In the aftermath of the disappointing 2-2 draw to newly promoted Sheffield United, dropping points at home after being two goals up really does feel like a loss.
Similar patterns from the season so far reared their ugly heads once again as we were forced to watch a dismal second half performance; a half that was almost the polar opposite of the first. This is becoming an issue early on in Frank Lampard’s reign and it’s time to shine a little light on the matter.
Similar Patterns Emerging
In my opinion, we’ve seen second half capitulations in three games this season; away at Manchester United and at home to Leicester City and now Sheffield United. Hitting the post twice at Old Trafford whilst dominating play led to three goals conceded after half time. Winning at half time at home to Leicester before being outplayed in the second half and then holding on for a point in the end. Followed by surrendering a two-goal lead against a newly promoted team has led to more disappointment.
Why is this happening? Whilst it is early days into the new season, let’s not forget Lampard’s style of play places a huge emphasis on pursuing a high pressure-high energy game. This demands high levels of fitness and tactical astuteness in terms of when to increase the tempo and when to not. This team is learning a new way of playing from last year (albeit similar) but it could mean that it will take time to get used to both physically and tactically. This year we are much more of a direct threat… but at what cost?
This season, these drop offs so far have been hugely detrimental to our failures. The high press has left gaps in midfield, meaning it has become easy to counter-attack, leaving the defence with no protection as well as our full backs pushing on meaning more space to target down the flanks. We’ve seen it with the United game especially and in the Leicester game where James Maddison and Jamie Vardy both had plenty of space to work with on the counter. Even the equalising goal against the Blades last weekend, where it came from a ball down the flanks after we had paraded forward.
Poor Defensive Errors
However, it is important to consider that with some of the goals we have conceded have been down to individual errors. They haven’t helped our cause and if they hadn’t had happened then maybe we’d have won both games at home and be up there near the top of the table with everyone praising the team and Lampard.
But we’re looking at Kurt Zouma’s own goal at the weekend and his poor challenge that gave the penalty away at United. Then César Azpilicueta, who hasn’t started the season well at all, which has been a big factor in our defensive woes. Cutting out individual errors will be easier with players coming back, more established senior members in key positions as well as perhaps some new faces too.
Key players coming into the fold should help to cancel out the individual errors, especially with a senior centre back in Antonio Rüdiger back in the heart of defence that will help to sure things up. Partnering him up with Andreas Christensen, who has begun the season in terrific form by the way, is a pairing we would all like to see. Not forgetting the tireless N’golo Kanté in midfield to help close the space between defence and midfield, adding that protection will also help to reduce our problems.
Reasons Not To Panic
As the season goes on the team will learn to play this style and at this intensity, it is vitally important when to really press and when to slow the game down rather than going all guns blazing usually in the first half which we have been doing. Leading to us being perhaps tired for the second half. Finding the balance between keeping a disciplined shape and pressing as a team effectively and sustainably over ninety minutes is something that will improve as time goes on.
Another point to take into account is that being more clinical in front of goal will help to resolve these issues as well because if we had taken our chances in the games so far we wouldn’t be talking about this drop off in performance as the game goes on. There is room for improvement in that aspect. Killing games off when we have the momentum and the chances will be key, but so far we’ve looked a much more threatening side when compared to last year.
Still, key players returning with perhaps Reece James close to replacing Azpilicueta, given that he can prove he is ready for the role of course, is a reason not to panic. Culminating with the team being more clinical in front of goal will see us reducing the chance of these patterns re-emerging over the course of the season.