After over 100 days without Premier League football, Sunday afternoon finally saw the return of Chelsea at Villa Park against Aston Villa.
Once Frank Lampard’s side went 1-0 down in the first after, even with much of the possession, many fans were fearing the worst.
With the introduction of the five substitutions to deal with player fitness and the quick turnaround in games, Lampard and Chelsea were always in favour of the decision to add two extra subs off the bench. Yesterday afternoon was clear why the Blues were for the decision.
Chelsea were lacking the instinctive innovative throughout the first 50 minutes, before the introduction of Christian Pulisic and Ross Barkley certainly turned the game around in the favour of the west London side.
The American winger added the first goal, with Barkley being involved in the build-up for the second. Due to the new rule changes, the introduction of five players off the bench made it easier for Lampard to switch his tactics so early in the second half, which was before the hour mark.
'Great character and quality'
Lampard addressed the applaudable second half performance in his post-match press conference, saying: “We showed great character and quality in the second half to win the game, so I'm pleased.
"I thought we moved the ball well for most of the game and dominated possession clearly.
"It has been a little story of some of our games this season – we dominate but we need to be more clinical. I can give the players some leeway for that today because we have a had a long time off.”
The fact that Chelsea were behind at the break was a huge shock to everyone due to the dominant performance from the away side in black and orange, it changed the whole complexion of the half time team talk.
“It was frustrating to be behind at the break but when you talk to the players it has to be about solutions rather than frustration.
"We had to make sure we kept moving the ball as quickly as we could, kept attacking down the sides like we did and not get bored of doing good things that were going to give Villa problems.
"We kept doing this and the more you do it, you get the feeling you will eventually get the breakthrough. The players had to believe, and they did. We deserved to win the game because we had so much of the ball. If we could be more clinical, it makes it an easier afternoon.”
Lampard spoilt for choice
The head coach admitted that Pulisic and Barkley could have started the game after training well.
“The individuals who make the difference should always take all the credit so with Christian and Ross, who came on at the same time, they are both players who could’ve started.
"I had some suitable choice problems and you must consider the type of game. We knew that fitness would play a part so the idea of bringing the two on early in the second half was always something that was in my mind dependant on how the game went.
"The way it was going, we needed inspiration and Christian gave us this with the goal. I thought Ross did well too. I keep saying to the players how important subs could be in this period and they showed it.”
Leading by example
Despite the impact off the bench during the second half, it must not go unnoticed how Cesar Azpilicueta played and his influence on both goals.
“I thought Azpi was really good", Frank said. “Obviously, he delivers the ball for Christians goal and got really high up in the areas. We worked a lot before the game on how we wanted to attack and down the right-hand side was certainly an area to exploit.
"Willian, Mason Mount when we moved to that side and Azpi with his energy to keep joining was a huge point of attack for us and eventually we got the breakthrough. He [Azpi] showed his leadership and his quality.”
Finally back in action
In addition to the big three points after a long time out, Ruben Loftus-Cheek also returned to the side after a year out with injury.
“I’m delighted for Ruben to be back in the fold. He has got in the team on his own merit and for the way he has worked for a long time now. In the last few weeks, he is looked good and strong.
"We must give him some time to adapt but I felt it was a good game for him to bring physicality and something different.
He is going to get much better. It has been a long time since he last played but he has so much to give a team and a squad. There were glimpses of it today but there is much more to come.”