After an embarrassing opening day demolishing at the hands of Manchester United on Sunday afternoon you might have feared the worst for Chelsea in having to travel all the way to Istanbul for a tough looking Wednesday night match in +30 degree heat to play in the final of the UEFA European Super Cup against a Liverpool team that had two days more rest than them and were still bouncing after their own opening day win over Norwich.
In truth during the early stages of last night’s game it was the reigning European Champions Liverpool who looked more rusty with both sides often sloppy in possession as they came to grips with the velocity and style in which they should partake for the majority of the match. Initially not knowing to stick or twist, to play at friendly pace or cup tie levels, It might not have been full throttle but the cagey opening cleared and in a cracking match it was Chelsea who got the better of the early round sparring and indeed the later stages as they went toe to toe with their rivals for a tough 120 minutes of football.
Lampard went back to basics with a 4-3-3 very similar to that of the Liverpool way and replaced youngsters Mount & Abraham from Sundays defeat with experienced World Cup winners Kante & Giroud whilst Pulisic replaced Barkley to give more guile and fluidity for Chelsea going forward.
N’golo Kante was exceptional, covering every blade of grass and alongside Jorginho and Kovacic in midfield provided an extra defensive shield whilst often being at the forefront of forming every Blues attack. If Chelsea are to be a success this season their midfield (or Kante) is key and in three relatively defensive minded players it offers more coverage to a frail looking defence that is still learning about each other’s attributes.
No doubt in two games so far the Chelsea back four breached six times is something that needs looking at by Lampard and co whilst Kurt Zouma has his doubters he is no doubt powerful, Andreas Christensen is hotly rated but in only playing 8 times in the Premier League under Sarri last season he needs time himself to get back up to speed. If Zouma can fill the void prior to the return of Antonio Rudiger defensively I see no long term issues with Azpilicueta steady at right back and Emerson likely to get the nod over Alonso at left back also more than competent for a top six side.
So that leaves the attack. Eden Hazard is now a thing of the past having moved to Real Madrid but new boy Christian Pulisic looked every bit a player that could go on to achieve similar status to Hazard picking up the ball and running at players unleashing shots from the edge of the box. Giroud, a traditional number nine that needs to play, was first to net and gave Chelsea a half time lead in Turkey and if playing between the lines week in week out he could be a key target man as the likes of Pulisic and Pedro (who was also terrific last night) run off him and interchange in behind.
The key for Lampard is sticking to the game plan and sticking to 4-3-3 and trusting his more experienced players to ensure that they stay competitive at the top. Swaying away from this and Chelsea might struggle.
In the youngsters they have an incredible talent in Mason Mount who will get plenty of game time this year, they have Fikayo Tomori who could come good for defensive cover in time, they also have Tammy Abraham who might have scored the winner last night, but has a long way to go if he’s to fulfill his potential and can learn a lot from Giroud in how to back into defenders.
On the injury list they have Willian, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi all still to come back which could add much needed fire power going into the second half of the year.
One thing is for sure Chelsea, who eventually lost on penalties after a commendable 2-2 draw last night against a much fancied Liverpool, after giving a more than good account of themselves in Istanbul, is that Frank Lampard has his players playing for him. If that continues (and sometimes in football it doesn’t sadly) then Frank and Chelsea will get it right and it might not be as gloomy looking going forward as what Sunday in 4-0 defeat might have suggested it could be?