With high-scoring games early in the season having given way to consecutive 0-0 draws in the past week, albeit both against testing opposition, it is natural that discussion continues on balancing the Chelsea team in these early stages of the campaign.
It is a topic taken up by Frank Lampard in the wake of the weekend outing at a wet Old Trafford, when although there were a few good saves by Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, it was largely a solid display at the back, as it had been against Sevilla in the Champions League. Those games contrasted with encounters with Southampton and West Brom when although three goals were scored each time, three goals were also let in.
‘Where we have conceded more goals than I would have liked in certain games this season, it is important to try to address those problems,’ Lampard confirms.
‘Obviously we are addressing them at the back. I thought we defended the box very well [at Old Trafford].
'Hakim Ziyech is now looking like he is coming close to starting a game with his fitness.'
— Frank Lampard
‘Defending for me at this level when you have individual players with good quality is about concentration. Concentration is what defines defending in top players generally. Thiago Silva on Saturday was a great example of a defender who concentrates at every moment of a game, not just to affect things himself but to affect those around him. That was a big plus.
‘The balance is something we will constantly work on. We got in nice areas at certain times. We didn’t have the usual spark that we have seen from Timo and Kai already, or what Christian can do, but I will take positives in that we defended very well and had at times good control, but did not have the absolute penetration we normally have.’
The boss is clear that lack of cutting edge in Manchester does not mean a fundamental problem in attack, especially when a week earlier the like of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were slicing through the Saints and scoring goals.
‘I am least worried about the front end of the pitch with the players that we have there,’ he confirms.
‘It is normal it will take some time for the relationships in the side to form, whether we want to play the ball in behind or to feet. We are in such an early part of the season and I know the qualities and the reasons we brought Timo and Kai into the club. I know the qualities we already have there and Hakim Ziyech is now looking like he is coming close to starting a game with his fitness. I am very happy with the players.’
Lampard is far from the only manager who is looking at varied results from his team in the early part of the season and he considers the question why teams expected to be at the top of the table are not so far.
‘It is a hard one to pinpoint because there can be quite few factors. Maybe having no fans is a factor, I don’t know why but it certainly feels like it is a factor.
‘Talking about ourselves, a lot of the teams at the top of the league at the moment finished their season when we played Wolves last league game of the season, but we went on to play the FA Cup final and in Munich one week later, so I couldn’t give the lads a few days off, and then they had shy of two weeks off.
‘When we came back in we had double figures of players in isolation for two weeks so it is not easy. I hate excuses because you can’t hang onto them for too long, you have to move forward, but then we had new players coming into the team. Football is always about relationships on the pitch and those are things you work on on the training ground and we are now working on them in game to try to get a lot of improvement in the team.
‘So I think it is normal the results may have been affected when you are talking about the teams that maybe are expected to be at the top.
‘Talking about ourselves, we need to keep on working and improving because I have a lot of faith in the squad we have. On Saturday we showed a base of being able to keep a clean sheet and show resilience which makes me happy, because I am less worried about those relationships at the top of the pitch because a lot that stuff will be individual quality and we certainly have that.’