Frank Lampard did not win his first ever Chelsea game in charge, but fortunately it was just a preseason match and the results won’t actually count until a month from now, when we travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. A 1-1 draw against a League of Ireland outfit is hardly a good look regardless, though if we’re looking for the ultimate silver lining, José Mourinho’s tenure in 2004 began with an away 1-1 draw at then fourth division (League Two) Oxford United before beating Manchester United 1-0 a month later in the season opener.
Historical parallels aside, the focus on Wednesday was firmly on fitness, as evidenced by Lampard putting the squad through a morning session before the evening’s game and switching the entire XI at half-time. All 21 players who arrived on Friday, plus Izzy Brown who arrived on Monday (and certainly looked most off the pace yet) featured, with the more senior and established players slowly getting worked in this week and into the weekend. This was apparently always the plan, even before Lampard officially took over, as the new head coach revealed in his post-match interview with Chelsea TV.
“This plan was already in place before I’ve got a hold of them, but this game was very early for us. Now the other players are back, other than the injured boys and Pulisic, [so] we’re pretty much together. They [will] integrate more over the next couple days. You’ll see some of them over the weekend.”
Beyond the personnel shuffling, Lampard’s goal is to get the players quickly up to a baseline level of fitness, which would then presumably allow him to start training on more advanced tactical concepts. He’s looking to implement an up-tempo, high intensity, and much more direct style of play — some of which we say in the first half and at the very beginning of the second — and that can’t happen without some excellent physical foundations.
“I enjoyed it [but] it was a tough game for us. We haven’t been back for long, just a few days, so there was a bit of pressure on the lads to work today. We have been working them very hard, so I’m pleased with the outcome.
“It was a test for sure, because fitness was our issue. Not only have we been working them hard, we worked them hard this morning, so I wanted to stretch them a little bit and put them under pressure. That’s what preseason’s all about. You want to find your feet. The quicker we can get there, to the level we want, the better for us.”
Lampard did not highlight any players by name, but he did acknowledge strong efforts from “some” of the youngsters. Many of the younger and more fringe players will be heading back to London after this game, to reduce the number of players in camp to something more manageable than 35+, but hopefully a select few who played today will get to stay. The likes of Billy Gilmour, Conor Gallagher, and Kasey Palmer certainly put in some noticeable shifts.
“It was good competition for us. You want to win the game obviously, as you always do, but it’s not about that at this point. It’s about individuals getting fit and pushing themselves to the limit and I thought some of the performances, particularly from some of the young lads were really good.”
“I’ve been really happy [with the youngsters] because we’ve got our way of working as a staff, and it’s hard and it’s taxing on the players. We want to get straight into it. We have to because we want to get a level of fitness and intensity into our game. I’ve been pleased with not just how they’ve practically done it but how they’ve taken it on with their attitudes.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea TV
Next up for Chelsea will be more double session back at Carton House in Dublin, before a game against St Pats on Saturday.