There were times – quite a few, actually – when it felt like the tables had stopped turning at Stamford Bridge. Or the record is scratched and the same loop stutters over and over.
Another week under Frank Lampard, another burst of offensive brilliance canceled out by defensive chaos.
Once again after that 3-3 draw with Southampton, the manager was forced to explain the individual mistakes and protect his hapless goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Frank Lampard was not impressed as Chelsea gave up two runs to draw 3-3 with Southampton
Jan Vestergaard’s timeout equalizer (middle) picked up a point for the Saints
“It’s my job,” he insisted. But then came a change of tone, or at least a change of tone. Throughout their tenure, Lampard’s young side have played with courage and offensive intent – a welcome antidote to Maurizio Sarri’s stifling caution.
The addition of £ 180million in attacking talent this summer suggested that was not about to change.
And yet, after his side lost a 2-0 lead, then a 3-2 advantage in the dying moments, to Southampton, Lampard was asked if he would ever change course – if he would take a other way and would be negative to stop the games.
Chelsea showed more defensive awkwardness as their backline problems under Lampard continue
“Yeah, I would,” he admitted. “I certainly don’t want to play courageous football in the last moments of the game and that was my message to the team throughout the second half: we had to go longer and miss their press.
“I don’t think the players have done this enough. We have tried too hard to play. Missing the press is definitely a way to pass the ball into the other half.
Lampard has played enough under Jose Mourinho to know the value of pragmatism. Now this message has to come.
Jannik Vestergaard’s last tying goal was the 14th goal Chelsea have conceded in the last 10 minutes of Premier League games since Lampard took over. Only Aston Villa shipped more; Champions Liverpool have conceded four.
Les Bleus have dropped 20 points from winning positions since Lampard (above) took over
Chelsea also lost 20 points from winning positions during this span. Here, at least, five teams have a worse record.
No Premier League-era Chelsea coach with more than one game in charge has conceded goals at a higher rate than Lampard (63 in 43 games). And perhaps no match illustrated their fragility better than that.
Chelsea took a two-goal lead thanks to two brilliants from German striker Timo Werner, only for the Saints to receive a lifeline when Kai Havertz was picked up in his own half.
Then neither Kurt Zouma nor Kepa cleared a single ball behind and Che Adams made it 2-2.
The Blues were boosted by the first high-flying goals for Timo Werner (left) and Kai Havertz (right)
But Chelsea conceded on either side of half-time via Danny Ings (left) and Che Adams (right)
Immediately Havertz restored Chelsea’s advantage but Southampton, the better side throughout the second half, were not deterred and ended up with a earned run.
The curious question, then, is why Chelsea are so immune to the management of the game.
“Part of that is rooted in the players – they want to try and play football,” Lampard said.
“It’s certainly not something I’m not a big fan of. It was probably my biggest disappointment of the second half that the players didn’t put that message into action.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is happy with the way his Southampton side are progressing under him
The biggest frustration for Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, meanwhile, was the long walk to the locker room.
To respect social distancing, the outside teams are now housed in the health club behind a stand. Hasenhuttl used it as motivation and his team showed a lot of spirit and intensity to come away with a draw.
“We have been together for almost two years now and we are more and more convinced of what we are doing,” he said.
Theo Walcott (right) impressed on second Southampton debut after move on deadline
“We know that on a good day we can give every team problems. “
It was especially nice that Theo Walcott – in his first Saints appearance in 14 years – created the late equalizer.
After a ‘crash course’ from his manager, the 31-year-old has played the full 90 minutes and, along with Ings, Adams and Nathan Redmond, form an English attacking quartet that could turn heads before next summer.