“We’re coming” declared Frank Lampard as he faced questions from the press following a narrow 2-1 defeat away to the defending Premier League champions Manchester City.
The performance of his young Chelsea side had most Chelsea supporters feeling extremely positive, in fact, on another day we could have quite easily come away with all three points.
A lucky deflection and some wasteful finishing proved to be the difference between the two sides at the end of the game, but given our current situation, we were still happy.
We even did a full fancast about that very fact and we all agreed with Frank, “we’re coming”.
Midweek saw us take on Valencia with an opportunity to secure our progression from the group stages of the Champions League.
But the performance lacked the same intensity and quality of the weekend and a couple of questionable substitutions and a bad injury to Tammy Abraham meant that by the end we were hanging on for a point.
Qualification is still in our hands, but our home form isn’t something to shout about.I get the feeling that the final group game will be a nervy affair rather than a show of strength.
Then came yesterday’s game, a big one for Chelsea and Frank in particular, with West Ham being the visitors.
The Hammers situation under manager Manuel Pellegrini is precarious at best, they hadn’t won a league game since September and took a bit of a battering against Spurs last weekend, despite the 3-2 score line.
For many, this game was a perfect opportunity for Frank to put another one over his first club, and he was obviously confident with the team he selected.
Abraham was out injured, so the obvious choice was Michy Batshuayi to lead the line, but his performance against Valencia when he replaced Tammy had thrown that into doubt.
Another option was a “false 9” with Willian and Mason Mount flanking Christian Pulisic.
As it turned out, Frank gave Oliver Giroud his first start of the season, along with Pedro.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante were left on the bench as Frank rotated his squad more than he has done before this season.
The big problem however is that Giroud cannot play the role that Frank wants his striker to play. The Frenchman has a lot of qualities, but he doesn’t have the energy and the mobility to press in the way that Lampard wants his team to.
He lives off crosses into the box, but this happened only once, with a Reece James delivery just inches away from connecting.
That’s why it was so confusing that Chelsea started whipping the ball in more and more once he’d been taken off and Chelsea go into that false 9 formation.
Last season people went on and on about a ‘lack of plan B’ and I always maintained that you don’t need a plan B, you just need to do plan A better.
Frank has done the same leaving Giroud on the bench week after week, so it was surprising that he went with him from the start when quite clearly he would’ve been better suited coming on towards the end when the ball was repeatedly going into the area.
A defeat at home, especially to a rival always feels like a kick in the teeth, but given West Ham’s form and our complete lack of performance this certainly feels like one step forward, two steps back.
Of course it’s always good to keep some perspective, we’re still 4th, six points clear of fifth placed Spurs. Our young players are outperforming most people’s expectations.
And, as always at this time of year, an opportunity to put things right isn’t far away.
They’ll be a lot of love for John Terry in the opposition dug out on Wednesday, but the pleasantries will need to stop there as slipping to three defeats in a row could leave us looking like we failed to achieve a climax.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu