Chelsea have completed a torrid few days for Liverpool as goals from Willian and Ross Barkley sealed a 2-0 victory to send them through to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Having completed the first of their two-window transfer ban, Chelsea have begun their 2019-20 campaign under Frank Lampard with a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford on their opening day in the Premier League.
They followed this up with a narrow 5-4 defeat on penalties following a 2-2 draw with Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.
Many opposition fans have been quick to gloat over Chelsea’s turbulent beginning but perhaps it will be the Blues that have the last laugh.
Across both of their first games, Chelsea fielded starting line-ups that are undoubtedly far from full strength, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Antonio Rudiger and Reece James all still yet to return from injury, while N’Golo Kante returned as a starter only for the match in Istanbul.
Putting the results aside, the football Chelsea have so far played has been largely impressive. In the United game, Chelsea were on the front foot for large portions of the match, unlucky not to have scored with Tammy Abraham hitting the post early on while Emerson later hit the crossbar.
The match was certainly a case of the score not reflecting the performance and Frank Lampard, as well as many Chelsea fans, were quick to point out the positives from their young squad following the defeat.
In Istanbul Chelsea were even more impressive. Taking the game to the current Champions League holders, Chelsea were dominant for much of the match, playing some of the most exciting football since Antonio Conte changed the Premier League and reinvented members of his squad in his title winning 2016-17 season.
Emerson, Christian Pulisic and Kante were particularly impressive, while Kurt Zouma made up for his defensive mistakes in Manchester by demonstrating his immense defensive capability.
In many ways the ban may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea as they now turn to the plethora of impressive youth players that are sent year by year on loan across the world and country.
It is no secret that Chelsea boasts one of, if not the best youth academy in England, so it is exciting to have a season whereby these youngsters will have a chance to make their mark in England’s top flight.
Added to this, the acquisition of Frank Lampard as Chelsea’s new gaffer has lead to an overwhelming sense of optimism around Stamford Bridge. A squad of young, exciting, fresh talent lead by the man that many would consider Chelsea’s greatest ever player seems to be a recipe for at the very least, an extremely enjoyable season.
Perhaps Chelsea’s greatest perk this season however may be the extraordinary lack of expectation that anybody has for them. Pundits, ex-players and fans have predicted that Chelsea may find themselves slipping out of the top six this season.
Chelsea fans themselves realise that maintaining top four would be a big achievement. Chelsea have been awarded a lack of pressure, with no expectation to compete for the title. This is a luxury that Chelsea hasn’t really had since Roman Abramovich bought the club back in 2003.
This lack of expectation will afford Chelsea a season to adapt to Lampard’s style of football, grow accustomed to one another and do so without the pressure to obtain instant success. Lampard has the opportunity to experiment and grow this season as a manager before he is able to sign players once more and feel the same expectations his predecessors have.
Lampard was widely regarded as an extremely clever footballer during his playing career and he has already demonstrated that his impressive understanding of the game translates into his managerial career following an impressive first season with Derby.
Highlights included reaching the Championship play-off final and beating Manchester United in the League Cup at Old Trafford. His style of football is already impressing fans at Chelsea and it is still very early days.
New features of Chelsea’s playing style under Lampard have so far included an effective high press whereby all of his attackers and midfielders are required to work hard to afford opposition minimal time on the ball and fast paced, tiki taka passing whereby players are required to take as few touches on the ball as possible before playing their pass.
Players such as Ross Barkley, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all tipped to especially benefit hugely off having Lampard to help them excel in their roles as attacking midfielders, where Lampard himself became the Premier League’s highest scoring midfielder of all time and the fourth highest goal scorer in any position in Premier League history (177 goals across 609 appearances).
Chelsea are also still yet to receive a decision regarding their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to have their transfer ban frozen and may still find themselves able to sign players in January too if things go in their favour.
Chelsea may not have their most successful campaign ever this coming season but it is certainly fair to say they may very well surprise more than a few people before it is all over.