Sunday’s shocking defeat at the hands of Manchester United may prove to be a microcosm of their season after defensive errors led to an utter four-goal capitulation at Old Trafford.
Frank Lampard started his second Chelsea era with Kurt Zouma pairing Andreas Christensen at the back and it was the Frenchman who calamitously felled Marcus Rashford inside the area to give the England striker the chance to open the scoring from the spot – which he duly did.
A cataclysm of mistakes then followed for the remaining three goals – captain and seasoned-pro Cesar Azpilicueta switched off for large spells of the game which resulted in the dangerous consequence of the second and third goals. Zouma was then left acres out of position as Daniel James sealed the fourth and final strike.
You only have to wonder what benefit it was to send David Luiz to another Premier League club – a local rival at that too. The Brazilian was the best ball-playing defender at the club, yes, he was prone to a few mistakes himself but he would have led by example against a team of United’s stature and on his day is a more than viable option for any top-six team.
Chelsea’s central defensive duo of Zouma and Christensen looked so uncomfortable when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga played out from the back and when pressured they didn’t have the slightest clue what to do.
This is a problem Luiz doesn’t have, the 32-year-old has the ability to press forward with the ball at his feet or spray a long diagonal ball either into space out wide for the wingers to collect or to a target man up top.
Teams will have seen their inability to sufficiently play out from the back and they must be drooling over the prospect of facing them.
Just think, it’s Jamie Vardy and Leicester on Sunday – what does the striker love to do? Press, press, press. Pressurise that backline. He could well have a field day if Lampard lines up with a similar defence, which he’s probably going to have to do seeing as Luiz has been sold, Rudiger could still be out and the club have been under a transfer ban so haven’t been able to recruit anybody… making the sale seem all that stranger.
When comparing Luiz to Rudiger, Christensen and Zouma from last season, you’ll soon find out he actually outperformed them in pretty much every facet possible.
Defensively, Luiz won more offsides (0.7 per game) than any of his defensive counterparts with the next best being Rudiger at 0.6 per game. The Brazilian also recorded more clearances per game at 4 than Zouma who averaged 3.8 per game as well as blocks per game.
Offensively, he offered so much more and this is vital to how Lampard wants to play – he recorded 0.6 key passes per game with only Rudiger and Zouma managing 0.2 per game last season. His 6 long balls per game was considerably higher than Rudiger’s 4.5 per game whilst he also averaged more through balls per game at 0.3 (from centre-back!) than any other defender, tying with Eden Hazard in the squad.
If Sunday is anything to go by then Lampard has a very long season on his hands but any sympathy through the transfer ban or through injuries has been a little lost following his questionable decision to sell an experienced and capable defender to their local rivals.