With just two wins in five games, Chelsea sit eighth in the Premier League table, but thanks to some surprising and ridiculous results across the board, we are just two points off reigning Champions Liverpool and five points off top-placed Everton.
An unprecedented short preseason leading to haphazard preparations has contributed to this mess, but there’s little use in complaining about that. Games are coming thick and fast, and Chelsea will look to follow get things back on track at Old Trafford tomorrow, a place where we haven’t won a league game since 2013.
Frank Lampard eased some tension before the trip by declaring Christian Pulisic and Thiago Silva out of injury trouble. In fact, the only injuries of note are to third goalkeeper and young Billy Gilmour, who had knee surgery in July.
"Both [Pulisic and Silva] are fine, we've got a pretty clean bill of health on that side, other than Kepa who has a shoulder issue so won't travel to Manchester. The only other player out is Billy Gilmour who is obviously long-term, but he’ll be back soon."
Manchester United have also had an inconsistent start to the season and have yet to win at home. In fact, they are only 15th in the table, two points behind Chelsea. But two wins from their last two games, including an impressive Champions League win away at Paris St. Germain is sure to give them a boost.
Ole Gunnar Solksjær holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against Frank Lampard's Chelsea, which isn't a pretty sight, and it’s going to get any easier tomorrow.
"It certainly does, as it should do. We played them a lot last year. They are a quality team with quality individuals and quality organisation, and we saw that in Paris in midweek.
"Everything is very close in the league at the moment, so it’s an opportunity to get some hard-earned points, but it will be very tough.
"Of course the games against teams around you are great for confidence if you can play well and get a result, but over the course of a season there’s a lot more to it. There are points you can grind out which we were not so strong at last season at home. That affected our league position, but when you come up against a big competitor it is great to win the game."
Chelsea played out a 0-0 draw against Sevilla in the midweek Champions League fixture. While the attack looked devoid of creativity and composure, things looked far more stable and coherent at the back with the inclusion of Silva and Édouard Mendy in goal making a huge difference.
The result was nothing to boast about, but given the horrific defensive showings that Chelsea have dished out this season, it certainly seems like a nice base to build on. No matter which competition, a solid defence is the recipe to success, and Lampard is keen to build on the same.
"A clean sheet always gives confidence. That’s great, but it’s very simplistic to look at games and say ‘that game you conceded so these things are all wrong’ and ‘that game because it was a clean sheet these things are all right.
"My job is to constantly analyse what was good and what was bad. Some parts of that game off the ball were not as good as I wanted them to be. Our defending in the box and our resilience certainly was. That really pleased me.
"We were really good as those finer details off the ball last year, in terms of when we set how hard we worked to win it back, the pressure we put on teams. That wasn’t how we were conceding goals, we were conceding goals in other ways we were very aware of. I'm happy with the clean sheet and we keep going."
In addition to improvement in defensive schemes and attacking tactics, Lampard has once again reiterated the importance of communication and leadership on the pitch, the lack of which he believes to be the major cause of Chelsea losing foothold and eventually points in certain games.
The manager’s counting on the strong characters in the team, which apparently include Hakim Ziyech and Mendy, among others, to help the team out from tight spots that require more than just footballing ability.
"When I look at the squad I want to help grow the ideas of leaders and personalities within the group. Over the course of a long, difficult season there will be moments when you rely on them to help you in tough times, and to push the good times along.
"You can’t get on in any elite sport without people with personality and character in the team. I have seen that in Hakim and Edu Mendy as soon as they came through the door.
"Hakim has confidence about him, his fitness is coming individually, he still needs a bit of time to get his match fitness now his injury is cleared up, but both of those will be great additions on that front. I encourage personality and communication between the players, we need more of that."
- Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
Here's hoping for a good result at Old Trafford that would finally kickstart consistent performances going forward.