Frank Lampard is two seasons into his nascent managerial career. While many want to crown him as the best young manager in the world, his record with Chelsea this season and last season with Derby County in the Championship shows Lampard, rather than the goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, who many blame, is the main defensive challenge at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have conceded 54 league goals this season, and some [a lot] of that blame must be laid on Lampard’s doorsteps.
When Lampard led Derby into the Championship playoffs last season, his team scored 69 goals and conceded 54, an uncanny statistical alignment with his time at Chelsea. With one game left in the COVID-19 delimited season, Chelsea have scored 67 goals–that is a goal difference of plus 13. Last season with Derby, Lampard ended the season with a goal difference of plus 15. That result should be enough to get Chelsea in the fourth position and into the Champions League if this season ends the same way.
Despite all the plaudits, Lampard has to take a more than a cursory look at his coaching methods. One could be a coincidence, but two consecutive seasons highlighting a failing in the way he is setting up his teams likely means much more. When Lampard played in Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering side in the two consecutive winning campaigns in 2005 and 2006, Chelsea conceded 37 goals in the two seasons. Just last season, under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea came third, largely because they conceded 39 goals.
Speaking after the shambolic 3-0 defeat at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United, Lampard revealed in the post-match press conference, “A lot of the goals are the balls that come into our box that maybe we don’t defend right at that moment and that’s something that has to improve and I feel I know the answers to it.” Who has been tasked with working on this? Lampard!
While his formation tweak worked against Manchester United and secured a FA Cup final encounter with Arsenal, Liverpool exposed the spaces afforded them on Wednesday. It is also easy to add the excuse that Chelsea are missing, arguably the best defensive lynchpin in world football in N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman has been in and out of the treatment room and combined with an ever-changing centre-back defensive pairings, Chelsea have shown no defensive resilience, the sort that marked out the team during Jose Mourinho days.
Lampard also explained after the loss to Sheffield that he has the answer to his team’s defensive woes, but just as they have done all season, teams continue to punish his team even when playing well. His team has lost on six occasions this season by more than two goals.
“Some of it is work, and that’s something we will see and it’s part of the process we are in. I don’t like it; I hate conceding goals, but we have to work harder on it,” he added.
In the years when Chelsea were at their defensive best, they could call on Johan Terry and Peter Cech as the defensive stalwarts, but in Antonio Rudiger and Arrizabalaga, they have poor imitations. But the defensive players are not the principal challenge facing the Blues, Lampard is also proving to be a poor imitation of Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, and Sarri. The faster he sorts out the defensive aspect of his coaching, the better it will be for Chelsea and for his managerial career.