Going into the FA Cup semifinal, Frank Lampard wanted to see his young squad exhibit the qualities of title contenders. He’d also spoken in the past of consistency, focus, and attitude as key attributes.
After the impressive 3-1 victory over top-four rivals Manchester United, Lampard has every reason to be pleased with his team’s response. His young squad rose to the challenge and beat a Manchester United squad that had not experienced defeat in 19 previous games, since late January.
Lampard’s tactical decision to match Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s with three at the back raised eyebrows when the lineups were announced. But this was hardly the first time Chelsea had gone into a big match featuring a tactical setup with three central defenders. Against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, Lampard elected to use a similar setup to outclass our London rivals.
Sunday’s performance exhibited strong likeness to the 2016-17 vintage Blues under Antonio Conte’s management. Chelsea looked disciplined in defense and displayed a calming sense of control with possession during the match. We were physical throughout, earning 21 fouls committed, without a single yellow card.
“We have worked a lot in the last two days and we haven’t had much time, but to show the players the dangers from Manchester United. We know they run behind and they are getting even better at that with the speed of the front three and Fernandes. But they also play through the lines, and even though we had a back three I didn’t want it to be a back five. People to go into midfield, make tackles and not let them feel comfortable. “
“Led by Azpi as captain. How many times did he go to midfield and win it back? Showed leadership, pulling people around him and talking with the group. That was a huge part, the biggest delight was the off the ball work and the physicality. It showed and it wins you games.”
Keeping his young squad focused will be crucial to the club’s goal of securing Champions League football next season. It also marks a significant challenge in Lampard’s young managerial career.
With only two league matches left, we need to try to earn maximum points. Luckily for Chelsea (and Manchester United), Leicester City’s defeat on Sunday to Tottenham also provides a significant boost to Chelsea’s top-4 ambitions.
“It is a great achievement for us to get there. To win a semi is a great thing but to win a final is THE thing. It is certainly up there because of the size of the game and the quality of the opponent but we have had some good performances this season, we are progressing, we are getting better. There have been recent bumps but today was a performance of huge character and personality, work ethic and quality. So I am very happy.”
“Today was a nice step for us and it was a step towards a final and we want to try to win that final but we have shown lots of good stuff this year, with good work and the way we move forward, and what we do in the summer then there will be more to come but at the moment we really need to focus on the three finals domestically that we have. The two league games and then Arsenal in the FA Cup final.”
- Frank Lampard, Source: Football.London
It is certainly impressive that Chelsea are in the thick of things in the league and into the FA Cup final as we enter the last couple weeks of the season. At the beginning, the vast majority did not tip Chelsea for a top-four finish — yet here we are, just with two games left.
Chelsea will face Arsenal for the second time in four years in the FA Cup final. A title in Lampard’s first season in charge of Chelsea would be a most fantastic way to cap off this season (not including the Champions Leauge, which is still to take place later next month).