As we await official confirmation on Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea, we take a look at the final part of the squad: What are the requirements and who should play the three attacking roles under Frank Lampard?
This is the last part of an article series covering Frank Lampard’s tactics and what thwy mean for Chelsea Football Club and players. Feel free to first check out Part 1 — Style and tactics, Part 2 — Players and roles (defence)and Part 2 — Players and roles (midfield)!
Having lost two of their most prolific players from the season before, Matej Vydra and Andy Weimann, Derby and Frank Lampard spent almost their entire transfer budget to bring in four players to replace their 27 goals: The quick and skillful wingers Harry Wilson and Florian Josefzoon, and hard-working center forwards Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott. They all give a big indication of what Lampard wants from his attacking trio. In short, the two wide men play direct, often cut inside and are instructed to get inside the box and shoot when opportunities arise. The CFs mainly lead press and rarely drops deep, their strength is simply to be lethal in the box instead of involving themselves in build-up. This will have impact on some of our attacking players, but mainly I see this style of play as good news to our current forwards.
For the past decade, we have been used to seeing Chelsea play with wide men cutting inside, acting as playmakers and contributing massively to goals and assists. Under Frank Lampard, they may be just as prolific, but more tactically reminiscent of Salah and Mané at Liverpool than the Hazard we were used to see at Chelsea. They are more direct and will seek space in the middle or behind the lines, rather than dropping deep or staying wide. But even if the tactics are a bit different, the main requirements to succeed in the role are quite similar:
- Pace and acceleration (to accommodate a direct style)
- Dribbling, technique and ball control (to keep and advance with ball in tight areas)
- Killer instinct, finishing and long shots (they must produce)
- Willingness and intelligence to attack space and take on defenders (we create space by moving)
- Work rate and energy (front three presses high up the pitch)
We have a generational change coming, with Willian(30) and Pedro(31) currently in the last year of their contracts, and likely to be pushed and possibly surpassed by future stars Christian Pulisic(20) and Callum Hudson-Odoi(18). All four will have to up their game big time in order to replace the mighty Eden Hazard, and the other options available do not offer much value at this point.
Let’s start with the biggest underdog in that group. Pedrohas it all to fill the role. Apart from consistency and perhaps age, there is no reason to suggest Pedro will give up his place without a very good fight. He is direct, works hard and thrives running into space, and has a good chance conversion (illustrated by a goal/assist every 166 PL minute). Capable of playing on either side just as effectively, and won’t complain if game time is less than last season, Pedro is the perfect squad player. With the two immensely talented youngsters behind him, expect his game time to be higher at the start of the season than the end. His experience will be key in a long season, and don’t be surprised if he signs another extension. Lampard will love to have his experience, talent and professional attitude around.
It is only a ruptured achilles tendon that is keeping Callum Hudson-Odoiout of a Chelsea starting line-up at the moment. He deservedly won his place over Willian and Pedro at the end of last season, and even if his performances varied and will likely do so for some time, his 1,200 minutes, 5 goals and 5 assists in 24 appearances is the most fantastic thing to have come out of the academy in a long time. Producing a goal+assist per 120 minute as an 18 year old is simply stunning, although in the PL he made only 1 assist in 400 minutes. Assuming the injury won’t set him back, he has all the attacking attributes to succeed in that role; lightning pace, dribbling, technique and high chance-conversion, and Frank Lampard will certainly try to mould him into a hard-working and reliable player in defence as well. Rumoured to be back in September, and likely to be one of our main men in attack as the season goes on. He will replace Hazard on the left of our front three and possibly also take on the burden of wearing that #10 shirt. Pressure from high expectations is the only thing that can stop him. Will sign a new contract, and is our golden boy.
The future will look even brighter when Christian Pulisicreturns from Gold Cup duty with USA to join up with the Chelsea squad for the first time. A dribbler like Hazard, he loves to take on defenders for a run they are doomed to lose. He is not a natural work-horse like Pedro, but should be comfortable adapting to defensive duties with coaching. He has extensive experience for a 20-year old, 120+ appearances for Borussia Dortmund and 25 caps for USA, and will not be happy playing second fiddle to anyone in this team. But his goals+assists frequency of one per 218 minutes will need to improve for him to stake such a claim. It is not uncommon that it will in fact increase by age and further experience, but it is a slight worry that Pulisic has never produced impressive output. Jadon Sancho (goal/assist per 93 mins) showed last season that it was possible for a teenager in the same team. As our only new big money player this season, all eyes will be on Pulisic to quickly get off the mark, and there are no guaranteed starters in this group of four. Scoring and assisting is where he needs to improve.
Despite what Twitter will tell you, Willianis a fantastic player, snd quite possibly both the quickest and “silkiest” we have ever had at Chelsea. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see his goals and assist contribution not match his talent. 206 goals/assists per PL minute is disappoitning, but not bad, Hazard’s is at 133 for comparison’s sake. People who demand we sell him this window should take note. Even if he rarely lives up to his potential and is frustratingly circumstancial at times, he will still be an important player next season. From a physical and technical perspective he, quite obviously, is an excellent match for the role. What I am worried about is how he will work in a more direct and energetic role. He is certainly more comfortable controlling the ball, recycling possession, than taking defenders on and attacking space. He will feel he should be the main man next season, but if he can’t improve his numbers and continues to vary so much in performances, then he has no right to be disappointed if he slides down the pecking order.
Is four players enough for these two positions, in a season where we can’t buy in January, lost our best player, and starts the season with one of our biggest talents injured? It is the same amount we had last season, and even then Hudson-Odoi struggled for game time, but it still does sound thin. The problem is there are not many bright prospects in the loan army. The most talented player, Charly Musonda jr, was injured for all of last season. After playing roughly 500 and 300 minutes the two seasons before, at 22, he certainly must seek a more influential role, even if he could be a good fifth option. Kenedyand Kasey Palmerare other options, but lacks pace and directness to thrive in such a role, and with Victor Moses’ loan at Fenerbache all but confirmed, it seems better to look to the academy for players like Juan Castillo(19) should the need arise.
Verdict: Two 30+ players and two u21s will try to replace our best player. Even if it may be hard to watch the gaping hole left by Hazard, at least it will be refreshing and entertaining to follow proper competition between four players who all consider themselves starters. We look a little thin though, also because Pedro is the only one who gets a full pre-season, with Hudson-Odoi set to return in September and Willian and Pulisic set to play international finals on July 7, the same day as the other internationals start pre-season. Pulisic will probably need time to adapt, Hudson-Odoi has mainly showed game-changing ability against EL opposition, and Willian and Pedro are not getting any younger. The question marks are all over the place, and it would be naive to think we will not sorely miss our former #10 next season. 3.5/5.
In the squad:Willian, Pedro, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi
Loan: Musonda, Moses
Sell: Kenedy, Palmer, Piazon, Pantic, Nathan
I think all Chelsea fans agree we need a new CF. Diego Costa still has not been replaced, and even if there are good options in the squad, none of them are close to being at the same level as him or Drogba. But there is a reason to be at least a little optimistic, as the change in style will likely improve our CFs immediately. As I wrote in Part 1:
Quite often, the passes from deep are aimed at IFs cutting inside or CMs in pockets, while the CF pushes forward. That will be new to us Chelsea-fans, who for years have been used to seeing the likes of Torres, Costa, Morata and Giroud as the deep-lying focal point, dropping into midfield to receive and link-up with the other forwards before looking to get into the box.One of the reasons we have struggled at CF lately is due to the immense requirements of playing the complete forward role at Chelsea. With less responsibility, the focus will be on getting into the box and score, and a more classic CF role will surely benefit the likes of Giroud, Abraham and Batshuayi. CF goals may come a lot easier under Lampard than we have seen in recent years.
A more cultivated CF role where these are the most important requirements:
- Movement in the box
- Finishing (with both feet) and heading
- Strength and balance to work as target man
- Pace to run in behind
- Work-rate and energy to lead press with intensity
It is a physical role, and one that relies heavily on goal-scoring ability. With Higuain shipped back to Juventus, we will need to use the loan army to complement current loner Olivier Giroud.
Let’s start off with the frenchman. At 32, Olivier Giroudis the oldest outfield member of the current Chelsea squad, and he certainly brings both experience and a top class mentality to our dressing room. But don’t be fooled by his age thinking he is too old to make an impact. Just like Drogba, he broke through late, playing for various Ligue 2 teams until the season he turned 24. He claims to be in the shape of his life, and for a player who has never relied on pace, age won’t be a problem for him yet. For comparison, Drogba was turning 34 in Munich and Zlatan scored 17 PL goals at 35. But how well does he meet the role requirements? He is king kong in the box, one of the strongest PL players in the air and with a lethal left foot, he will thrive under Lampard with more balls played into the box. He is good defensively, but lacks energy to press effectively for 90 minutes. And there won’t be much point in playing balls over the top, he simply won’t outpace many PL center backs. That’s why I think Giroud will be an important member of the squad, but mainly as a substitute option and not someone Lampard will try to build his team around. His lack of pace is what will cost him a few starts, but that does not mean we shouldn’t be very happy to have Giroud around for at least another season.
Our main man next season could very well be Michy Batshuayi. And before Lampard rumours started circulating, I don’t think many Chelsea fans expected to read that at any point in their lives. Not trusted by Conte or Sarri to be leading the line in a tactical and technical CF role, Lampard’s arrival is Batshuayi’s gain. He is at his best when he can get inside the box, and his finishing with both feet is arguably world-class. A goal per 93 minutes at Chelsea, 154 at Palace, 347 at Valencia (the odd one out), 130 at Dortmund, 160 at Marseille and 171 at Standard Liege, indicates a player who will score goals regardless of where he is. But I think he rarely has fit the job description better than right here, right now. Physically he is a CF dream; strong in the air and will outrun most PL defenders. The question marks are in the defensive phase. His lack of concentration and work-rate does not make him look like the intelligent player Lampard would want, and before we see him in action, it is hard to estimate how big of a problem this would be. But his qualities in the box alone makes him a no-brainer to recall, and if everything goes his way, he might even become our #1 next season. Although I am not putting my money on it …
Alvaro Moratais the most complete of our current strikers — quick, strong, good technique, tactically smart … He seemingly has it all. But in the box he is yet to prove himself a clinical finisher (with his feet, not his head!). And his confidence is as fragile as a Ming vase. Plus, he has burned bridges to basically everyone at Chelsea. So regardless of tactical fit, everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club will probably hope Atletico Madrid take on their buy option and ends this horrible marriage once and for all.
The third option at CF should obviously be Tammy Abraham, but there is no reason to think he will be third choice. Two fantastic 26-goal seasons in the Championship for Bristol City and Aston Villa sandwiched his “learning experience” at then-PL-side Swansea. 130 matches on loan resulted in 60 goals, and at 21 he surely feels ready to play for Chelsea. And with the new academy oriented direction under new management, he will never have a better chance. Because CF is arguably our weakest position, and thus the easiest one for an up-and-coming youngster to claim. He is held in high regard by the Cobham staff, especially Jody Morris, and there are not many things outside of winning trophies that would be more prestigious to Frank Lampard than developing a local boy into a goal-machine and a true number 9. Because that is what Tammy Abraham is, a goal scorer. He isn’t fancy, he isn’t stylish, he just “scores when he wants” — arguably his most important attribute. And something Chelsea has been sorely missing. Physically he has the right profile, both strong and quick (at least the first yards). But his mentality is also something that may set him apart from the rest. Full of confidence, yet described by those who worked with him at Bristol and Villa as humble, hard-working and focused. His game may be lacking technical finesse, and he should be able to use his physique even more, but if Tammy believes he will make it at Chelsea, you shouldn’t hold it against him.
Poor Isaiah Brownseems to have had his career ruined with injuries. Once one of the most talented in the academy, he has barely played football for two seasons, and should do all he can to get a loan where he will play and avoid further damage. And to be fair, a technical secondary striker is not what Lampard is in need of either.
Verdict: We have no clear CF first choice, and that is rarely a good thing. Much like in 2013/14, when there was Eto’o, Torres and Ba sharing minutes, this too will be a season of rotation up front. Because most likely, all three will go through good and bad periods. But what we should be happy with is that the competition is seemingly quite good, and we have three players who for various reasons will be very eager to prove themselves . There might even be a winner, and the price is possibly even the starting role for Chelsea next season. But right now, it is looking likely it will be a season of trial and error, even if all three should work pretty well in the system. 3/5.
In the squad:Giroud, Batshuayi, Abraham
That means this article series has come to an end. Before I post my final squad, I must add that I have already been proved wrong … My midfield piece excluded Mateo Kovacic, as I was under the impression he would not be signed, but as you know, he were. So here you have it updated and done, and now is a good time to announce Frank and get on with pre-season.
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