The appointment of Frank Lampard, the inability to make signings whilst under a transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard are fair reasons to suggest why Chelsea may face a season of uncertainty – you definitely couldn’t put a solid prediction on how they will do this season. However, there is still enough to suggest that Lampard could bear fruit if given enough time to do so. Pre-season so far has been encouraging, albeit against much poorer quality opposition. Much of the club’s exciting youth products have been given a run-out during the two games in Ireland – a 1-1 draw with Bohemians and a 4-0 victory over St Patrick’s Athletic. Now their schedule ramps up a little with a double fixture in Japan to contend with, the last of which is a game against Barcelona – that’ll be the real test.
The two games played so far gave very little indication to how players are performing, as mentioned it was mainly youth, otherwise it was for fitness purposes only. Though, there was a little, tiny, smidge of a glimpse into the system Lampard may pursue next season. He tried and tested a 4-2-2, a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1 and a diamond – all of which are a drastic change from the ‘Sarriball’ that left many supporters at Stamford Bridge hating their football. Former boss Maurizio Sarri’s fast-paced possession play has drawn similarities to a combination of Barcelona’s tiki-taka of old when Pep Guardiola was in charge and Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing style of football. Lampard, on the other hand, is a work in progress and plays a much more direct method and actually has a ‘Plan B‘ in his armoury.
It’s Lampard’s tinkering with the diamond which intrigues me the most and makes me believe that it is the way forward for Chelsea next season. Just think about the options the 41-year-old has at his disposal. Predominantly this formation would allow Jorginho to thrive most in defensive midfield – and every now and then Tiemoue Bakayoko will be able to operate there to give him a rest. Behind the striker, they now have Mason Mount on the verge of being a first-team star after signing a new long-term contract on top of England international Ross Barkley – plus most of their wingers are able to sit behind the striker if need be. It’s the two between those two lines which allows supreme versatility – want to be tighter in the centre of the park? Then put two central midfielders there, they have more than enough – Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante for instance. Want more width? Then those two can play wider and that’s when the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Pedro and new star signing Christian Pulisic come in to play. It’s a formation for all eventualities.
It would also allow for a nice balance in attack – Olivier Giroud being more of a target-man around the dynamic duo of Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham. That’s not to say one of the wingers could easily play in a free role off the Frenchman because with this formation that’s definitely another possibility. At times last season, Chelsea were too reliant on the exploits of Hazard – they can’t do that this season after his departure to Real Madrid. That means more responsibility will be shared amongst the team and what better way to do it than adopting a formation that allows for that.