The Warm Down: Blues
left red in the face by United
 (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Warm Down: Blues left red in the face by United

Frank Lampard’s competitive debut in the Chelsea dugout ended in a bruising defeat to Manchester United.

nathanielkay
Nathaniel Kay

Taking all the things into consideration, little expectation hung upon Frank Lampard’s maiden Premier League game in charge of Chelsea as they travelled to Old Trafford. However, the end result was certainly one he will aim to forget. A team still in transition, the Blues were, in the end, second best to a Manchester United side going through their own evolution.

Chelsea weren’t without their moments to reduce the 4-0 deficit, yet individual mistakes combined with an adjustment to a new system ultimately signalled their downfall. There are few harder tasks to tackle than against United at home and there’s no shame in Lampard’s first league loss, despite the heavy score-line. Undoubtedly, his exciting, energetic and youthful outfit will pick up points against lesser opposition; today was a harsh lesson which Lampard will likely use as an example for the rest of the term.

Sarriball no more

Progression under Lampard will inevitably arise from his talented set of players, yet it was always unlikely to be implemented on day one. Chelsea’s pitfall was their attempt at adapting to a new system, without much fruition.

Under Maurizio Sarri, ‘Sarriball’ was the order of play, dominating possession through an often-unattractive style of football. Lampard now demands a faster, counter attacking approach with less focus on dictating the game at all times. This made for an extremely open affair between the Blues and United, ultimately costing Chelsea three points.

After a bright opening, Marcus Rashford's penalty conversion knocked Chelsea's confidence for a period, before they admirably went in search for an equaliser. Ross Barkley was denied by David De Gea's feet before Emerson connected with the combination of cross bar and post to end the first half on a high. This reluctance to roll over would rarely have featured whilst Sarri strode up and down the touchline.

Unfortunately, the more Chelsea went searching for a goal, the more space opened up for United to punish their visitors in clinical fashion. All three of the second half goals came from a breakaway and to all his negative press, Sarri would never have let that happen; only twice did Chelsea conceded four or more during the entirety of 2018/19. 

18 shots, seven of those on target, proves that Lampard's men will find the back of the net - his pressing issue is how to sort out the deficiencies at the other end. 

Back problems

Which introduces our next point nicely; on occasion, Chelsea's defence were carved open and left looking rather amateur. 

Admittedly, this may not have been Lampard's first choice back four, as Antonio Rudiger is still to return from the treatment table. Therefore, the combination of Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma did not exactly strike fear into the heights of United's forwards. 

Zouma especially had a tough afternoon: it was the Frenchman's clumsy challenge that gifted Rashford's spot kick, he was shaky in possession and picked up a yellow card for a rash challenge from behind. 

Perhaps most surprising of all was the performance of captain and Mr Reliable, Cesar Azpilicueta. He was caught napping as Anthony Martial stole in front of him for the second and was the last man to keep Rashford onside for the third. There is argument that Azpilicueta should be moved into centre-back, a position he excelled in as part of three-man defence under Antonio Conte, giving Reece James a run out when he returns from injury. 

It was not only the defenders who suffered, those in front of them offering little in the way of protection. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic were far more concerned with playing forward, allowing United the freedom to attack at will. This is where N'Golo Kante was sorely missed, only featuring for the final 15 minutes as he recovers from a knee problem.

Forward thinking

His rear-guard may be leaky, but Lampard can take the positive that his attacking players could be a real threat on their day.

Mason Mount announced his first senior start for Chelsea in the league with an assured display that we were so used to witnessing at Derby County. As the campaign continues, so will Mount's development, alongside his connection with those around him.

Barkley slowly grew into his game after such a promising pre-season, only to be replaced by £58 million-man, Christian Pulisic. Although his cameo was brief, the American showed enough to suggest that he could spark into life at any moment. 

A longstanding question has been hanging over Chelsea's striker situation and Tammy Abraham did not have all the answers. Other than hitting the post four minutes into the match, the 21-year-old couldn't find his shooting boots and lost his personal battle with Harry Maguire too often.

The Blues' best outlet came in the form of their left-back, Emerson emerging down-field as frequently as possible, peppering De Gea with an array of fierce strikes. It's clear Lampard wants the width to be provided by his full backs, allowing his creative players to come inside and link together; Emerson has more flexibility than Marcos Alonso, so expect him to feature more often than his fellow Spaniard.

VAVEL Logo