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Lampard explains the Batshuayi-for-Abraham substitution with Chelsea needing a goal

Like-for-like but not really

Newcastle United v Chelsea - Premier League - St James’ Park Photo by Tim Goode/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Chelsea’s imperfect season rolls on imperfectly. Last night’s 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park is just the latest reminder that this (very young) team is far from a finished product. That’s true just as much now as it was at the start of the season, though it’s changed in some respects.

The season began with an incredibly harsh 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford. But afterwards, Chelsea were shut out just once in the next 20 games. We may not have won them all, just 11 in fact, but at least we gave ourselves a fighting chance.

Unfortunately, in the last 12 games, we’ve been kept off the scoresheet 4 times. There are many ways to win in football. Not scoring goals is not one of them.

Which is why it was a bit baffling that Lampard took off Tammy Abraham last night with Chelsea still needing a goal. Unlike the team, Tammy’s goalscoring has been fairly consistent. While he (understandably) hasn’t been able to replicate his (ridiculous) 7-in-3 burst from late August and early September, he has 4 goals since the start of December and, more pertinently, remains the only legitimate goal-threat on the team.

He came closer than any other Chelsea player to scoring last night in fact, seeing one effort cleared off the line, even. Alas, his reward for that chance was to see his number go up on the board, to be replaced by Michy Batshuayi. Michy hasn’t scored since October — a run of 12 scoreless appearances all told.

Head coach Frank Lampard explained that like-for-like substitution thusly.

“We can’t just rely on Tammy. He has been fantastic this season. It didn’t quite come off for him this evening, but that is football.”

“We were creating a lot, but the Michy change was just a change of bringing a striker on when Tammy wasn’t dropping for him today. We have a game in three days, can Michy come on and make something happen. Michy is very dangerous around the box and it was like for like.”

Keeping Tammy fresh for the Arsenal game coming up on Tuesday is a legitimate concern, to be sure — Tammy has played the fifth-most minutes of any player in the squad, and the most of any attacking player — but it’s less legitimate to think that an extra 10 minutes plus stoppage time this one time would’ve made that much difference in the grand scheme of things. It could’ve made a big difference in the small scheme of last night’s game, perhaps in combination with Michy as well, who, in theory, remains a proper goal-threat thanks to his finishing skills.

“In that case it would have meant bringing off maybe N’Golo Kante, who was outstanding all game Jorginho, who is at the base of our midfield and you have to be careful with their counter-attack.”

Oops. That didn’t quite work out then, did it? It is of course easy to be a manager in hindsight, but adding more attacking players seems like a fairly straightforward and reasonable methodology behind winning football. Lampard, who has spoken repeatedly about the need to be versatile and adaptable, has proven more than willing to change and shift things around from game-to-game or within the matches themselves, but I guess not this time.

There’s also an element of keeping Abraham properly motivated and challenged, which Lampard clearly seems to believe is the necessary and correct way to man-manage the outgoing, boisterous, ambitious youngster.

“He is living the dream. He is playing for Chelsea as number nine. He spent three loans, two in the Championship and I don’t sympathise at all [for the substitution]. I just want him to push on. He has a great character and great desire. I am delighted with Tammy, I can’t complain one bit.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London

I still would’ve liked to have seen our leading goal-scorer kept on the pitch with the team needing a goal.

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