We may only be halfway through, but Chelsea’s season has certainly had its up and its downs already. We got off to a terrible start, then put together a solid win streak, and now have been waffling around somewhere in the middle, trading wins and losses for the last couple months. But Sunday’s win over Spurs feels like a turning point, and if we can follow that up with a win today against Southampton and then with another derby win at Arsenal, we will be set up nicely heading into the second half of the season.
Throughout it all, Lampard and Co have stuck by the youth. From day one, we knew our season would be largely defined by their performances. Part of that was of course forced by the transfer ban, but an even bigger part of that was the change in approach from the club. When it has worked, it’s been praised, perhaps overly so. When it hasn’t, it’s been criticized, probably overly so.
Ironically, it was none other than José Mourinho who led the initial criticisms at the start of the season. While still just a pundit for Sky, José questioned the wisdom of placing so much faith in youth like Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham after Chelsea opened the season with a 4-0 loss at Old Trafford, calling for more experience* lest Lampard’s “free season” turn into a Mourinho Season. (This feigned concern continued for a while, and clearly rubbed some people the wrong way.)
While Lampard has always been quick to acknowledge and praise the more experienced players in the squad as well, he’s certainly feeling vindicated when the likes of Abraham, Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Christian Pulisic, and to a lesser extent, Callum Hudson-Odoi are making game-winning contributions.
“It was very easy to criticise all of those players after Man United when we lose 4-0. It’s easy to say Mason Mount and Tammy shouldn’t be playing, they’re too young, you need to play experienced players — it’s the easiest, laziest comment.”
That said, it would be disingenuous to claim that all it took was faith from the coaching staff. The players themselves needed to step up and respond, and they’ve done that repeatedly already. The best part is, they’re just getting started and there’s plenty of room left for improvement yet.
Mason Mount, whose performances have mirrored Chelsea’s overall season to a large degree, was spectacular on Sunday, and while neither he nor Abraham scored, they were keys to the victory just the same. Abraham’s season probably should be praised a bit more, in fact.
“[Tammy] has developed. He’s scored his goals and his performance against Tottenham only lacked a goal because it was all-round. It was giving defenders problems, testing them the other way, stretching the pitch for us, chasing off the ball, bringing balls out the sky. He’s working hard, he’s developing all the time and he’s a serious striker - we know that and we know that he’s going to get better.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
Okay, kids, let’s not [FUN] this up against Southampton today.
*In further delicious irony, though this time validating Mourinho himself, the two players whom Mourinho mentioned specifically in those opening day comments, Willian and Marcos Alonso, also played key roles on Sunday. Perhaps the best approach is to find the right balance, as in all aspects of life.