Chelsea experienced some obvious weaknesses in a campaign of promises. But these areas need improvement if they are to become title challengers.
Frank Lampard’s first season as a coach is in Chelsea’s book. But if he is to “bridge the gap” to Liverpool and Manchester City, there are clear areas that require polishing.
After the Champions League defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich Lampard pointed out, “to be congratulated a lot on the outside for getting into the top four shows the position we’re in as Chelsea. We’ll take a rest we richly deserve and we’ll look forward and want to improve.”
“It’s not going to be overnight and we know the position we’re in”.
Therefore, here are four weaknesses Lampard must work on if they are to become genuine Premier League title, challengers.
Chelsea conceded 78 goals in all competitions, including 54 in the league. We narrow down these concessions into two categories: counterattacks and set pieces.
Lampard’s wish is to be on the front foot. But his defense is routinely unable to handle breaks, notwithstanding Kepa Arrizabalaga who by some statistical metrics is one of the worst goalkeepers in Premier League history.
However, it is not all down to individual errors.
The set-piece and counterattack weaknesses are also prominent at Derby County when Lampard was in charge and it is worth asking the question if a more defensive-minded member of the coaching staff would be of significant help.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Lampard complained about the team’s failure to put teams to bed. This especially earlier in the season and after they scraped past Lille at home in the Stamford Bridge as the head coach spelled out the need for reinforcements in the January window.
For a number of reasons that never happened but his point stood. The subsequent additions of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech should help in that regard and let’s not underplay the significance of Christian Pulisic blossoming in the latter stages of the campaign.
Was this a symptom or a cause of the first issue? There was too much chopping and changing throughout the campaign.
How many top teams can you name that have had a heavily rotated defense? Not many, right?
Chelsea went through the entire campaign unsure whether they were better with a back four or three.
The four recognized center-halves made between 15 and 25 Premier League starts each, none of them seem capable of confirming one spot as their own.
Cesar Azpilicueta was the only certainty but made 21 appearances at right-back, 11 at left-back, and six appearances on the right of a three.
One of the big tasks for the start of next season is settling on the strongest line-up and sticking to it, allowing them to build understanding.
Was this unfortunate and out of Lampard’s hands or was intense training a contributing factor to so many injuries?
N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic, and Tammy Abraham were among the key players to have missed spells because of muscular issues, and the former in particular must be kept fit in the coming campaign to maximize their chances of bridging that gap.
His final injury, a hamstring strain that kept him out for more than a month, came after playing every minute of five games in three weeks – including an FA Cup tie in which the rest of the side was heavily rotated and there was no shortage of other options in his role.
Managing the load more wisely and ensuring Kante stays fit as the ages will be very important.