Theoretically this was always possible.
Chelsea’s season ended later than every Premier League side barring Manchester City and Manchester United.
They have a manager in just his second season in charge and they have signed six new starters
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Therefore, given that they faced the defending champions at home and two well-organised, if supposedly inferior, opponents away in their opening three games, you might have forgiven Frank Lampard’s Chelsea for only coming away with four points.
Hitting the panic-button after three games is never wise, this is very much a marathon not a sprint. Of course questions will be asked because the money spent by Lampard demands a title challenge but in reality this team was always going to be a way off challenging Liverpool, or even City, initially at least. A more realistic goal seemed to be pushing into third and establishing themselves as the best challengers for next season. Is that a tad unambitious? Perhaps, but Lampard is a new manager at a new Chelsea. Yes, he has spent so much that it recalls the early days of Roman Abramovich, and rivals Pep Guardiola at City, but he didn’t have the starting point Guardiola had, both in terms of squad or managerial nous. Furthermore it took Jurgen Klopp until his third full season to crack the top two, with the title finally arriving in his fourth.
rank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea kicks a ball during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns on September 26, 2020 in West Bromwich, England
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But make no mistake about it, Chelsea should be concerned at the way they have started. Take the 6-0 thrashing of Barnsley in the EFL Cup out of the equation and there is a worrying trend developing.
In each of their three games Chelsea have been impressive going forward, without a ruthless cutting edge, and they have made basic errors at the back. Whether it’s a goalkeeping mistake, a sloppy header, poor marking or just taking too long on the ball Chelsea look like a side that are still playing pre-season. Yes, they only had one friendly but some of these mistakes are unforgivable at the highest level.
What will be particularly concerning for Lampard is that some of these mistakes are creeping into his attack. In the first-half both Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham were guilty of missing guilt-edge chances, when the score was only 1-0. Plenty of Chelsea fans were expecting their attack to bail out the defence this season. It’s going to have to as it’s certainly not going to be the other way around based on the showings so far.
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As mentioned earlier there is a long way to go, and there are a lot of things Lampard can point to. Werner, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz are all still playing in their first games for the new club. Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy are yet to play, whilst Ben Chilwell is clearly far from full fitness. There’s also still no Christian Pulisic, who ended the season so strongly. In a month or so there’s every chance this team is flowing n the manner with which Lampard would like and they’re starting to blow teams away. After all they came back into Saturday’s contest and scored two great goals plus a third late on to rescue the point, but it’s hardly feasible to imagine that Chelsea are going to be able to come from behind every week. Lampard's comments after the game reflected as much.
"You can do as many meetings as you want -- if you're going to make those mistakes, you're going to give yourself a mountain to climb," said Lampard,
"We created two or three great chances in the first half, I felt we would create more, the only other problem at 3-0 was West Brom were going to protect their lead more,
"It is a big lesson for us. We will get a lot better. We're still finding our way with new players and a lack of pre-season. Today is part of the process of getting better."
: Tammy Abraham of Chelsea celebrates with teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi after scoring his sides third goal during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns on September 26, 2020 in West Bromwich, England. Sporting s
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For that not to be the case Chelsea have to cut out the sloppy errors that are plaguing them at the moment. You can’t imagine that a player as experienced as Silva will make the sort of mistakes he did on Saturday on a regular occasion, particularly when he realises the Premier League is a different pace to Ligue 1. However one player who probably won’t get another chance, not that he deserves one, is Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard’s defending lacksiadsial at the best of times and Lampard hooking him at half-time spoke volumes. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta isn’t known for his attacking play but still the change was made with Chelsea chasing the game. Chilwell, when fit, will offer more both offensively and defensively whilst Azpilicueta is a better option in the short-term. In goal, Willy Caballero will be upset with his effort with Callum Robinson’s opening goal and the fact that he was picked ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga suggests it is only a matter of time before Mendy takes his place as the new number one.
As this author alluded to a month ago, you can understand why Chelsea splurged in the market the way they did. The start of this season was always going to be weird with the delayed end to the 2019-20 campaign so why not take a bit of a risk with the number of new players you integrate? Clearly Chelsea felt they couldn’t risk losing out on players like Havertz or Werner next summer when their rivals had more spending power.
The three goals in the second-half, plus the fact that they managed to not concede any further goals, is where Chelsea need to look as they move forward. Theoretically the signings of Mendy, Chilwell and Silva should make Chelsea more solid as a defensive unit. Between them that trio have just one Premier League appearance thus far, which was that player’s debut in the competition. Is it really time to sound the alarm? Not yet.