Saturday’s six-goal draw between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion was a classic tale of a team digging themselves a hole, to the tune of three goals in the first half, only to conjure up the necessary fight and spirit to dig themselves out.
On reflection after the match, Lampard will have good reason to be disappointed and pleased with the performance today.
“I have got mixed emotions, I am happy to see a team fightback and get three goals back but I have got go back to the beginning and not be happy at the three goals we conceded. Three shots on target and we concede three goals.”
“The idea was that West Brom would approach the game waiting for transitions but when moments like that happen on the pitch, you can get punished. We were punished which gave us a three goal mountain to climb. The lads showed great character to overcome but at the same time it is not a position you want to be in when a team are organized, make it difficult and you give them the three goals we gave them.”
When looking at the match as objectively as possible from the statistics perspective, the match script would have seemed to favor Chelsea at half time — except for the one metric that matters, goals conceded.
Had Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham converted their chances in the first half, the narrative of this match would be very different. At the very least, Chelsea’s scoreline would be more befitting on our xG of 1.09.
Conceding three goals from three shots on target is as clear a sign that the footballing gods were not shining down in favor of the … [check notes] … salmon pink and blue faux-striped kit. Thanks, Nike. With an xG of 0.46, West Brom defied advanced metrics with their three goal lead.
Each of the three goals Chelsea conceded in the first half came from individual mistakes from the defensive backline, including one from Thiago Silva. Lampard, as we may know following previous comments on former starting goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, is never one to throw his players under the bus publicly.
“I didn’t blame the players, I stated the facts on the clear mistakes that led to the goals. It is always going to be difficult in a game like this. It is not a tactical moment, it is a turnover in position which we spoke about before.”
“It’s hard to pinpoint that. They are what they are today. There’s an element with the team, not just talking about the goals we conceded, where there is a process because we’ve not had much time to work. We haven’t had a pre-season to bed in new players, new ideas for them to keep moving forward. I’m not sure it’s directly related to the mistakes for the goals today. Take the set piece for example, which is clear. I don’t think it’s if you’re new to the club or the club, if you’re the designated man you have to move and follow them and you have to make it difficult for them to score. That’s not a new thing. Parts of it is just fundamentals.”
But Lampard’s words after the match come across as specific and negative as he’s ever expressed. On the surface, it’s hard not to blame him for his displeasure with each of the defensive mistakes that led to West Brom’s goals.
He’s spoken in the past of the lack of preseason and the fact that his squad is currently in flux with players arriving, healing, and not having time to get their chemistry right. And that particular talking point alone is strong enough to give Lampard a bit of a cushion right now until his team has stabilized.
However, simple mistakes are directly leading to goals conceded. It’s happened far too often this season already, and we’re only four matches in!
It happened with Alonso’s header to West Brom’s Matheus Pereira. It happened with Thiago Silva’s unexpected poor first touch that allowed West Brom’s Callum Robinson to score. It’s happened in previous matches with Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Lampard has talked about mentality a lot in previous pressers, and that particular attribute is clearly still a work in progress.
The silver lining is the comeback in the second half. The team switched on and displayed great mental focus to stay committed to the defensive side of the game, ensuring that we would still have a chance if we pressed on with each goal scored.
“That’s why we have to keep working. You have to be humble enough to accept the clear mistakes if they are clear ones or focused ones or concentration ones. The players have to get better. We’re increasing the competition in the squad, we’ve done that.
“There will always be a clinical view in football that if you’re going to make mistakes you’re going to have opportunities to put them right. If you don’t then your opportunities will be less. That’s the ruthless nature of football. We want to improve from where we were last year so there’s a lot of work to be done. I’ll repeat the message, not just to yourself but behind closed doors. That’s what it takes, repetition to improve.”
-Frank Lampard, source: Football.London
Rome was not built in a day. That’s a tired expression, yet the core of the message is true. Lampard and Chelsea need to continue to work. We have shown that there is a lot to improve upon at the start of this season.
Onwards and upwards to our point salvaged for the optimists among us.