank Lampard prepares his side to battle cross-town rivals West Ham, he’ll surely hope for an improved performance and result in comparison to the reverse fixture.
Chelsea were beaten 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in a performance that highlighted their inconsistencies.
Despite controlling 65% of possession and unleashing 19 shots at debutant goalkeeper David Martin, the Blues couldn’t find a breakthrough. The growing pains of the boss felt especially searing that day as Lampard failed to beat his boyhood club. It was the epitome of an up and down first season in charge of Chelsea for ‘Super Frank’.
However, Lampard seems to be finding his groove as a top-level manager, winning his last five on the trot. To prove his team have truly turned the corner, he’ll need a convincing victory at the London Stadium. Here are three things that Chelsea fans will wish to see from their team during the match.
Tammy to find his touch
After a hot start to the season, bagging 13 times, Tammy Abraham’s goals have completely dried up. The young Englishman hasn’t netted in the league since the beginning of January, forcing Lampard to experiment with other options.
It was France No. 9 Olivier Giroud who bagged in their first game back from the layoff vs. Villa. Meanwhile, Christian Pulisic seems to be finding his scoring mojo in a blue shirt, scoring in Chelsea’s last two league matches from the lefthand flank.
Abraham needs to do more to convince Lampard he can lead the line long-term, especially with the imminent arrival of German goal-machine Timo Werner.
Abraham’s size, speed, and striking ability hint at a complete striker in the ilk of Didier Drogba. But if he wants to remain on the team sheet, he’ll need to find the clinical edge and consistency demanded of a striker at a top six club.
What better team to break your duck against than West Ham, who’ve shipped the fourth most goals in the Premier league this season? A goal against the Hammers would go a long way to restoring Abraham’s confidence.
As he proved with a hat-trick against Wolves in August, a confident Tammy Abraham is not to be taken lightly.
A solid defensive display
Chelsea’s leaky and often rotated defence has cost them points in several games this season. The first encounter between these two teams was no different.
Just after halftime, Pablo Fornals played Aaron Cresswell in behind down the wing. The left-back cut inside on his right foot, leaving Chelsea’s young fullback Reece James for dead, and whipped the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga and into the far post.
It would be easy to simply point a finger at James for allowing Cresswell inside the box. However, poor reactions from the central defenders Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori, as well as questionable positioning from Kepa, point to systemic problems for Chelsea as a defensive unit.
Lampard will be expected to roll out an almost completely changed back four from the two teams’ previous encounter. Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso will likely take the place of James and Emerson as fullbacks. Meanwhile, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, assuming the latter passes a late fitness test, will fill the centre half roles.
If Lampard is to find consistency at the back and secure top four, he’ll need to cut out the lapses in concentration of his defenders. West Ham will surely look to play on the counter, so he’ll need his team to remain focused and snuff out danger when the Hammers win the ball back.
Mount to conquer his midfield mate
Mason Mount has been one of several breakthrough academy stars to flourish in the first team for Lampard this season. Though his performances have been a mixed bag at times, his manger’s support has never wavered.
Lampard and Mount were together last season at Derby County. It’s quite clear that he has high hopes for the twenty-one-year-old.
Speaking in the pre-match interview, Lampard defended his decision to sub Mount off at half-time of their F.A. cup fixture vs. Leicester, as well as praising him. “There was no problem with Mason..he had two big performances in a week”.
The former midfielder added, “I rely on Mason a lot…he brings so much to the team.”
Tomorrow, should Lampard choose to start him in midfield, he’ll be matched up against his former academy compatriot and good friend Declan Rice. Rice will surely have something to prove against the team who let him go as a teenager. Also, if the rumours are to be believed, he may be auditioning for a big money move back to the Bridge.
Rice’s physicality and defensive nous will make him a tough challenge for Chelsea’s midfield to bypass. Mount’s relentless energy and creative qualities on the ball will be key factors if Chelsea are to win the midfield battle, and ultimately, the match.