Towards the end of the 2013-14 season, as Chelsea played out José Mourinho’s self-fulfilling prophecy of failing at the final hurdle of the season and throwing away a league title with a 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, the Special One wrote just one word on Chelsea beat writer Paul Lagan’s notepad when asked what the squad needed.
No, not big Schweddy Balls (‘tis the season after all). Just BALLS.
In response to my question to Mourinho about what qualities he wanted to bring to his side next season he wrote this pic.twitter.com/i4JsWszIQW— Paul Lagan (@CFCJourno) March 29, 2014
Why did he write it? He said he “couldn’t say it in front of the cameras”.
Apparently Frank Lampard has no such hangups (see the 3:35-mark of the video at the top). He doesn’t quite mean it exactly the same way as Mourinho did, but it’s close in essence. Let’s call it an echo. A tribute. Reeeeee-mix!
“I won’t blame the fans [for the flat atmosphere], they come here to support the team, they will come to Tottenham next week and they’ll come to Southampton on Boxing Day. And some responsibility is on the players to excite them, to have the personality and have the balls to take the ball in an area and beat someone or play forward.”
The first-half yesterday was the consensus worst 45 minutes of football we’ve witnessed at Stamford Bridge this season, and the second half was unfortunately not much better either. We’ve suffered several other defeats of course, but the play itself was dire this time as well.
Lampard has been preaching fast, aggressive, direct, exciting football from day one. Yesterday, there was very little of that on display — just two chances of note, Mount’s shot on the turn from Jorginho’s ball over the top in the first half, Emerson’s header from a corner scramble in the second — and the head coach did not hold back in his scathing assessment of the football we produced.
“The fans shouldn’t be excited if we’re going to play 10 balls across the back four, they shouldn’t be. And that’s not the team I want to manage. [If] I was a fan sitting there today I’d also be saying ‘too slow, too slow, centre-back to centre-back, centre-back to full-back, back to centre-back, back to full-back’. And I don’t want to come and see that.”
“We need more urgency in our play, if you’re transferring the ball, transfer it quickly. If you’re playing through the lines, if you’re an attacking player, get at people, do things that are positive, don’t play safe. We play generally too safe through the game.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Evening Standard
Chelsea now have a rare full week (thanks to our early exit from the League Cup) to prepare for the aforementioned José Mourinho, as we visit his new home at Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday. That gives us a little bit of time to figure out whether the changes we need to make are in terms of tactics, personnel, habits, decisions, or if maybe we just need to rest and relax for a minute. Or all of the above.
Lampard will conduct a two-hour video review today (Sunday) before giving the players a couple days off. Back to work midweek then, and hopefully renewed and recharged and refocused.
After all, as we found out in 2014, all it took to go from title challengers to title winners was BIG BALLS. (And a world-class midfield orchestrator and a world-class finisher.) Chelsea are obviously not nearly as good at the moment as those guys were, so we’ll need a bit extra. But it’s a good place to start.