For the second straight game, Frank Lampard did not get the starting formation right. While the 3-4-3 setup worked very well against Spurs, it failed badly against Southampton on Thursday and failed even more spectacularly against Arsenal on Sunday.
Part of the responsibility for that lies with the head coach of course, who picks the personnel and the tactics (and, for example, continues to play Emerson, who isn’t a great wing-back to begin with and is spectacularly out of form currently). But part of that is also on the players themselves. And part of that is on the opposition.
So while Lampard could control the first part and admitted his initial mistake by changing the system at the half-hour mark — Emerson off for Jorginho; shift to 4-3-3 — he still needed help from his own players and from Arsenal’s. Fortunately, those two factors delivered the goods as well, with the head coach paying tribute to his team’s determination afterwards.
“We were so awful for 30 mins, slow lethargic, nervous. The opposite of against Tottenham. We gave Arsenal everything they wanted. We made the change early, felt it had to be done. Second half we dominated.
“After 10 mins or so it was clear that Arsenal had seen us play against Tottenham and made us into a back five instead of a back three. They were on top and there was a lack of balance to our team. The sub gave us another man in midfield and gave us more urgency.
“From my point of view you can accept a miss-pass but you can’t accept lethargy in a London derby. The players were told that and they delivered. The second half was nothing to do with tactics it was all to do with spirit and desire.”
Chelsea’s second half effort was much improved from the opening 30+ minutes, and, after a gift from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno to equalize, we generated enough momentum and quality for a winning goal, our first from a losing position all season.
It may not have been pretty, but it felt glorious. But we’ve been here before just last week. Now we get another opportunity to build.
“I still haven’t bounced back from Boxing Day mentally (loss to Southampton). Our next home games we’ll do everything we can to turn the corner. We’re still in fourth and want more and the home games have been different so we have to focus on them when they come around.”
-Frank Lampard; source: BBC via F365
Chelsea end the calendar year on a positive note and a four-point lead over fifth place Manchester United. Let’s start the new year even better, with another three points against Brighton (away, not home as I wrote initially).