Santa Claus is dead. The Easter Bunny isn’t real. The Tooth Fairy is just some creepy old guy. The blast from Tammy Abraham clangs off the post. Frank Lampard loses his first game in charge, and loses badly. Harsh lessons define us, and make us the people that we are.
No one expected this to be easy of course. We all knew that. But Chelsea sure learned some harsh lessons, some “really” harsh lessons at the Theater of
Dreams Nightmares on Sunday afternoon.
And yet, there were positives to take from the game as well, as weird as that may sound when the scoreboard reads 4-0 and you’re not just some fourth division minnow out for a trip of a lifetime. But that’s the only constructive way to move forward from this game, and that’s precisely how Frank Lampard is going about things as well.
“Lots of good stuff. Some crucial, bad errors from us. At this level, if you make those mistakes as we did, those unforced errors, then it can be costly. [...] The input, the desire was not a problem today. Nothing like that. Everything, really, was right. It was the critical mistakes that gave it away.”
In the third episode (“CHANCE”) of Amazon’s football documentary series “This Is Football”, applied mathematician David Sumpter (@Soccermatics) claims the outcome of any given football game is only about one-third down to which team is better, and two-thirds dependent on random chance. As with any statistical measure, individual cases may differ drastically from the average, but these random chance events are a partially why football has such great appeal. No team wins every game. You can of course tilt the odds in your favor, and that’s where coaching and personnel come into effect.
It’s easy to get caught up in results and analyze in hindsight based on the scoreboard. In fact, that sort of analysis dominates the airwaves. But as much as it’s the result that matters in the end, we do have to look at the process as well. It’s the only thing that we can control, and the only we can work on in training.
“If you analyze the game and take the goals out — we know that goals are crucial! — there was lots of good play, especially in the first half, the first 60 minutes. It was really bright play; we couldn’t take our chances. We hit the post, we hit the bar, De Gea made saves and we made some bad decisions in front of goal. So some really harsh lessons. We must be clinical in front of goal. And we can’t give teams like Manchester United opportunities to hurt you. They had five shots and scored four goals. We had many more than that, but that’s the lesson.”
United scored four goals from five shots on target (11 total shots). Chelsea scored zero goals from seven shots on target (18 total). Chelsea had better numbers for passing, possession, chance quality. Chelsea also made more mistakes. Mistakes will almost always outweigh anything else that happens. But we can work on those, at least up to a certain ceiling limited by the players at our disposal.
“I don’t want them to get their heads down. This is one game. It’s three points. You can lose at Manchester United; I lost here a fair few times. It’s one of those grounds where you can lose; they’re a good team. We mustn’t get caught up in that. We have a home game against Leicester to really, hopefully start our season and get three points at home. In between there’s obviously the Super Cup, so it’s not time to dwell. We will deal with the mistakes we made and we will be better for that. And hopefully we can work on the good stuff, too.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea TV
It’s unfortunate that the Super Cup now looms, and on barely any rest. Liverpool are a better side than Manchester United. We could be in for another bad day. But it’s important to not lose sight of the overall picture. It’s a long season and bad days will happen. Conte’s title-winners started poorly, then found a winning formula. Mourinho’s title-winner started well, then overcame a winter wobble. Everyone will get tested at some point. As ever, the proof lies in the