Chelsea’s frustrating 1-1 draw with Aston Villa makes it a very disappointing one win in five games now. It rounded off a set of truly dismal December fixtures which saw the Blues claim just three wins in all competitions.
Frank Lampard said his side showed a reaction, one he was desperate for after their horrible performance away at Arsenal. Although the result may not have gone Chelsea’s way, there was plenty we learned at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea and Villa drew, here’s five of those.
Callum Hudson-Odoi must play more
Hudson-Odoi’s injury came at precisely the wrong time for him. With Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic also hitting the sidelines with injuries, Hudson-Odoi was ready for a run of games uncontested. However, his own unfortunate injury has kept him out and Lampard without two fully fit wingers for most of the month.
Luckily though, the English winger has come back and looked like he had a serious point to prove. His 45-minute cameo against Arsenal was one of the brighter sparks on that day and his dazzling first half showing kept everyone on their toes against Villa.
With games against Manchester City and Morecambe next, Hudson-Odoi will be hoping he can get at least one more full 90 out of those games before Ziyech returns to the side. What the 20-year old also showed in these two games is that he can definitely be more than just a back up or rotation player.
The blues looked infinitely more dangerous with natural width and two driving wingers that can go both inside and outside. Hudson-Odoi’s impressive passing display will have impressed his manager as well.
Hopefully, he can kick on now and truly help to stretch Lampard’s squad and bring the best out of his team mates as well.
December Blues once again
Chelsea’s forgetful festive fixtures will haunt them for the time being, however it’s not a new phenomenon. Lampard and Chelsea also struggled last season, losing five out of the eight games they played between 23rd November and new year.
This is worrying because the schedule ramps itself up and can be a useful tide for momentum to flow. If Chelsea can’t get over this rut soon then they might soon find themselves cut off from the rest. However, with the state of the league this season, everyone is dropping points and although sides do have games in hand, Chelsea are just three points off of second-placed Leicester who have the same amount of games played.
Chelsea’s Premier League form after going top of the table on 5 December: LLWLD 😬— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 28, 2020
They’re now sixth after a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa pic.twitter.com/xvqnOfcnFO
Interestingly, at Derby, Lampard actually enjoyed a decent run throughout December, with three wins out of six, losing just once. It is certainly food for thought moving forwards.
As last season showed though, this December run doesn’t decide the final standings. Chelsea still managed to get into the top four last season and there’s little to suggest they won’t be up there again this season.
With the constant fluctuation of results and form of those around them, Chelsea can be at least a bit happier that they are still very much in contention.
Competition up top
A blessing in disguise or a managers worst nightmare? Chelsea have two firing strikers.
Unsurprisingly, Olivier Giroud started this game, just two days after Tammy Abraham led the line against Arsenal. The dilemma though is that both players scored.
In a dreadful display in North London, Abraham did what he does best and what good strikers do best, put the ball in the net. Ultimately it was vain but either way, he had proved a point, bagging his sixth league goal of the season in just seven starts.
Giroud hit back in the duo’s little battle. He poached his third of the season in his third successive start as well.
With Chelsea facing Manchester City next, Lampard has a big decision to make. Which of his two number nines takes the starting spot? While it has been thought that the team plays better as a whole with Abraham in, can you really argue with the extra hold up play Giroud gives?
This will all depend on Lampard’s thought process behind their set up against City, with two fit wingers it could be beneficial to use Giroud and look to gain from his aerial ability. Abraham would argue that in a game Chelsea will have to soak up attacks and look to counter, his mobility is more valuable.
It’s a problem that most managers would like, but it’s one Lampard will have to deal with. Either way, they’re both doing a good job of keeping Timo Werner from his desired starting roll.
There was a reaction here
The one biggest thing Lampard was looking for in this game was a reaction. True, it couldn’t have been much worse than their trip to the Emirates but Chelsea could have rolled over here against a very capable and dangerous Villa side.
The Blues showed much more desire to be on the ball, to create, and to make things happen. A stark contrast to 48-hours earlier.
Most will say that effort and the basics are merely the least you can expect from a side and again that is true. Once again though, in a rotated Chelsea side that hasn’t played together all that often, their resilience against a side that could have gone second with wins in their games in hand was impressive.
Chelsea will argue they did enough to win this game and they probably did. Considering the negativity and uncertainty going into the game, a draw wasn’t the worst result. It just hurts more because the team will argue they deserved more.
Midfield mix up, again
Just as all had settle down and N’Golo Kante was nailing the lone defensive midfield role, it all goes pear shaped. Kante was moved at half time against Arsenal to accommodate for Jorginho, a surprising sub, and was then once again shifted, this time from the start for the Italian, against Villa.
This could just be Lampard tinkering around with his options to stop the poor run of form, but it could be a worry. Kante wasn’t good against Arsenal and neither was Jorginho. The latter also struggled against Villa and eventually Kante was reverted back to his deeper role as Kai Havertz replaced Jorginho.
This sort of chopping and changing in a specific position looks like a manager trying to find the spark again. One would think that the answer is still with Kante playing deeper, his uncomfortable performance when found on the right side of an attack of when running onto balls at the edge of the box summed up his game. It looked like a square peg in a round hole, really.
Lampard’s other option is to start Mateo Kovacic who has struggled for game time recently and was hooked at half time against Arsenal. At his best, the Croatian is a beautifully dynamic cog in midfield. It will be down to Lampard now to find the right balance in midfield once again.
Written by Tom Coley @tomcoley49
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5