Frank Lampard Cannot Keep Ignoring Chelsea's Midfield Imbalance

Oct 18, 2020, 11:30 AM GMT+1
Frank Lampard
Chelsea's defensive woes continued against Southampton | Pool/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

When you look at Chelsea's abysmal record of conceding goals under Frank Lampard, the focus usually (and understandably) turns to the Blues' defenders.

Kepa Arrizabalaga has been a huge disappointment, while the entire centre-back group are also guilty of underperforming far too often, but the reality is that they're not getting any help from either the midfield or Lampard himself.

Watching Saturday's 3-3 draw with Southampton was painful at times as the Blues gave up control far too often and failed to hold on to yet another lead, and it's Arrizabalaga and Kurt Zouma who have attracted most blame for their comical roles in Southampton's second goal.

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-SOUTHAMPTON
Arrizabalaga hit the headlines for the wrong reasons again | MATTHEW CHILDS/Getty Images

While those errors cannot be justified, it's not unreasonable to suggest that they wouldn't be in a position to make those mistakes if Chelsea's midfield offered them more protection.

Now, let's clear one thing up immediately. The solution of 'just play N'Golo Kanté in front of the defence lol' doesn't work and can never work.

Labelling the Frenchman as 'the best defensive midfielder in the world' is slightly misleading. While it's not unreasonable to suggest he's the Lionel Messi of recovering possession, it is too far to label him as defensive because he doesn't actually do that much defending.

Kanté's role is hard to define. He doesn't sit and defend like Liverpool's Fabinho, Real Madrid's Casemiro or Manchester City duo Fernandinho and Rodri. Instead, he charges around the pitch and hounds players into giving up the ball, and he's damn good at that.

N'Golo Kante, Oriol Romeu
Kante's skill set is an awkward one | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

However, he's incredibly ineffective when alone at the base of a 4-3-3. He doesn't actually possess the positional discipline to anchor a midfield, and it's why he does his best work when partnered with a true defence-first midfielder.

When Kanté won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards in 2016/17, it was because he was alongside Nemanja Matić, whose willingness to sit back allowed Kanté to do what he does and skip around the pitch.

Maurizio Sarri knew Kanté couldn't hang in that deeper role and moved him slightly further forward, tasking Jorginho with anchoring the midfield, and while the decision attracted the fury of countless Chelsea fans, the Blues' defensive record justified his decision.

Now alongside Jorginho, Kanté cannot be allowed to charge around, but he still does.

N'Golo Kante, Jorginho
Kante & Jorginho don't compliment each other | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Jorginho isn't a defensive midfielder and likes to roam around looking for the ball, which is exactly what Kanté does. You can't have two of those players, because it leaves the defence with no cover whatsoever, and Southampton took advantage of that.

You can blame Lampard for his failure to find a solution, but the reality is there isn't really one right now.

He obviously knows the issue needs addressing, having pursued a move for West Ham United's Declan Rice during the summer. And for those who will accuse Lampard of spending too much money on other areas, it was Roman Abramovich who pushed for the deal to sign Kai Havertz.

Ethan Ampadu
Ampadu could have helped | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ethan Ampadu was the only player in the Chelsea squad who can take up that anchor role in midfield, but he was loaned out to Sheffield United, leaving the Blues without a recognised defensive midfielder.

So, what can Lampard do?

At the minute, it's all about finding a way to cope. Mason Mount's high-tempo pressing could be useful in midfield, while right-back Reece James' short-term future may also be in midfield to try and add some balance.

Danny Ings, Reece James
James came on in midfield late on | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Pushing Andreas Christensen into midfield may be an option, but that would expose the Dane's lack of discipline.

It's clear that Lampard needs to figure out a way forward. You can't just bank on scoring more goals than your opponents. However, when it comes to an actual solution, there's a lot of work to do to find one.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

facebooktwitterreddit