Sport

Why can’t Lampard fix Chelsea’s defence?

How the mouths of Chelsea fans would have been watering at 3.30pm on Saturday.

Chelsea’s front four had the freedom of Stamford Bridge, interchanging at will and causing Southampton all manner of problems from which they had no right to recover.

Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic looked free, with no set position, while Timo Werner created two fine goals for himself. Any potential talk of a Premier League goal drought was put to bed.

But again, Chelsea’s defence let them down. From 2-0 up they were pegged back 2-2, the first goal from Danny Ings coming from thin air following a Havertz mistake, and the second a joint Kurt Zouma-Kepa Arrizabalaga error. They then squandered a 3-2 lead late on from the second phase of a set piece.

For all their attacking potential – and that’s even before Hakim Ziyech sees more than 20 minutes – Frank Lampard’s side are continuously shooting themselves in the foot.

Errors have punctuated their season, and questions over defensive solidity have hung over Lampard since he took the job last August.

Chelsea have conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game in the Premier League under Lampard (63 in 43 games), the Blues’ worst rate under any boss to oversee more than one game in the competition.

Since Lampard arrived, only Saints, Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton have conceded more goals of current Premier League teams. But the goals against column does not tally with other metrics.

They have conceded just 379 shots – only Manchester City have faced fewer – and their expected goals against is just 44.7, over 18 goals fewer than they have actually conceded. That is by far the largest difference between expected goals conceded and actual goals conceded in the Premier League.

This points to individual mistakes. Seven of the nine goals Chelsea have conceded this season have been down to individual mistakes in some form: Sadio Mane’s first in Liverpool’s 2-0 win on September 20 and Jannik Vestegaard’s late equaliser on Saturday the only two that have not.

Lampard is fully aware, and wants game management, something that seems to have been abandoned across the Premier League this season.

“They are mistakes that concern you. [The second goal] was a situation that we should have clearly dealt with in a much better and simpler terms. If you are going to concede those kind of goals, then it doesn’t matter how well you play in periods of games, it is something that we can’t have in our game.

Frank Lampard

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