Premier League 2019-20: Why Chelsea's 4-0 defeat to Manchester United shouldn't affect their mindset
As the feature game of the opening weekend kicked off, everyone inside Old Trafford headed into the stands and the tunnels with fresh hope and expectations.
Of course, the Red Devils fans poured their heart out in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's inaugural game of his first full season in charge at Manchester. But the mood in the away stands was just as much or even more hopeful, owing to the first sight of their very own Frank Lampard on the touchline in a competitive game.
As things turned out, the club's record goal-scorer was handed a meaty blow by the hosts, as his Blues side were taken to the cleaners. A brace from Marcus Rashford and goals from Anthony Martial and new boy Daniel James ensured a thumping 4-0 triumph - a result that also happened to be Chelsea's worst ever start to a PL campaign.
The Blues, unlike what the scoreline suggests, were better than their opponents in various phases of the game. They started with lots of purpose, as a fierce Tammy Abraham rocket almost gave Lampard a dream start to life at Chelsea in just the fourth minute. Emerson rattled the woodwork in the first half too.
However, they were tormented by a side happy to press in the middle thirds of the park and then break ruthlessly on the counter. Four heedless errors, four goals.
But Lampard knows all about this kind of result. He knows that the league can take you out of your comfort zone and be as cruel as anything in the world. And he also knows that a loss like this is not the end of the world.
Breaking down Chelsea's first half
There was a lot of tactical analysis in the lead-up to the game, as everyone wanted to know what 'Super Frankie' would bring to Old Trafford in his first-ever Premier League game on the hot seat.
The signs were clear in the very first minute - Chelsea were not there to sit back. They took the field to play captivating football. As many as five blue shirts were around when United failed to clear the ball in the fourth minute, clearly illustrating the mindset brought about by the management.
Of course, you couldn't expect Chelsea to play out of the back the same way they did under Maurizio Sarri, mainly due to a couple of reasons.
Firstly, they lost their passer-in-chief in the form of David Luiz; this time around the center backs had two in front of them and not three. Moreover, Jorginho's average positioning and movement were strikingly different from what we witnessed last term.
In the 10th minute, Cesar Azpilicueta, on the back of a silky smooth exchange from Mason Mount and Pedro, whipped an accurate pass into the box just ahead of Abraham. Then came the goal, which also gifted the home side a surge of confidence. However, Chelsea were back in business just minutes later.
In the 31st minute, Mount found himself in acres of space down the right with room for a strike as well as a cross. However, he aimlessly went for a pull back which found no one.
It's important to note that Chelsea created chances - several of them. They were off the standard as far as decision-making was concerned, but there were still positive signs.
Should Lampard's side chin up and play with this intensity and precision consistently, no fortune or crossbar will go against their game plan.
The destined bench boost
For the first time ever, Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen manned the heart of defense for Chelsea. The former started a game for his side after almost two years, and even the out-of-sorts Christensen had been finding it a touch difficult to directly slot into the XI, especially after having played only 615 minutes of league football last season.
Zouma was extremely reckless with his tackle on Rashford that led to the opening goal and perhaps the tactical breakdown of Chelsea. But it's a little harsh to drag him under the bus this early. We know from past experience that he is a capable player; in the 2014-15 season he shone under the able guidance of Jose Mourinho, plying his trade alongside the invaluable experience of John Terry and Gary Cahill.
It will take time for him and his peers to adjust to the high pressing system and two free-flowing midfielders ahead of them.
Yes, the defending was poor, and one simply cannot afford to commit those types of errors in the Premier League. However, it is worth mentioning that Antonio Rudiger was missing. The German's agility, pace off the ball, positioning and otherworldly physical prowess were absent. And of course, Luiz was celebrating with his new teammates when Chelsea took on Manchester United.
The ever-so-reliable N'Golo Kante was a mere substitute due to his recent injury woes. Without Kante and with Jorginho in a more mobile position, the defense alone cannot be blamed.
Yes, they switched off. Yes, they were severely caught out. But the midfield has got to run the races and cover more grass. That can only happen if Kante returns to the number 6 role.
As far as the forwards are concerned, Chelsea also missed the dynamic duo of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Lampard doesn't quite have his best players right now.
A closer look at what Lampard's tactics could bring to the table
After the defeat, Lampard's tactics, playing XI choice and formation were criticized by many. Ross Barkley was maybe used out of his natural position, Christian Pulisic could have started out on the wings and a few other things could have been different. But this was just the start.
It's Lampard's first shot at a Premier League game. And we did see a host of positives on the attacking front. Lampard only had the already available players at his disposal, with no license to rope in talent from Europe. Surely we can give him a breather considering the special circumstances?
It takes time to construct a sturdy defense, and it takes days of rigorous training for even a player of Azpilicueta's caliber to install the new system. And he is someone who has adapted and adjusted to each and every coach's demands at Chelsea.
The club captain knows how to lift every teammate of his, including himself as well. Lampard knows how to fabricate a football team. It's just a matter of time and a run of wins before things start changing. The scoreline, as the gaffer suggested, was a little too harsh.
Another important thing to note is Lampard's style of play. It is a vintage energetic approach to pressing and involves the use of a number 8 and 10, topped with a fine touch of modern-day football.
From the way Chelsea played out from the back to their success in forcing the aerial route from the United defenders, there was a sense of direction about the way they performed on the field.
Lampard is sure to infuse a stronger structure with time, transfers and the return of his injured players. After all, he probably knows the club's philosophy, players and objectives better than anybody else.
Patience, therefore, is the need of the hour at Stamford Bridge.