Leeds Victory Proved Chelsea Have Hit Phase 2 of Frank Lampard's Plan

Tom Gott
Dec 6, 2020, 12:15 PM GMT
Chelsea picked up a 3-1 win over Leeds
Chelsea picked up a 3-1 win over Leeds | Pool/Getty Images
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Frank Lampard never planned on winning the Premier League in his debut season with Chelsea, and his aspirations for year two weren't much different.

The boss spent heavily during the summer to address the weaknesses in his squad and move his side from phase one to phase two, which involved proving to the rest of the world that Chelsea weren't messing about anymore. There may not be any trophies at the end of the year, but everyone would begin to fear Chelsea again.

The Blues' current 13-game unbeaten run, which has them top of both the Premier League and their Champions League group, has brought about the change Lampard was looking for, but there was no greater indication of the difference between the 2019/20 and 2020/21 versions of Chelsea than Saturday's 3-1 win over Leeds.

For all the talk of how defensively strong Lampard's side are these days, Saturday's game threatened to play out exactly like a match from last season.

Just four minutes in, a miscommunication between Kurt Zouma and Edouard Mendy allowed Patrick Bamford to put Leeds ahead, and that meant Chelsea were facing 86 minutes of trying to break down a stubborn defence. Last year, that was game over.

Perhaps lacking both the confidence and the ability to overturn deficits, Chelsea fell to poor results against the likes of West Ham, Southampton, Newcastle and the eternal thorn in the side that is Bournemouth. They couldn't cope with not being in the lead.

This year, however, things are different.

Chelsea always looked capable of winning
Chelsea always looked capable of winning | MIKE HEWITT/Getty Images

Despite falling behind early, there were never any real fears that Chelsea were going to lose this game, and after 16 shots on target led to goals from Olivier Giroud, Kurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic, Blues fans were left celebrating three hard-fought points over their old rivals.

That's the difference between this season and last. Adversity doesn't leave Chelsea fans fearing the worst. Instead, it's a mere bump in the road for Lampard's side, who are already being mentioned as potential title favourites this year.

Lampard isn't planning on lifting the title this season. That's never been on the agenda. When he was convincing Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and the rest of the new faces to move to Stamford Bridge this summer, the message was always that this year was 'phase two' - a return to significance on both the domestic and European scale.

Lampard lured Werner and Havertz in with a three-step plan
Lampard lured Werner and Havertz in with a three-step plan | INA FASSBENDER/Getty Images

The boss wants to see his side gel and mature together ahead the third phase, launching a push for major silverware in the coming years, and coming out on top against a Leeds side who have already given the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal major problems is the clearest indication yet that this is not the Chelsea of old anymore.

We've seen Chelsea forced to dig deep to keep out the likes of Manchester United and Sevilla. We've seen them turn on the style to overwhelm Burnley, Rennes and Krasnodar, and we've seen them forced to overcome deficits against Sheffield United and now Leeds. This side are doing it all.

Having said that, let's not get carried away just yet. There's still work to do - primarily learning how to win against the bigger sides.

Lampard knows there is still work to do
Lampard knows there is still work to do | Pool/Getty Images

United, Sevilla and Tottenham all held Chelsea to 0-0 draws, with the free-scoring Blues unable to find a way to throw themselves forward without exposing themselves at the back. That's the balance that must be found, and perhaps could be the difference between glory and a trophy-less year. But that's fine.

Lampard's vision for the club wasn't to jam all the pieces together immediately. He has promised steady but significant improvement ahead of reaching phase three, and we're seeing that clear as day.

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