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Lampard keeping the faith as Chelsea advance in Champions League despite usual issues

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Post-match thoughts from head coach Frank Lampard as Chelsea qualify for the Champions League Round of 16

Chelsea FC v Lille OSC: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Chelsea came into tonight’s game against Lille on the back of just 1 win in 5 in all competitions, and riding a 5-match home winless streak in the Champions League, dating back to 2017 (4 draws, 1 loss). Given those numbers, the 2-1 win over the bottom team in the (fairly tough) group is as welcome as any, especially as it propelled us to a second-place finish and qualification for the knockout phase of the competition.

The manner of victory however continues many of the themes we’ve been struggling to correct this season. The Blues once again reached the 20-shot mark (9 on target), but failed to find the back of the net in the second-half. (We did score from a corner, shock of all shocks!) And that wouldn’t be concerning necessarily, but we’re generally just moments away from disaster at any given time at the back, so when former Chelsea backup striker Loïc Rémy pulled one back late for the visitors, it turned a comfortable evening into a rather squirmy and shifty one. The narrative of the 2-0 most dangerous lead was just waiting to burst in. Fortunately we held on to the three points, and will get to continue in the competition instead of dropping down into the Europa League.

Afterwards, head coach Frank Lampard reflected on the situation, giving credit to his young charges for coming away with the win, but pointing out the need to keep trying to improve and eventually, hopefully fix the usual issues.

“It did get twitchy towards the end and we need to take our chances better. It’s a continuous theme for us. We are controlling lots of games but not finishing them, and we have to kill games off.

“Of course, we can defend better but we need to take our chances when we have them. At 2-0 I thought it was not quite done and when Lille scored it made it a more nervy finish to the game than it needed to be. We completely dominated the first half and at half-time we were very comfortable. It was then a case of can we push on and in the second half we didn’t manage to do that.

“So it’s going to be a work in progress. With the young players we have in this side there will be bumps in the road. I push them and can be quite hard on them, setting the high standards I want to see them reach, but at the same time I have to be patient.

“Today was a sign of how much work we still have got to do. It should have been a calmer finish game and that is the biggest thing, for me, that we need to improve.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC

One obvious way to potentially improve the squad would be through the transfer market, and now that Chelsea are back in business starting in January, the temptation will surely be there — both from the fans and the management — to push for possibly quicker solutions to those problems. A key signing or two could be the difference between a comfortable top-four finish with a deep run in the FA Cup as well as Europe, and a struggle to the finish line in the league with early exits from the knockout competitions alongside the growing discontent that would inevitably follow.

But Lampard isn’t panicking and neither should we.