Frank Lampard stood helplessly on the touchline at Stamford Bridge with a thousand-yard stare during Chelsea’s 2-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester United on Monday. He was running out of patience as he waited for some magic from his players.
This has become an all too familiar sight for Blues fans. The loss to United was their fifth home defeat in the league, meaning they’ve only won four of their past 14 Premier League games. This poor run of form has left them clinging onto the last top-four place but results in the past few months suggest they won’t be there for long.
But what has really gone wrong for the Blues?
After the 4-0 hammering to open the season, Lampard’s side slowly picked up form and were flying before the November international break. They registered eight wins from their opening 12 league games and were firmly in third place. However, after the break, they lost away to Manchester City, a defeat that kicked off their dismal run of seven league defeats in the 14 games they've played since.
The 41-year-old got many things right at the start of the season when his team was in good form and confidence was high. Although there were mitigating factors for Monday night loss, Chelsea have lost to United three times this season and Lampard shoulders some of the blame.
Finishing from his team has been erratic. Their best period against United coincided with Olivier Giroud’s introduction. The woeful Michy Batshuayi made way after a shocking performance on his first Premier League start of the season. Giroud’s disallowed goal was a perfect example of what he can bring to his team. With Tammy Abraham injured, there’s no reasonable explanation of why he shouldn’t start.
Chelsea had 17 shots against United but the only time David de Gea was called to action was when he collided with the post later in the game after Mason Mount's free-kick had struck it. Batshuayi had the chances to score early in the game but fluffed his lines again and again. The fact that the Belgian has had 15 shots this season and scored with just one of them tells us what we need to know about his reliability.
The Blues’ game management, or the lack of, was indisputable. They failed to adapt to United’s decision to press high up in the second half while also ceding possession when Andreas Christensen was receiving treatment, failing to regroup and prevent Anthony Martial’s opener.
Defending set-pieces and counter-attacks have been a problem for Chelsea. Martial’s opener was created by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who had previously registered one assist all season, and his cross to the French forward was his ninth accurate cross of 2019/20. Only Burnley have conceded more from fast breaks. Furthermore, only Aston Villa have conceded more goals than Chelsea from corners.
Generally, their defence hasn’t been up to standard. They have the second-worst defence in the top ten, having shipped 36 goals in 26 games. Between Chelsea’s two keepers, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero, they have by far the worst save percentage of any team's goalkeepers this season. Lampard’s team have faced fewer shots than Liverpool but they have conceded more than twice as many goals.
They are just a point ahead of fifth-placed Spurs. As recently as last month, they were nine points clear of Jose Mourinho’s side. Manchester United, Sheffield United, Wolves and Everton are snapping at their heels and by the time the weekend comes to a close, they might find themselves 7th if they lose to Spurs in Saturday’s early kick-off. Can Lampard and his team arrest this slump?