Questions will be asked if Chelsea’s defensive problems persist after West Brom horror show


Defensive chaos has characterised Frank Lampard’s 14 months in charge at Chelsea… but should problems persist after their West Brom display, questions will be asked whether individual errors are symptomatic of systemic failings

  • Chelsea’s opening against West Brom showed Kepa is only part of the problem 
  • Willy Caballero could do nothing to stop Chelsea allowing West Brom a 3-0 lead 
  • Even the most expensive forward lines are only as good as the foundations below
  • Frank Lampard did little to mask his frustration with left back Marcos Alonso

Kepa Arrizabalaga won’t have had many better days under Frank Lampard. At the end of a week when the goalkeeper’s epitaph was written, Chelsea‘s back four did their best to fight his corner.

If anyone was unsure how deep their defensive rot has set in, a calamitous opening 27 minutes proved beyond doubt that Kepa’s floundering frailties sit only atop a lengthy list of problems.

There was nothing Willy Caballero could do to stop Chelsea gift-wrapping West Bromwich a 3-0 lead. A spirited comeback partially masked the cracks and illustrated why even the most expensive forward lines are only as good as the foundations beneath.

Questions will be asked of Frank Lampard's Chelsea's defence if problems persist there

Questions will be asked of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea’s defence if problems persist there

Kepa Arrizabalaga's floundering frailties sit only atop a lengthy list of problems at the club

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s floundering frailties sit only atop a lengthy list of problems at the club

If £22million keeper Edouard Mendy is to make the difference, he and Chelsea’s technical adviser Petr Cech have a job on their hands. ‘We know we’ve had problems in the goalkeeping area,’ Lampard said. ‘Having Petr train with them and bring his experience is a great thing.’

Given Lampard has played with some fine defenders, such as John Terry (now a coach at Aston Villa) and Ricardo Carvalho (assistant to Andre Villas-Boas at Marseille), would he consider using their knowledge to help his back four? ‘No,’ Lampard said.

After this draw, the Chelsea boss deserves some sympathy. First Marcos Alonso’s risky header led to Callum Robinson’s early opener. Then Thiago Silva’s heavy touch gifted West Bromwich a second before Chelsea suffered another set-piece glitch as Kyle Bartley made it three.

Willy Caballero could do nothing to stop Chelsea gift-wrapping West Brom a 3-0 lead

Willy Caballero could do nothing to stop Chelsea gift-wrapping West Brom a 3-0 lead

Thiago Silva was a shrewd free signing but Chelsea have tried to spend away their problems

Thiago Silva was a shrewd free signing but Chelsea have tried to spend away their problems

‘You can’t legislate for pure mistakes,’ Lampard said. ‘You can do as many meetings as you want but if you’re going to make those mistakes, you give yourself a mountain to climb. We were punished. We showed great character but at the same time (3-0 down) is not a position you want to be in.’

Lampard did little to mask his frustration with Alonso, who is surely walking the plank until left back Ben Chilwell is fully fit. Skipper Silva’s Premier League debut included 45 disastrous minutes, but the 36-year-old’s pedigree should shine through as his English improves. ‘People are going to want to talk about the second goal and that’s fair play,’ Lampard said. ‘Other than that, we saw how he is, his leadership and his qualities.’

Silva was a shrewd free signing but elsewhere Chelsea have tried to spend away their problems. Still Lampard pleads for patience, insisting injuries and the lack of a pre-season mean his team need time. True, but eventually excuses will wear thin and attention will turn his way.

Lampard did little to mask his frustration with Marcos Alonso, who is surely walking the plank

Lampard did little to mask his frustration with Marcos Alonso, who is surely walking the plank

Defensive chaos has characterised his 14 months in charge. In 21 Premier League away games, Chelsea have kept only one clean sheet, despite trying different personnel and formations. Or because of, perhaps?

Should problems persist, questions will be asked as to whether individual errors are a symptom of systemic failings; whether Lampard, rather than his players, must shoulder the responsibility for their frailties and why they aren’t being ironed out in training.

The coming months should define the direction in which he and Chelsea move. If his new signings prove that calamity is contagious, will Lampard change tack again?

Maybe then he’ll dig out his contacts book and call on help from one of his old friends.


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