Two weeks into preseason, the intensity of training has increased, and so has the the quality and competitiveness of the opposition. Chelsea found that out the hard way in the 1-0 loss against defending Japanese league champions, Kawasaki Frontale, who are currently in the middle of their club season. Naturally, they showed much greater match fitness and sharpness.
While last week’s League of Ireland opposition were in the middle of their season as well, Kawasaki Frontale are a much better team and they showed that with solid and organized deep defending, speed on the counter, and good technical skill in possession and build-up.
Chelsea’s response was perhaps disappointing in that regard, especially in conceding the late winner thanks to some sloppy set piece defending, and in failing to show much cutting edge on the ball. Then again, it is still just preseason and Lampard was not wrong to point out the mitigating factors of travel, jet lag, weather, and so on. Fitness is still the main goal, after all, even if certain flaws in the performance could not be ignored.
“Obviously we want to win matches no matter what, but 10 days of pre-season having flown into Japan three days ago brings up a lot of difficulties for us physically. That’s why I was very pleased with the players physically. They gave everything in strong humidity with some good individual performances. I discovered a real appetite and attitude to work in the humidity with jetlag for a lot of the players.
“People are finding their fitness and their form. There are the normal things in pre-season that take a bit of time: being clinical in front of goal which we weren’t, but that comes, and some small details we will work on.
“Our quality of play on the ball was not quite what we want. We will get there. In front of goal it was a similar thing. We are not quite as sharp as we want to be but we are working towards that and I’m confident it will come. I have got no fears. I was happy with big parts of the performances.”
Chelsea announced a late change in the teamsheet after Kepa Arrizabalaga was removed from the starting lineup, causing a bit of confusion as to why we were delaying his first preseason minutes. Turns out he had fallen ill. Young Tammy Abraham missed out as well after feeling unwell the day before, but Lampard doesn’t expect either to be out for very long.
“The illnesses aren’t related. Tammy Abraham has tonsillitis and Kepa reported a stomach bug this afternoon. I’m not a doctor but it probably comes a little bit alongside what I mentioned before about players not sleeping and finding it difficult in different ways, and it’s come out in those two players.
“I don’t expect either of them to be too long. I know Tammy is already on the mend. Hopefully both are in contention for Barcelona next week.”
- Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
As Mourinho once said, preseason is fake, for good and for bad. It’s fake if you’re too good, and fake if you’re too bad. Chelsea certainly weren’t too bad — some encouraging performances to be sure — but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Then again, that’s exactly how it should be two weeks into preseason.