Chelsea aren’t a club known for giving their managers plenty of time to get it right, but the progress Frank Lampard has made so far as Blues boss means he’s not in a position where he must ask for patience.
Yes, Sunday draw with Tottenham It meant Chelsea had missed the opportunity to take the lead in the Premier League for the first time since Lampard took the helm in June 2019 – and it would have been a very visible way to mark their development.
But even without finding a way through Jose Mourinho’s squad and thus reaching the top, their performance quietly underscored the improvements Lampard has made in 17 months at the helm.
In his first season their main issues were how they coped defensively, but they’ve looked a lot stronger for a few weeks now and it was still the same this time around.
Everyone knows how dangerous Spurs are on the counterattack, but Chelsea have completely canceled out the threat from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. These two weren’t sniffed at Stamford Bridge.
I’m sure Frank will be a little disappointed that his team haven’t tried their luck, but the quality he has up front means scoring goals won’t often be a problem for him.
When you look at the big picture, Chelsea are clearly still in the right direction – although Lampard will have to wait a bit longer to reach first place.
“Nobody has any reason to doubt him as a manager”
I spoke to Lampard last week and, rightly so, he was delighted with his team’s progress and their situation, both defensive and offensive.
Sunday’s draw doesn’t change that. Chelsea have lost just once – to Liverpool – in 16 games in all competitions in 2020-21 and are already on the last 16 in the Champions League.
They are third in the Premier League, just two points off the top, and are the top scorers. Things are going well for them, and Lampard deserves a lot of credit for it.
He will tell you himself that he is a newbie manager and is still learning the trade, but he has been very impressive in everything he has done so far.
Frank’s accomplishments as a Chelsea player, his relationship with the fans and his friendship with club owner Roman Abramovich made him a good choice when he was named, but with no supporting results he did not. still wouldn’t have lasted very long.
He achieved his goals last season under difficult circumstances – Chelsea had just sold their best player, Eden Hazard, and could not make any signings due to a transfer ban.
The Blues must have relied on young players a lot – one of the things that stood out to me was that Frank gave them a chance for a lot of them – but they still finished in the top four and qualified. for the Champions League.
At the start of this season expectations were very different as they have spent so big this summer and there is probably more pressure on Lampard. So far, however, he has delivered.
There’s still so much Frank wants to accomplish – and win – at Chelsea, but he’s off to a great start. He hasn’t given anyone any reason to doubt him as a manager – far from it, in fact.
What has Lampard changed about Chelsea?
There was a time when Chelsea lost a lot of goals at the back, but that is no longer the case. In all competitions, they have conceded just two goals in their last nine games.
Bringing in Edouard Mendy made a big difference as they now have a confident goalkeeper who has kept five clean sheets in six league games.
Thiago Silva also looks like a great signing, bringing experience and us to their backline. He’s 36 so he can’t play twice a week, but Lampard is also using him to good effect, in order to manage his performance.
Then they ask N’Golo Kane to do what he does best: protect the defense. Along with Mateo Kovacic, he did a great job of tracking Kane and Son and keeping them quiet on Sunday.
This means the Blues are harder to break, but they haven’t lost their lead in attack, where they have so many options to choose from.
They didn’t manage a goal against Tottenham but had the best opportunities by far even though Mourinho’s side were reluctant to open up for the majority of the game.
At times, Spurs had Moussa Sissoko play as a third center-half and they were happy to sit deep in their own half.
There wasn’t a lot of space for Chelsea to exploit but they should have scored anyway. Tammy Abraham had three good chances, Olivier Giroud was late and Mason Mount forced a brilliant save from Hugo Lloris.
A point against Spurs in the form they are in is a good result of course, but knowing Frank he will believe his side can still improve. His challenge now is to build on this excellent start.
Alan Shearer was talking to Chris Bevan of BBC Sport.