There wasn’t a lot of logic to suggest this season would be a success for Chelsea.
Under a transfer embargo, they appointed an inexperienced manager, broadly on the basis that he was a club hero as a player, with only an inexperienced squad to work with. Add to that they sold Eden Hazard in the summer, and prospects didn’t look great.
However, things are going pretty well: the win over Watford was their fifth in a row, and they’re comfortably in fourth place, only two points behind Manchester City.
“They’re really exciting,” said Jack Lang on this Monday’s Totally Football Show. “They’ll give the opposition a chance at the back, but they’re getting better and better going forwards. They’re getting so much more out of the deeper midfield two than under Maurizio Sarri, typified here by that gorgeous Jorginho ball [through to Tammy Abraham for the first goal]: because of the way Sarri played last season he wasn’t encouraged to try that.
“He’s been given more freedom to take risks: Sarri’s football was fairly structured in the midfield, he wanted short passes to build it up fairly systematically. Now, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic seem to have the permission to try something, and if it doesn’t come off then fair enough. It’s a mental thing rather than anything.
“In Abraham, they have someone making better runs than the strikers did last season. That’s freed them up too.”
Benji Lanyado picked up the theme.
“It’s to Lampard’s credit that he didn’t throw Jorginho out with the Sarri bathwater,” he said. “The player he’s really changed has been Kovacic – he was mostly ‘shuttling’ last season, but now he’s bursting forwards. He’s now making twice as many runs forward than he did last season, so massive kudos to Lampard for that.
And the praise didn’t stop there: “I found myself thinking two, almost certainly over the top things during the Watford game.
“One; Christian Pulisic looks a little bit Eden Hazard-y. And two; I wonder if Lampard is a future England manager. He seems like he’s the real deal.”
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