Analysis

Frank Lampard highlights where improvements can be made and the stiff competition at centre-back

Victory at Watford was our eighth from our last nine matches, but Frank Lampard has picked out an area for improvement from his side as he prepares for another tough Champions League assignment on Tuesday night.

The Blues sit fourth in the Premier League after a 2-1 triumph at Vicarage Road which should have been more comfortable than the scoreline suggested, as we controlled much of the game and led through goals from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic, only for a late VAR-awarded penalty to give the Hornets hope.

For the most part, our head coach is very happy with the level of performance being produced by his charges during our recent good run, but he feels it will still take time to get the team playing exactly how he would like.

‘At times we are certainly producing some of the form I want from us,’ said Lampard. ‘I will say our work-rate off the ball, although this was a different type of game, in some games we’ve been pushed hard – Ajax away, Liverpool and games like that. That’s been something that’s really pleased me.

‘They’ve worked and they’ve done that through training at a level that’s got them fit enough. We work a lot on that. In periods of games I’m really pleased with how we’re combining and switching the ball, the wingers are getting involved in the game.

‘If I’ve got a gripe it’s that we’re not sustaining that for long enough periods at times. I know it’s not easy, but we always strive for more. I’m pleased with big parts of it, but we can get better.'
 

When asked why his players have not been able to sustain it, the 41-year-old took a philosophical view point.

‘Maybe it’s football, I don’t know,’ he continued. ‘You look at the results this weekend. Liverpool go away and they’re behind for a long time in the game, Man City as well, so maybe I’m being a bit demanding.

‘You have to respect the opponent and it’s not always as easy as it is, football is always a work in progress. We have young players that have been out on loan and come in and worked with the senior players, so there’s an element where things will always take a little bit of time to get where you want them to get to.’

There’s little time to dwell on results at the moment – win, lose or draw – as the matches are coming thick and fast, with a quick turnaround from Saturday as we host Ajax in our fourth Champions League Group H fixture tomorrow night.

The two clubs sit level at the top of the table with six points apiece after our impressive win in Amsterdam a fortnight ago and while the win at Watford adds to our growing confidence, Lampard expects a very different challenge from last season’s Champions League semi-finalists.
 

It’s a nice platform in terms of confidence, but when you step into the Champions League it’s always different,’ he said. ‘We’ll have a big test against Ajax because of the quality of their team. We faced them two weeks ago and saw how good they are on the ball and the problems they’ll give us. We’re confident, but we understand it’ll be tough.’

Adding to that confidence is the form of our centre-back pairing, as Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have put together a run of games together during the prolonged injury absence of Toni Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

Lampard is looking forward to having the duo back available for selection, though, as the increased competition for places can only be to his benefit as he looks to get the best out of the 11 selected for any given match.

‘Andreas is nearly fit and Rudi’s got some problems so he might be a bit longer, but I need that competition,’ he said, before addressing the form of Zouma and Tomori.

‘I’m very pleased with how they’re both playing, I think they looked very composed against Watford and didn’t look bothered at all throughout the whole game. It’s nice they’ve been able to form a little bit of a partnership, but we need all four so when the others come back it’ll be even better for the competition.’
 

MORE FROM CHELSEA