Chelsea go second in the Premier League table, at least temporarily, with a clinical 2-0 win against Palace at home today, making it six wins on the bounce. The last time Chelsea went on such a run was under Antonio Conte in the 2016-17 season, which finished with the Premier League title coming to Stamford Bridge.
While a title challenge is not (yet) on the cards, the table definitely shows Lampard’s young Blues to be much closer to England’s two best teams this season than in the seasons since that title win.
Either way, it’s game-by-game for head coach Frank Lampard who’s happy to take all three points from the London derby against a tricky Crystal Palace team and continue the forward momentum.
“Every game in the Premier League is hard, particularly against a team as well organised as Palace are. The first half, we started really well, a goal probably would have put us in a really good position, but we didn’t get it. We allowed the tempo to drop slightly towards the end of the first half.
“But we came out for the second half with the intent we did and the extra 10 per cent of urgency in our game. I wouldn’t say we won the game comfortably, but 2-0 is relatively comfortable. It could have probably been more with a bit more end product, but it was a nice solid win with a clean sheet.”
The biggest surprise in the starting lineup was the absence of Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta to the bench. Azpilicueta has been a regular in the first-team since since 2013, missing just two (2!) league games since the end of the 2014-15 season — a true testament to his excellence, reliability, and longevity — but Lampard made the big move by selecting 19-year-old Reece James at right back. It was a decision well justified as the youngster kept Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha in check for most of the game.
James was strong in 1-v-1 situations with the winger and also showed his own attacking side, dribbling past players and putting in crosses from the flank, something Azpilicueta, known more for his defensive qualities, fails to do consistently. There might be more games in store for Reece, who has hardly put a foot wrong since returning from injury.
“Reece was fantastic against one of the best wingers in the league one v one, Zaha is a real threat, especially on the counter-attack. Reece dealt with most of those situations and he also joined in on the attack. You can see how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet and his delivery and passing. I was pleased and I trust in Reece.
“Out of all the younger players who have been getting their chance this year, he’s had his injury earlier in the season and has got fit that little bit later, but he’s been training at a level and coming on at a level where he deserved minutes today. So he did brilliantly.”
James is of course hardly the only youngster taking center stage at Chelsea these days. Tammy Abraham has not only burst onto the scene with plenty of goals, he can safely be deemed as the breaker of a curse. Today’s well-taken goal marks the Chelsea No.9’s 10th in 12 Premier League games, making him the current top scorer of the league alongside Jamie Vardy.
While Tammy had difficulty linking up with the attackers today as he often had two centre backs as well as defensive midfielders marking him closely in a deep block, but like all great strikers, he managed to wriggle away at the right moment and took his chance to give Chelsea the lead. All signs point towards a really brilliant striker in the making.
“Some games as a striker in the Premier League will frustrate you because good defenders won’t give you much space, so there’s a problem for Tammy to solve. For any top striker we expect them to provide everything, goals, hold-up, and it’s not always possible.
“Then you need to keep trying, keep running, and he did and gets his goal very clinically. So a great game from Tammy, even if it won’t be his best game on the showreel.”
Last but not least, there’s Christian Pulisic — also young, though not from the Academy — who continued his rich vein of form with another crucial goal to double Chelsea’s lead and prevent a potential comeback from Palace. After a decent start to life at Chelsea, Lampard took Pulisic out of the spotlight and allowed him to adapt to the challenges of the Premier League. Safe to say that the result of this experiment is turning out quite great!
Christian Pulisic now has 10 goals and assists in his first 13 games for Chelsea (5G, 5A).— Jake Cohen (@JakeFCohen) November 9, 2019
Decent start. ⚽️
Pulisic picked up a minor but unfortunate hip injury as well, probably when he crashed into the goalpost while scoring his flying header — yes, Captain America style. Lampard hopes that the injury isn’t serious and wishes to see Pulisic continue his excellent form on the pitch and on the statsheet as well.
“Christian came from another league, didn’t really have a great break. He played some games early on and the pace of the Premier League is tough for any player, that’s been proven time and time again.
“With Christian, I always believed that he had huge talent and was going to be a big player for us and he’s absolutely showing that. He was first-class today, as he has been recently with his energy, movement off the ball, slipping past people, working off the ball and his quality, and getting in areas again to score in and around the six-yard box, which I think is a huge thing for any wide player.
“The only frustration is he comes off with a bit of an injury. He was going to be subbed before he scored his goal, he’s got a bit of a hip issue, but I’m hoping it’s not too bad because the way he’s in full flow at the moment is great to see.”
Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
Players, young and old, are happy, the style of play has been enthralling while the manager has created an infectious atmosphere in and outside Stamford Bridge for all Chelsea . Not much to complain about at the moment. Onwards and upwards!