Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said he was frustrated and confused that his team were denied a penalty in Saturday’s 0-0 Premier League draw at Manchester United.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta was grabbed by his United counterpart Harry Maguire when challenging for a header in the first half but the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) dismissed the London club’s penalty claims after reviewing the incident.
“I thought it was a clear penalty. I couldn’t see it at the time from where I was standing and those ones are hard calls for the referee. It’s why we brought VAR into the game, but VAR was very quick to dismiss it,” Lampard told reporters.
“They should have taken time and advised the referee to look at the monitor. If he watches the monitor, he has to give the penalty, so it’s confusing. There’s a frustration because the rules seemed to be moving in the right direction.
“The referees were looking at the monitor a bit more at the start of the season. The person on the pitch should always take first responsibility and that was given back to them with the monitor.”
The result extended United’s wait for a first league win at Old Trafford this season and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his team were missing the energy of fans, who are not allowed to watch matches in stadiums amid the Covid-19 crisis.
But the Norwegian was encouraged by the debut of new signing Edinson Cavani, who joined United earlier this month.
“He showed in glimpses what he can do. He’ll give us a presence in the box. He’s an experienced centre forward and the more we get the ball into him in and around the box we’ll get goals from him,” Solskjaer said.
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How the mouths of Chelsea fans would have been watering at 3.30pm on Saturday.
Chelsea’s front four had the freedom of Stamford Bridge, interchanging at will and causing Southampton all manner of problems from which they had no right to recover.
Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic looked free, with no set position, while Timo Werner created two fine goals for himself. Any potential talk of a Premier League goal drought was put to bed.
But again, Chelsea’s defence let them down. From 2-0 up they were pegged back 2-2, the first goal from Danny Ings coming from thin air following a Havertz mistake, and the second a joint Kurt Zouma-Kepa Arrizabalaga error. They then squandered a 3-2 lead late on from the second phase of a set piece.
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For all their attacking potential – and that’s even before Hakim Ziyech sees more than 20 minutes – Frank Lampard’s side are continuously shooting themselves in the foot.
Errors have punctuated their season, and questions over defensive solidity have hung over Lampard since he took the job last August.
Chelsea have conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game in the Premier League under Lampard (63 in 43 games), the Blues’ worst rate under any boss to oversee more than one game in the competition.
Chelsea’s defensive discrepancy (Premier League only)
Since Lampard arrived, only Saints, Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton have conceded more goals of current Premier League teams. But the goals against column does not tally with other metrics.
They have conceded just 379 shots – only Manchester City have faced fewer – and their expected goals against is just 44.7, over 18 goals fewer than they have actually conceded. That is by far the largest difference between expected goals conceded and actual goals conceded in the Premier League.
This points to individual mistakes. Seven of the nine goals Chelsea have conceded this season have been down to individual mistakes in some form: Sadio Mane’s first in Liverpool’s 2-0 win on September 20 and Jannik Vestegaard’s late equaliser on Saturday the only two that have not.
Lampard is fully aware, and wants game management, something that seems to have been abandoned across the Premier League this season.
“They are mistakes that concern you. [The second goal] was a situation that we should have clearly dealt with in a much better and simpler terms. If you are going to concede those kind of goals, then it doesn’t matter how well you play in periods of games, it is something that we can’t have in our game.
“There is certainly a game management element of it in a game. We want to have a lead and see it off.”
Could it also a structural issue? Chelsea have switched to a 4-2-3-1 this season – unavoidable with their attacking options – but it often becomes a front five with Ben Chilwell comfortable and effective up the pitch.
But for all his attacking qualities, Chilwell’s high position stretches Chelsea’s defence on the turnover. Southampton targeted their full-backs with the press from the first minute on Saturday – in the first half it failed miserably, in the second half it worked wonderfully.
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Either way, and as with Saints’ own approach, it’s risk and reward. At present, as can be seen across the Premier League, games are resembling a coin toss; teams are getting it wrong just as much as they are getting it right.
Building shape and solidity takes time, and that may be lacking on the training ground at present.
“I don’t think we are conceding goals due to the shape of the team,” Lampard insisted after Saturday’s game. “Of course we have changed the shape and I have to make those decisions with the personnel we have and getting the best out of them. That is something I have to think about, but it doesn’t mean I am dead set on sticking with that formation and there can be changes and tweaks to it as we go along. It’s something we need to continue working on. It is a change.
“Change needs work on the training ground, we haven’t had much of that so sometimes the work in progress is in games and today there were loads of great things from the 4-2-3-1, particularly in the first half. In the second half I wouldn’t blame the shape of the team, more that we didn’t deal with the fact that Southampton were really keen to put us under pressure in their own half.
“We wanted to miss out their press, we didn’t do enough and that meant we turned the ball over in our own half, which irrespective of shape is always a problem.”
In this, the most bizarre of Premier League season, it feels like the first big team to play it safe, cynical and eradicate mistakes will set the pace at the top.
Last season, Lampard was guilty of playing free-flowing football in games that begged for patience and attrition, surprising given his three-and-a-half successful years under the professor of game management Jose Mourinho.
He has match winners in abundance, so it’s time his Chelsea side cut out the blunders and shut up shop.
Chelsea host Sevilla in their opening Champions League group game on Tuesday at 8pm, before going to Manchester United on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 5.30pm.
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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says he is “excited” at the prospect of seeing summer-signing Hakim Ziyech make his debut against Southampton on Saturday.
Ziyech joined Chelsea from Ajax in a £33.3m deal but suffered a knee injury in a pre-season friendly at Brighton on August 29, which has prevented him from making his competitive debut.
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The 27-year-old played 30 minutes as a substitute for Morocco in a friendly against Senegal last weekend, and is now in line to make a return to club action as Chelsea host Southampton.
“Hakim Ziyech is in the squad – not fit to start but fit to participate some minutes we hope,” Lampard said in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We brought Hakim here and it feels like a long time ago now but he also has not played since the Dutch league finished during lockdown period.
“It’s a long time and he’s worked so hard. He’s been fantastic in terms of his professionalism to get fit and looks really good in training.
“Just game minutes is what we need now but yes of course I’m excited to get him in and around it and to bring what we brought him to the club for, which is the opportunity to create chances for us, to be the talented player that he is.”
‘Competition for places a nice problem’
Lampard also welcomed the return to full fitness of another Chelsea’s winger, Christian Pulisic, who is available to make his first start of the season having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Pulisic played seven minutes as a substitute in Chelsea’s final game before the international break against Crystal Palace and has further built up his fitness levels since.
The duo’s return creates intense competition for places in Chelsea’s forward roles, with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi also vying to play behind either Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud up front.
“Any team that wants to compete towards the top of the league, or Champions League, and playing in the FA Cup needs more than one player per position and needs to be competitive across the front area,” Lampard said.
“We had it last year – we lost Willian, we lost Pedro, we lost (Michy) Batshuayi, – so we’ve brought in players that brings the same level of competition in terms of numbers and I feel like the quality levels and some of the options, of course you bring them in because you want to improve.
“It’s up to the players, of course, it will always remain up to them in terms of their performance and at the same time gives me nice problems, in terms of we can hopefully be selecting players and we can use them through the season, we’ll have options to come off the bench, so I’m happy with what some people might call a problem in that area.”
‘Rudiger has same opportunity as every other player’
There is also fierce competition for places at the other end of the pitch, with Chelsea having held on to all of their centre-backs before the transfer window closed.
Despite being fully fit, Antonio Rudiger failed to make an appearance for Chelsea before the international break amid speculation linking him with a move away from Stamford Bridge.
The 27-year-old played all three of Germany’s matches during the break, and Lampard insists he as much chance as any other player in the squad of holding down a first-team place.
“Every player can play their way into the starting 11, the squad, that’s in every players hands,” Lampard said. “That’s how I try and work here.
“So the players all know that and the beauty of the window now being shut is that we can get to work and know what the squad is.
“Everybody knows that they can contribute and we will need them and rely on them because of the amount of games we play and Toni is the same as every other player on that one.”
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Frank Lampard has hinted that Christian Pulisic could be in line to start against Southampton on Saturday, though he has several other injuries and issues elsewhere in his squad to deal with.
The west London club are back in action at Stamford Bridge tomorrow after the international break, though not all of his players came through the two weeks unscathed.
Summer signing Edouard Mendy picked up an injury while away with Senegal – though it is hoped it is only a minor problem – while Ben Chilwell had to pull out of the England squad.
The goalkeeper will definitely not play, though Chilwell could be passed fit, while Thiago Silva has been ruled out of Saturday’s match after playing for Brazil during the week.
In better news, Pulisic has enjoyed two good weeks training at Cobham and appears to be over his injury woes while Hakim Ziyech could be given a cameo off the bench – though the Moroccan is another player who is still not up to full speed yet.
Asked for his team news at his pre-match press conference, Lampard explained: ‘Mendy won’t be fit for the match tomorrow but we hope the injury is not too long.
‘Thiago Silva after his trip is not unfit but he’s not ready to play the game because of the travelling and the game that he played so he won’t be in the squad.
‘Ben Chilwell is in the squad, so he’s got over some of the feeling he had which took him out of the England squad around the injury he has had for a while now.
‘Christian Pulisic is in the squad and fit to play. Hakim Ziyech is in the squad, not fit to start but fit enough to participate some minutes we hope.’
On whether Kepa Arrizabalaga could be restored to the starting XI following Mendy’s injury, Lampard replied bluntly: ‘I’ll make that decision myself out of the goalkeepers for tomorrow.’
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This summer’s international window has come to a close with Chelsea ’s expenditure trumping the rest of the Premier League.
While the likes of Burnley did not spend a penny on transfer fees, Chelsea’s outlay topped £250million.
Fringe players and neglected first-teamers were also sent out on loan late on in the window, in order to recoup some of the funds expunged on new arrivals.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley secured Premier League loans for the season, but Frank Lampard will be disappointed he could not find a temporary home for the likes of Marcos Alonso or Emerson Palmieri.
German international defender Antonio Rüdiger also looks set to leave west London at the next available opportunity. At present the chances of him featuring in the ensuing months between now and the opening of the January window appear slim.
Here is the latest Chelsea transfer round-up.
Chelsea defender could be loaned out in January
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge with the signing of Ben Chilwell, and may find himself shipped out on loan this winter.
Sport Mediaset, via Sempre Inter report that Inter boss Antonio Conte is keen to bring Alonso to San Siro in January, in order to supplement his wide options.
Alonso may be angling for a route out of Chelsea after a spat with Frank Lampard at half-time during the 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion saw him substituted as the team trailed 3-0.
Alonso has not featured since, and with Chilwell’s return to fitness, does not appear likely to regain his place in the first-team fold.
Chelsea defender Emerson Palmieri was also reportedly a target for Conte, but Alonso may be his first choice, given how regularly he featured under the Italian in 2016.
Flick cautioned over public interest in Chelsea teen
Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick has been casually reprimanded for his conduct in front of the media towards the end of the transfer window.
TZ report Flick’s public admiration of Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi was at odds with the German club’s hierarchy, who prefer to do their business out of the watchful eye of football fans and journalists.
Clearly, Bayern remain interested by the prospect of signing the 19-year-old, who they have tailed for the best part of 12 months. However, a move in that period has failed to materialise, despite suggestions of £70m bids being leveraged.
As long as Hudson-Odoi struggles for regular game time at Stamford Bridge, the more he will be linked with a potential move to the Champions League winners, especially considering Flick and the club’s veneration is no longer under wraps.
Germany boss reveals Chelsea transfer wish
Antonio Rüdiger’s national team manager Joachim Löw has lifted the lid on Chelsea’s attempts to sell the Germany defender this summer.
Löw revealed in his Germany press conference that Rüdiger “tried everything” to arrange a move away from Stamford Bridge, but did not manage to do so.
"I was in constant contact with Toni Rüdiger, he was keeping me in the loop. He had three or four options over the weekend but unfortunately, nothing materialised – he can try again in the winter,” the 60-year-old said.
He indicated that a move in January could be in the offing, which suggests the German defender has been informed he is no longer needed at the club.