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Lampard happy with team and individual performances, annoyed at VAR

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I’ll take my ‘I Survived VAR’ shirt in a medium, please.

FBL-ENG-PR-WATFORD-CHELSEA Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Even the most honest and romantic among us would have to admit that they did not see this coming. Sure, it was all swell to dream about in July and August, but at some point you’re supposed to wake up; and even if you don’t, the calendar marches on. Well it’s November now, and after a 2-1 win away at Watford, history (the good kind) has already been made.

Chelsea began the match with a confidence that’s been building all season. The Blues were moving the ball around easily, getting plenty into the penalty box, and finding space to take cracks from distance. Except Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster — as is now standard for opposing goalkeepers against Chelsea — played as if boosted by a cheat code.

“We dominated the game, played some great football for big periods of it and created enough chances,’ he said. ‘You have to give credit to Ben Foster because he made some great saves but we feel ourselves that there’s at least three or four goals in that game.”

“I enjoyed watching a lot of the play. For 25 minutes, it was outstanding and we controlled it, then we got a bit sloppy but again in the second half the link between Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount a bit higher was really good. They’re all comfortable on the ball, they have the ability to find a forward pass and break the line and Kovacic in particular drove from midfield a couple of times. I thought they were outstanding.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC

Even though Tammy Abraham hadn’t scored in nearly a month, he was still tied with Sergio Aguero for top goalscorer in the league. Before Chelsea’s match kicked off the Argentine had added another. Tammy, it would seem, hates being #2 so much that five minutes after the first whistle he was back level (courtesy of an absolUTELY SUBLIME ASSIST FROM JORGINHO).

“I joked yesterday with Tammy that he’s on a barren patch having not scored for three games but he’s so hungry, he works hard, he wants to score goals. I thought the timing of the link between him and Jorginho for the goal was fantastic and then it’s a great finish, and the assist where the pace of the cross that he gets on it really makes it.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC

After all the hubbub across the pond about Pulisic’s struggles — which even forced Lampard to rule out a January loan for the American — the boss remained true to his word and philosophy in waiting for Pulisic to train his way into appearances, then perform his way into starts. After Pulisic’s hat-trick versus Burnley, he was given another start today, and returned the favor by scoring another goal with a really intelligent off-the-ball run.

“It’s great to see Christian scoring a goal from four yards out. I love to see that because he could have decided not to go the extra mile and then that ball flashes across the face but nobody gets on the end of it. If he continues doing that sort of thing then the goals will rack up because there are a lot of goals to get in the six-yard box. I thought his general performance was top as well.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC

The goal was the team’s second on the day and everything was seeming fine. Watford had one or two dangerous players, but nobody was out-pacing Tomori and Zouma had one of his best matches in a while, using his frame and athleticism to block four shots (match high) from ever needing intervention from Kepa.

Of course, that’s not quite how things went for the full 90. Instead of the match being slowly killed off, or killed off via a goal blitz it languished at 2-0, leaving the door open for a silly decision to make things uncomfortable. VAR provided that silly decision just before the 80th minute, making the final fifteen minutes of the contest far more tense than it had any right to be.

“Two goals is never enough to put a game to bed. We’ve felt that already this season and it’s been a bit of a story of our season at times, especially away from home, but that shouldn’t take away from how well we played.”

“Last week we saw a change in VAR, a clear change in penalties being overturned. I was at a [Premier League] Managers Meeting in the week where we spoke a lot about it and the absolute consensus from managers, referees and the Premier League was that penalties or decisions would not be overturned unless they were absolutely clear and obvious. This [Watford’s penalty] was nowhere near that.”

“Anything that takes that long means they’re not sure about it so why wouldn’t they use the screens on the side of the pitch? I know it’s a bit contentious and it might put pressure on referees but if we’re going to say there’s a grey area and turning over decisions because one referee somewhere else thinks it was more of a penalty than the referee on the pitch did then I think we’re in a dangerous place.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC

It is a bit annoying that these meetings would occur to seemingly put everyone on the same page then on matchdays it’s a free-for-all again. Personally, I think once it goes to VAR it has to be a penalty, because there indeed was contact (even though you could also argue that Chelsea playing around in their own box for touch after touch got what it deserved). But the controversy comes from the supposed mandate ‘clear and obvious.’ In this instance, the referee saw the play unfold and elected against blowing his whistle. He was not out of position and no one was hacked down, it was a judgment call, and he elected not to award a penalty. If VAR is going to be used to second-guess referee decisions without the ‘clear and obvious’ mandate, well, it’s more of a robot overlord than an assistant.

This time it didn’t cost Chelsea any points, thanks to an outstanding final-touch-of-the-ball save from Kepa.

“It was a brilliant save and we got what we deserved. Sometimes you need your goalkeeper to produce moments like that - that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes it can be a quiet afternoon and it certainly was for him today so I’m pleased for him. It’s great for a keeper’s confidence when those moments come.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC

Because Chelsea’s current run has been so unexpected and lengthy, it’s easy to forget that the squad is still missing its best player (and best defender). But the team is flying, together, and racking up the wins.

“The players are working hard. The way we’re working off the ball, we have to put in a lot of leg work and I’ve got players who are putting in the work. They’re training the way they want to play.”

–Frank Lampard; source: ChelseaFC