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A sign of where Chelsea are: Lampard frustrated with defeat at West Ham

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Bemoans lack of consistency and highlights the gap between title contenders and title pretenders

West Ham United v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Frank Lampard has reiterated again that his Chelsea squad are far from the level of newly crowned champions, Liverpool, or the previous title-holders, Manchester City. Wednesday night’s disappointing defeat to West Ham, at an empty Olympic Stadium, is only further evidence of the team’s inconsistencies.

It is these type of performances that define the difference between where this youthful Chelsea lie as title pretenders and where Lampard hopes this squad will be as title contenders in the future.

“It’s something that has happened a few times this season. We’ve had opportunities to close gaps and jump over teams because of other results or whatever situation.”

“But we haven’t done it and that’s a sign of where we are. We know we have a lot of hard work to do to get where we want to be and the reason the rest of us are chasing Liverpool and Man City is because of the consistency that develops over time. That’s what we have to work towards.”

Asked whether he felt let down by his team’s defending, Lampard was quick to deflect and refused to isolate blame.

However, the faults in defense were laid bare. The decisive goal in the defeat came when Chelsea’s fullbacks over-committed in search for the winner and the center backs destroyed whatever defensive shape may have been left with poor positioning and reading of the play. West Ham’s second came from a calamitous display from each member of the back four.

West Ham’s first goal (and the one ruled offside just before it) came from more disastrous set piece defending. Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta did his best (debatably) to prevent a towering Tomas Souček from scoring the corner header, but one could also argue that the undersized fullback, often exposed for his only weakness, his height, even in Conte’s three-man defenses of seasons past, should not have been the one marking one of West Ham’s tallest.

“No, not let down by the defenders. We made mistakes in the build up to the goals, not just defenders, which cost us the game. When a team is bigger than you, as they were today, you can work all week ... if someone is much taller than the opponent and outjumps them then they are going to score goals.”

“That’s what happens, so we were aware they were bigger than us today and they were going to try and score goals or win the game. But the players have to deal with that on the pitch.”

Despite winning three consecutive matches since football returned, Chelsea’s underlying performances were inconsistent already. The level of play against Leicester City in the FA Cup quarterfinals left a lot be desired, especially coming after a critical win against Manchester City just four days prior.

Unfortunately for Lampard, newcomers Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are ineligible to play this season. With six league matches left, Chelsea remain in a massive fight for the third and fourth places in the Premier League table, with just three points separating the four teams 3rd-6th.

“I wouldn’t call it a wake up call. Every game is different. We have six games ahead of us now and this wasn’t a huge surprise. If you play in the Premier League and make mistakes, if you boss possession but don’t do quite enough with it at the top of the pitch, then it can happen. That’s something we already knew.”

“It’s obviously frustrating but if we’re in that position it’s how you bounce back, how you move forward. We have to realize the position we are in in terms of fighting for the Champions League places and move forward.”

Every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining — even a gloomy cloud exemplified as Chelsea’s defeat in a classic “trap game”. The silver lining from this game belongs to young Christian Pulisic, who was the clear standout player for Chelsea once again.

With every touch, he looked a threat. He missed the first chance of the match with curling effort, won the penalty for Chelsea’s first goal with quick dribble in the box, and continued to drive into West Ham’s defense in a manner that reminded yours truly of Eden Hazard, eventually winning the free kick from which Chelsea’s second goal was scored.

Willian, of course, deserves mention as the sole goal scorer for Chelsea. His curling effort from the aforementioned free kick was as as delightful as ever, recalling some of his great efforts from half a decade ago.

“A big positive. [Pulisic’s] playing really well, as we can all see. Him and Willian as well. Willian gets his two goals. But with Christian I think it’s more like earlier in the season when he had a patch in the run up Christmas where he was playing towards his level.”

“Then he got injured and has been out for a long time. It’s nice to see him back, fresh and hungry, and playing with the quality he has. He’s a young player with great talent.”

- Frank Lampard, source: Football.London

If you still need something positive to hold onto after this match, Willian is now the first player in Premier League history to score in every calendar month.

Watford are next, at home, on Saturday. KTBFFH.