‘I was enjoying the game so much. If I was one of the players, I wouldn’t have wanted to come off.’
That was Frank Lampard’s emphatic response when asked after Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Burnley why he hadn’t made any substitutions.
It is an extremely rare occurrence. Indeed, the last time we didn’t make a single change in a league game was against another Lancastrian side, Bolton Wanderers, in a 4-0 away win over 10 years ago.
In all competitions Saturday was our first sub-free match since the 2013 Europa League final – and if Branislav Ivanovic’s injury-time winner hadn’t gone in, then there is every chance we would have made a switch in the additional 30 minutes in Amsterdam.
In the decade just finished, there were only 32 occasions of a team not making a single sub in the Premier League. In the same timeframe, that happened only five times in Champions League matches.
That there had not been a game in the previous midweek, nor was there one on the immediate horizon, possibly influenced Lampard’s thinking in letting his whole starting XI complete the 90.
‘The subs are called upon at times, but we were playing so well that I let them see the game out.
‘It was certainly beneficial that we could work hard all week. You saw the fruits of it. We approached the week in the right way, and we need to do that again going into Newcastle.’
The players have enjoyed a couple of days off in the wake of the Burnley win, reported Lampard, and then it’s all back to Cobham tomorrow to start preparing for what promises to be a tricky test at St James Park.
We’ll head to the North-East full of confidence, though, following our biggest home league win of the season. Much has been made of our recent discomfort at the Bridge, and Lampard pinpointed a big factor in the losses against West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton being our inability to turn control of the ball into goals.
It was completely different against Burnley from the moment Jorginho tucked home his penalty in the 27th minute. When Tammy Abraham headed a second before the interval, it confirmed we would be leading at half-time at Stamford Bridge for the first time in the Premier League since August – a run lasting a remarkable eight games.
The platform had been laid. Possession had been turned into goals. And with no substitutions after the break, the players, management and fans could all enjoy a stress-free second half. With Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham the next three visitors to SW6, more of the same would be most welcomed by everyone at the Bridge.