Such is the frantic nature of pre-season, Frank Lampard has already overseen seven fixtures as Chelsea head coach. The Blues won four games against St Patrick’s, Barcelona, Reading and RB Salzburg, drew two games against Bohemians and Borussia Monchengladbach, and lost to Kawasaki Frontale.
That said, the results shouldn’t really bother Chelsea supporters or intrigued onlookers. After all, pre-season results are mostly meaningless. The games represent an opportunity to improve fitness, to develop and refine strategies, while also enabling fringe and young players to stake their claim for more significant involvement. Those factors take precedence, not the full-time scores.
Despite the differing quality of opposition, Frank Lampard has seized the chance to experiment, regarding both strategies and personnel. With an additional four games of pre-season, there’s ample time for Lampard to perfect his strategies and discover his favoured starting eleven ahead of the coming season.
Football Fancast break down five things we’ve learned about the Blues in pre-season.
One of the burgeoning issues with Maurizio Sarri’s solitary season in charge of Chelsea was his stubbornness. Chelsea used the 4-3-3 formation in 63 games in all competitions last season which is hardly intuitive or adaptable. One sensed that Sarri was using his players to accommodate the system’s requirements rather than choosing a formation that best utilised his players’ strengths.
During his first three games in charge, Lampard trialled three formations. The Blues continued with the 4-3-3 system – the formation Derby used most often last season – while also playing with a diamond in midfield (4-4-2/4-1-2-1-2) and testing the 4-2-3-1 formation.
In an interview with Chelsea’s official website, Olivier Giroud has indicated that perhaps Lampard has settled on his preferred formation. He said: “We’re working on the tactics when we don’t have the ball and playing this 4-2-3-1, we have to know each other a bit better as well.”
Tactical flexibility is a desired asset for any competitive team, and it’s reflective of Lampard’s eagerness to get the best out of his players.
Having signed Mason Mount on loan for Derby last season and given the 20-year-old’s impressive displays as a Ram – he contributed towards 17 goals (11 scored, six assists) in all competitions last term – Lampard has been keen to integrate the youngster at Chelsea.
Chelsea hold Mount in tremendous regard, as demonstrated by their decision to award the midfielder a five-year-contract. The 20-year-old featured in the Blues’ previous five fixtures, scoring a delightful goal in their 4-0 triumph against St Patrick’s while also earning over an hour of football (65 minutes) in the 1-0 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale. He also netted a brace versus Reading and played an hour versus Barca.
Upon signing his new contract, club director Marina Granovskaia spoke glowingly of Mount.
As reported by Chelsea’s official website, she said: “Mason has come right the way through the Chelsea Academy and has always stood out as a fantastic talent and dedicated individual. We have monitored his development extremely closely while he has been out on loan and believe he is now ready to be a member of our squad competing at the top of the Premier League.”
Upon joining the club as manager, Lampard emphasised that each player had the opportunity to impress him, and to his credit, he has stayed true to his promise. As reflected by his rotation in the striking department, each of Chelsea’s three forwards have had opportunities to demonstrate their ability.
Michy Batshuayi started the first half in each of the Blues’ first three fixtures, scoring a quintessentially clinical goal against Bohemians in Chelsea’s first pre-season game. The Belgian came close to extending his pre-season tally against St Patrick’s with the impressive Barry Murphy preventing the striker on several occasions, and more recently he bagged against Salzburg.
Olivier Giroud scored a well-taken brace against St Patrick’s – both goals were excellently finished by the 32-year-old.
Tammy Abraham, meanwhile, scored against Barcelona in the Blues’ 2-1 win and also against Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend.
The Englishman has spoken to Sky Sports News of Lampard’s ability to alter the fortunes of Chelsea’s young players, and the competition he faces for a starting spot. He said: “With the new manager in charge, all things look possible, so it gives the young lads and a lot of the players the chance to believe.”
“There’s pressure everywhere I go and everywhere I’ve been, that’s football for you. I like the pressure, it drives me on. Having competition like Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi, that’s fantastic competition up there as well, so I’m striving to do better.”
He has spent the previous 18 months on loan at Newcastle, and despite impressing during his first stint with the club – registering four goal contributions (two goals, two assists) in 13 games in the 17/18 season – the Brazilian only started 14 of his 25 league appearances last campaign. He had fallen out of favour to such an extent that Kenedy wasn’t named in five squads during Newcastle’s last 11 games of the season.
That said, the versatile 23-year-old has appeared energetic and determined during pre-season for the Blues, and if his form continues, he could secure a place in Lampard’s squad.
On Kenedy, Lampard says he is making a 'great case' to stay at the club with his performances. #CFCinJapan
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 19, 2019
Towards the latter stages of last season, Emerson displaced Marcos Alonso as Chelsea’s starting left-back. The Brazilian was favoured ahead of the Spaniard in Chelsea’s triumphant Europa League final against Arsenal, and he started six out of the Blues’ last 11 league games.
The pair amassed ninety minutes of action each in the Blues’ first three pre-season fixtures. Emerson started against St Patrick’s and scored with a fine effort from outside of the box in the first half, before being replaced by Alonso at half-time. Contrastingly, Alonso started against Kawasaki Frontale, with Emerson playing the entirety of the second half. Both featured against Barcelona, Reading, Salzburg and Monchengladbach too.
Alonso’s goal scoring record is remarkable for a defender – he has scored 18 goals and contributed towards an almighty total of 32 in 120 appearances for the Blues. Despite the 28-year-old’s attacking prowess, when watching Emerson, he seems better equipped to play the full-back role, balancing attention between his defensive and attacking responsibilities. Seemingly, Lampard still has a crucial decision to make.