Frank Lampard’s tactical rigidity could cost him his job at Chelsea
Chelsea have had tactically embarrassing performances since Frank Lampard returned to the club in 2019, but few have been as bad as we saw in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City.
Of course, you can say whatever you want City to be back to their best electric level, playing the kind of unfathomable football that turned them into one of Europe’s elites, but how did they manage to flip the switch and to activate the style in his game in particular?
The answer is in Chelsea’s once famous 4-3-3.
The midfield trio of N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic looked completely lost at sea. There was no structure, no communication and no organization, and he left. Manchester city, one of the best offensive mastodons on the planet, with a limited space to play.
Kante, in his work as a midfielder anchor, continued to buzz on the pitch, even finding himself in attack once or twice, and Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan couldn’t believe their eyes. They had been given space to terrorize Chelsea on a silver platter.
Mount and Kovacic were regrouping on one side of the pitch, and there were even times when the three Chelsea midfielders were so close they would have been punished for breaking social distancing rules in the outside world.
You can’t give any Premier League team a free run on your defense, let alone Pep Guardiola’s town. It was chaotic.
Not to discredit City, who were absolutely electric and tore Chelsea apart, but all they did was show their ability to capitalize on the Blues’ shortcomings. If you give City space to play, they will play.
The truth is, Lampard’s 4-3-3 isn’t reliable enough. Despite the world’s odd performance, Kante cannot be summoned to protect a defense consistently. He doesn’t have the necessary positional discipline, but Lampard seems to be ignoring him due to good form earlier in the season.
The Chelsea head coach appears to be married to the 4-3-3 who eased the pressure on him earlier in the season, but the reality is that this formation only makes the most of Mount, who generally thrives in that pure central midfielder. role.
Kante is weak at the base of the midfielder, Kai Havertz is not himself when not in attack, Timo Werner has to play wide and everyone seems uncomfortable, but Lampard does seem not ready to change.
The boss clearly has concerns about Kante, having championed the idea of splashing out on West Ham United’s Declan Rice to provide more security, but now it’s completely clear that Kante can’t handle the work, why Lampard is not at least trying switch?
It’s important to be sympathetic to the fact that Chelsea don’t have other defensive midfielders. In the 4-2-3-1 which most fans believe would be the best, Kante would be forced to line up alongside Kovacic, Jorginho or Billy Gilmour, which doesn’t exactly inspire defensive confidence.
However, it is important to try something now. Try anything. That 4-3-3 hasn’t and hasn’t worked for a while now, and sticking to it will only end up with Lampard at the bottom of the unemployment line.
All eyes will be on Lampard’s next two games. There is an FA Cup draw against Morecambe that may or may not be postponed due to COVID-19, ahead of a Premier League encounter with Fulham for which Kante will be suspended after landing a fifth yellow card of the season against City.
Kante’s suspension may be a blessing in disguise for Lampard, who will now be forced to try something new. Finding a way to cope without Kante is paramount, and Chelsea should pass both Morecambe and Fulham, even without the Frenchman.
A positive result against Fulham won’t ease the pressure on Lampard too much, but it would at least show that there is an alternative to leaning on that 4-3-3 or on Kante himself.
Fans must see the change quickly. If there are no changes on the team sheet, they will be in the dugout instead.
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