Frank Lampard reflected on a dominant performance from his side on our Premier League return at Villa Park, a display that fully warranted the three points as Chelsea increased their buffer in the top four to five points.
Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud got the goals that turned our first game in over three months on its head following Kortney Hause’s first-half opener against the run of play. Pulisic’s immediate impact off the bench was a topic of the post-match conversation, with his equaliser coming just five minutes after his arrival, but Lampard started his debrief by analysing the overall performance of his side.
‘We showed great character and quality in the second half to win the game so I’m pleased,’ he said in the aftermath of an historic first-ever competitive contest for the Blues behind closed doors.
‘I thought we moved the ball pretty well for most of the game and dominated possession clearly. It’s been a little story of some of our games this season – we dominate but we need to be more clinical. I can definitely give the players some leeway for that today because it’s been a long time off.’
Behind at the break, Lampard was asked what he said to his players to instigate the fightback.
‘It was frustrating but when you talk to the players it has to be about solutions rather than the frustration. We had to make sure we kept moving the ball as quickly as we could, kept attacking down the sides like we did and not get bored of doing good things that were going to give Villa problems.
‘We did that and the more we did, the more you get the feeling that hopefully you’ll get the breakthrough. The players had to believe and they did. We deserved to win the game because we had so much of the ball. If we could be more clinical, it makes it an easier afternoon.’
There was praise for Pulisic for his pivotal cameo role.
‘The individuals who make the difference should always take all the credit so with Christian and Ross Barkley, who came on at the same time, they’re both players who have trained well and had cases to start this game.
‘I had some good selection problems and you have to consider the type of game. We knew that fitness would play a part so the idea of bringing on Christian and Ross early in the second half was always something that was in my mind depending on how the game went.
‘The way it was going, we needed a bit of inspiration and Christian gave it with his goal. I thought Ross did really well too. I keep saying to the players how important subs could be in this period and they showed that.’
Two-assist Cesar Azpilicueta was also given plenty of credit by his boss.
‘I thought Azpi was really good in the game. Obviously he delivers the ball for Christian’s goal and got really high up in areas. We worked a lot before the game on how we wanted to attack and down the right-hand side was certainly an area for us to try to exploit.
‘Willian, Mason Mount when he moved to that side and Azpi with his energy to keep joining was a huge point of attack for us and eventually we got the breakthrough from that. He showed his leadership and his quality.’
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first involvement for over a year was another big plus.
‘I’m delighted for Ruben to be back in the fold. He’s got in the team on his own merit and for the way that he’s worked for a long time now. In the last few weeks he’s looked good and strong. We have to give him some time to adapt but I felt it was a good game for him to bring his physicality and something different.
‘He’s going to get much better. It’s been a long time since he last played but he has so much to give us a team and a squad. There were glimpses of it today but there’s much more to come.’