Chelsea’s unbeaten run now stands at 17 matches after last night’s 1-1 draw against midtable Russian Premier League side Krasnodar, which doesn’t look at all an impressive result in and of itself, but in the context of the night, it’s not terrible. It’s pretty okay in fact: it got the job done.
Neither team had anything to play for, with positions in the group already locked in, but while Chelsea rotated all but one player, a post-COVID Kai Havertz, and played two teenagers who were both making their first ever starts in the Champions League — and in Tino Anjorin’s case, his first ever start for the club — Krasnodar played practically their full strength first-choice team, save for any injuries.
None of that actually excuses Chelsea’s disjointed play, with some familiar failings in just about every phase of the game, but it does explain it to a great extent. There’s a reason Chelsea’s form improved in recent weeks, and there’s a reason most of these players aren’t part of that usual starting XI.
But again, overanalyzing a glorified fitness exercise isn’t too helpful, and at least we didn’t lose, no one got hurt, and we had a decent Academy Day with Billy Gilmour and the aforementioned Anjorin.
Lampard was suitably impressed with the two 19-year-olds, and suitably satisfied with the result overall.
“It was a good workout, particularly with some of the individual performances in there. Billy Gilmour was really good on his return and Tino Anjorin was really good making his full debut in the Champions League.
“There were no injuries, we got the work in the legs for people that needed it and also the ones that come off the bench because we’ll be needing them this week so I’m very pleased. We wanted to win but it a tough game to navigate. I asked the lads to be professional and get their attitude right and they all certainly did that.”
“Everyone was pretty good. [...] I liked the discipline of the team. You’ve got to respect the opponent and they had a few little counter-attack moments but nothing great themselves. Maybe there was a bit of zip taken out of our performance in a way but I’m relatively happy.”
Lampard singled out Kai Havertz (testing him out on the wing again, which “will be important”), Antonio Rüdiger (“solid”) and César Azpilicueta (“professional”) for praise, but reserved the highest praise for the kids, including Anjorin who’s earned more time with the first-team.
“He’s shown in training, since last season when he was involved with us, a real ability to step straight into the level in terms of his abilities on the ball, which he showed today - the way he receives the ball, the way he moves with the ball very quickly, his physical attributes to protect the ball and run.
“He’s had some fitness issues in terms of being able to complete games at Under-23 and youth team level, and that’s something that’s a work in progress with him but he’s a player I feel the more he trains with us, the better he gets because it’s a really good environment for him. With the injuries we have in the short-term, he’ll be spending more time with us.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
With Hakim Ziyech out for at least a couple weeks and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s injury still not fully diagnosed, there just might be further opportunities for Anjorin. We’re down to one actual winger, the just recently recovered Christian Pulisic, and the jury’s still out on Kai Havertz as an actual wing player.
Next up: Everton away on Saturday night.