Frank Lampard appears to be out of answers. Or to be more precise, he has only one answer, which isn’t a unique conundrum for someone in his situation, but it is nonetheless disappointing in a basic way.
“There’s only one way out of it which is hard work. Today Leicester were in better form than us.”
-Frank Lampard; source: BBC
Leicester certainly are in good form, sitting top of the league at least for tonight after a rather easy 2-0 win over Chelsea, the likes of which used to characterize our own title runs. Chelsea meanwhile are getting slowly entrenched in mid-table, eighth at the moment.
But that sort of disparity, and especially the disparity seen in the quality of play on the pitch, cannot be explained just by “form”. That’s something deeper, especially when the talent level between the squads is comparable enough. This wasn’t us against Bayern, on their way to Champions League glory last year.
“Beaten by the better team. They were sharper than us, ran more than us and they looked in form — we looked out of form. Disappointing goal form a set piece and the second goal is just not good enough.
“There were quite a lot of moments where our sharpness wasn’t there, those are moments you have to dig in and the basics are important like running and sprinting and we didn’t do that [...] the basics off the ball are important. The game on the ball was a bit slow at times but it was okay, we created a few opportunities and I thought it was a penalty but I’m not going to lean on those things. We weren’t good enough.”
And that’s something not (likely to be) easily solved by brute force of effort, by “hard work”, and repetition — as James Maddison alluded to in his excellent, fidgety, and must-watch post-match interview, Chelsea have systemic and easily exploitable issues, both tactical and physical.
We’ve had most of January’s relatively sparse schedule to think about things, to train and work together, to figure out a solution. That hasn’t happened. Maybe if we were showing signs of improvement, gradual or otherwise. But we’re trending the opposite direction, even after back-to-back wins prior to tonight.
“All we can think about is getting through the period, working hard. The important thing is the players bounce back. This is the cut-throat nature of what it is. The players have to keep their heads up but also keep their eyes open and review the game and see there was an energy in the Leicester team we didn’t have.”
We either adjust our expectations, or resort to something more drastic.
“Might be a big ask to answer realistic expectations. [...] The expectations have to be what are we going to do next week, next game, next training session.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Sky Sports via BBC
And we all know what that drastic and most likely outcome of our current predicament may be...