Frank Lampard, reflecting on the disappointment of his team letting slip a two-goal lead to draw at home to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon, was clear. The major factor was neither individual performances by defenders nor the selection of plenty of young players in the team.
Indeed it was one of the youthful crop, Tammy Abraham, who fired the Blues into a two-goal lead but that was halved almost immediately after half-time, with our opponents earning a draw with 90 minutes almost up when a cross was diverted in off the shin of a stretching Kurt Zouma.
‘It is not the defence, it is conceding as a team so the lack of concentration or mistakes for the goals are moments when you defend as a team, as much as you attack as a team,’ pointed out Lampard.
‘We concede because we switch off in a game that should be comfortably seen out at 2-0 up. That is not to disrespect Sheffield United, 2-0 is not the end of the story. I was clear with the players at half-time that this can either be 3-0, and okay then this could be nice, or a potential 2-2 on our hands and the disappointing fact is the first goal as much as anything because that allowed it to happen. We only have ourselves to look at as a group, not individuals.
‘And I could not care less that we have the youngest team in Chelsea Premier League history. It was a real plus last week, and the fact it was young today I don’t think relates at all.’
Lampard was asked about his decision to make a double change with just under 10 minutes to go and with the score 2-1. Young Billy Gilmour came on for Mateo Kovacic for his debut while Michy Batshuayi replaced Abraham.
‘It was not bold because it was one for one in both positions. Kovacic was on his haunches and blatantly tired. Billy Gilmour is a midfield player who I had on the bench. And Michy was to bring some energy where Tammy had been our best player in the game clearly. Other people can make what they want with that but I wasn’t being clever at 2-1, I was trying to see the game out.
‘I have faith in Billy to come though. He is going to have a big future but we have an injury to N’Golo in midfield who we all know is a fantastic player for us and Billy is on the bench, as simple as that. We have a ban and the squad is what the squad is.
‘Danny Drinkwater had been here for two years and had not played many games and was eager to go for his own benefit, which I thought was good for us. Tiemoue Bakayoko similarly was here for one season and then been on loan and has gone again to be on loan to try to bring himself back to where he wants to be.’
Lampard countered a suggestion the squad is light in midfield by listing Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante, Mount and Barkley, and as well as Ruben Loftus-Cheek being on the way back from injury, he pointed out we have Reece James coming back from injury too and he can play midfield, as can Andreas Christensen.
‘I have to make decisions on the squad as a whole,’ added the boss, before going in to explain his call today to select Fikayo Tomori ahead of Christensen in defence.
‘Tomori played very well for me last year and is training at a really high level and I have competition at centre-back and he deserved to play. I though he played well. It was just a choice.
‘I am trying to work all over the team to get the right combination and Rudiger now is fit after the international break so he gives me another choice.
‘I’m hoping N’Golo will be back for Wolves. The medical team have said to me that with no setbacks he should be, and that will be a big boost. And Pedro should be training by the middle of this week, so he should be fine for Wolves too.
‘We can isolate goals and talk about centre-backs or whoever. It is about teams and when we score goals it is sometimes because of a centre-back moving the ball quickly. I am confident and trust completely the four centre-backs I have. We are just in a moment now where we need to obviously to stop conceding so many goals.’
Lampard was also told there had again been racist abuse on social media aimed at one of his players…
‘We have to look at social media and the platforms and give them some accountability to actually have people register, who could be chased down for it,’ he responded. ‘I think it is simple. Unless we get to that, however horrible that conversation is, we are all going to get tired talking about it because if there is no culpability, anybody can say anything to anyone. It could be racism, homophobia, sexism – if we allow it then unfortunately in modern society it is out there, and it has to be dealt with. Everyone knows from the way I speak and the way the club acts consistently where we want to go with it.’
Meanwhile, a Chelsea club statement on the matter stated:
‘The continued racial abuse of players on social media is totally unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest terms. The club is disgusted with posts on social media this evening targeting Kurt Zouma, and join others in the football community in asking social media companies to take action against these individuals. Chelsea FC finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour abhorrent. Racism has no place at this club and where there is clear evidence of Chelsea season ticket holders or members involved in such behaviour, we will take the strongest possible action against them.’