It’s never good to lose. It’s never good to lose to Manchester United. It’s never good to lose to Manchester United 4-0. It’s never good to lose to Manchester United 4-0 on the opening day of the season.
But for Frank Lampard, it could be a blessing in disguise.
Because from now on, there can be no uncertainty that the squad he’s inherited isn’t good enough and that it’s going to be a very long season.
It was the same issue last season, Maurizio Sarri’s side should never have finished 3rd, but they did, thanks in part to a collapse of the three sides challenging them for the top four and the brilliance of Eden Hazard.
For Lampard, things look a little different, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United all strengthened this summer and on early showing looks like they strengthened well.
A transfer ban and the sale of Hazard has limited what the club could do, we’ve had to turn to the academy, and while that’s something that we’ve been longing for, it’s also a very risky strategy.
Then of course, you’ve got Lampard’s inexperience. It’s only his second season as a manager after guiding Derby County to the play off finals last year.
He’s going to make mistakes, he made some yesterday, but they’re going to be amplified because of who he is and who we are.
This isn’t Lampard’s fault, years of failing to supplement Hazard with world class players has left us in this mess.
There was a graphic on twitter yesterday that highlighted the massive decline in both Chelsea and Manchester United’s starting XI’s yesterday which was quite shocking.
11 years ago we faced Manchester United in Moscow in the Champions League final, we started with Petr Cech, Michael Essien, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba.
What would the score be if that lot (in their prime) played the XI we put out yesterday?
I reckon they’d even give them a decent game if they played them today.
What can we do it about it?
Well, there’s no short term fix that’s going to instantly make this squad capable of being where a club like Chelsea should be.
Last season Sarri often highlighted that Liverpool and Manchester City were much further ahead in their adaptation’s of the work of Messrs Klopp and Guardiola.
And now that gaps even bigger because yet again we’re starting from scratch. Yes we’ve had trophies using our chaos method, but the Premier League is changing, teams are getting stronger and stronger.
There’s now a top 6, followed by 4/5 teams looking to break through, then 2/3 average sides with the rest being relegation fodder.
But as we all know in this league that on their day, a team looking certain for the drop can beat the team looking certain for a top 4 finish.
You have to be smarter than thinking sacking and replacing managers every 18 months is going to keep working because the clubs that sit around you, specifically City, Liverpool and Spurs, are all naturally going to be in a stronger position than you.
When Conte arrived it was at the perfect time, Leicester had just won the league and there was no real obvious favourite for the title.
Had it be been 12 months later, Conte would’ve never won the Premier League.
If we aren’t going to pay the mega sums needed to buy the best players then you need a different reason for top players to join you, and if you compare the footballing offering to us over our rivals at the moment, I’m not sure why anyone would choose us.
Frank might make some quick changes, perhaps going with 3 central defenders to try and add some stability, but having got rid of David Luiz because he couldn’t guarantee him first team football suggests that a 2 man central defence is the way he’s looking to go.
It’s worth noting that we’ve got some of our best players still to return to full fitness, Reece James, Antonio Rudiger, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Willian and you could add N’Golo Kante to that list.
All six of those players would probably walk into that starting XI that took the pitch at Old Trafford, but realistically they don’t suddenly make us stronger than our rivals.
True, it wasn’t a 4-0 game yesterday, on another day we go in at half-time 2-0 up and the whole atmosphere at Old Trafford changes, the crowd would’ve been on Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s back.
But instead, a sloppy mistake from Kurt Zouma allowed United into a game they’d been second best in.
And much like last season, conceding a goal lead to us collapsing like a paper house in a stiff breeze.
The difference for Lampard however, is that supporters will look at the squad for the problems rather than simply pointing to the manager.
Sarri had a 12 game honeymoon period, Lampard’s lasted 18 minutes.
But now there can be no misconceptions, there’s a lot of work to do, but we’ve got something to believe in again, and that’s pretty great.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu