The Chelsea fanbase has been pretty divided over the past few weeks, but one point everyone agreed with was the need to see a reaction in the aftermath of the 3-1 loss to Arsenal.
Frank Lampard’s side became the laughing stock of the Premier League when they were comprehensively thumped by the former laughing stock of the Premier League, and the players were widely criticised for a lack of energy or desire to win.
Chelsea had the chance to bounce back 48 hours later when Aston Villa arrived at Stamford Bridge, and every fan felt as though they needed to see something far better than the last showing.
Did supporters get that reaction from the players? I mean, I guess? Kinda?
There’s no denying that the squad looked more up for the Villa game. There was energy and enthusiasm on display, and Chelsea showed a real willingness to get on the ball. 63% possession and 16 shots on goal are all the evidence you need of that.
While Lampard’s claim that Chelsea deserved to win might be a bit of a stretch, there’s no denying that the Blues were better than they were against Arsenal. If we’re going off the dictionary definition of a reaction, we got it.
It was refreshing to see Chelsea look up for a fight again, and to their credit, Lampard’s side pushed until the very last second to find a winner (side note: Ben Chilwell’s late volley was almost unreal), but it’s how they pushed for that which is the biggest concern for fans.
There was a lot of possession, but with that possession came a lot of aimless crosses. Sure, when you’ve got Olivier Giroud in the box, that’s not exactly a bad idea, but it was more indicative of a lack of desire to actually make something happen.
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic both looked willing to try and beat their man, with the former particularly impressing with his energy, but neither really possess that devastating final ball, and there’s nobody else on the team to make up for that.
Too often, N’Golo Kante was Chelsea’s most advanced midfielder. The Frenchman is more effective when given a little more freedom, but when he’s the target of those crosses, or he’s the man tasked with a long-range piledriver, you can tell something is wrong.
Lampard was right to highlight that the imminent return of Hakim Ziyech will obviously give Chelsea another cutting edge, but relying so heavily on one player is unhealthy. Chelsea need to find another source of creativity – more than just one player capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck in an Eden Hazard-esque manner.
In Lampard’s defence, that’s supposed to be Kai Havertz. The German has endured a (perhaps understandable) slow start to life at Stamford Bridge, and until he gets firing, he’s not the right player for the current battle.
However, to try and speed up Havertz’s adjustment, Lampard needs to try actually deploying the German in his favoured position. A 4-2-3-1 with Havertz as the ten seems like the logical next step for this Chelsea side, and we’re just waiting for Lampard to pull the trigger.
Make no mistake about it, getting a point against a Villa side who put seven past Liverpool isn’t as bad of a result as it may have seemed last season. It’s a decent point, but Chelsea fans are entitled to want more.
It was a small step back in the right direction, but Lampard’s problem has been that any progress has always been slow, and more often than not, it has been ruined by negative results like the Arsenal loss. The steps forward only come after two steps back.
There’s reason to suggest things will improve soon. Havertz and Timo Werner will surely start shining soon, and the return of Ziyech will only ever help things. However, Lampard’s problem has been finding a way to stay afloat when things aren’t going his way.
The boss needs to find a solution soon. The pressure is mounting, and while it’s hard to see Chelsea pulling the trigger on Lampard after committing to this long-term project of his, we all know that Roman Abramovich is not a patient man.