As the top four race heats up heading into the closing stages of the Premier League season, Chelsea’s defensive woes are threatening their chances of a place in the Champions League next season.
Five points from a possible 12 to start the season isn’t the start most Chelsea fans are accustomed to, but this Premier League is unlike any other in their recent history.
A 4-0 humbling to Manchester United couldn’t have been a worse start but they did well to win away to an enthusiastic and buoyant Norwich City.
Any positive momentum gained by that victory was nullified when they let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 with newly promoted Sheffield United in a game where Frank Lampard’s relative inexperience and lack of tactical nous was exposed by the Blades.
The experience of club captain César Azpilicueta, Willian, N’Golo Kanté and Pedro will be invaluable to Lampard in nurturing and guiding the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Billy Gilmour, who are all supremely talented but unproven and naive at the top level, which was evidenced in the game against Sheffield United.
Mount and Abraham in particular have both been impressive and have transitioned seamlessly from the Championship to the Premier League, but managing their workload will be a challenge for Lampard as he looks to navigate three cup competitions as well as the league.
Bringing through the academy players has been necessitated by the transfer ban, which has hampered their ability to make any significant improvements to their squad. Losing the almost irreplaceable Eden Hazard was always going to be difficult.
In Christian Pulisic they have a player with undoubted potential, but he’s a few years away from being a true Hazard replacement.
From an England viewpoint, it’s going to be exciting to watch Chelsea play this season as there is an abundance of young English talent in the squad who could very well provide the backbone of the national team in the future.
Frank Lampard will be given time and his job will definitely not be under any immediate pressure. He’s a proven winner and while external expectations may be for a below-par season, Lampard himself will be determined to exceed expectations.
What would constitute a good season for Chelsea?