There was a moment last night after Chelsea scored the first goal against Liverpool in the FA Cup 5th round, when all Blues supporters would have been thinking ‘here we go again.’
Instead of the usual excitement of taking the lead in an important match, expectations were that it would not be long before Liverpool come back into the game.
But despite Liverpool taking the lions share of possession (59%), as the game grew on there was a real feel and belief that this game was different and Chelsea would go on to win, which they did of course.
Frank Lampard got everything right last night, beginning with the starting line up and formation.
He chose to start with experience (slightly forced due to injuries). But he went with his more experienced centre back pairing of Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger, alongside Chelsea’s ‘older boys’ now as they can be considered, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Pedro, and Willian.
Whilst this was a far from inspiring line up, Lampard picked the guys he believed would have the know-how to do the job, and also help keep the team organised and solid defensively as a whole group, this was key.
Pedro and Willian’s work rate and defensive help meant they looked assured even when under pressure. The whole team kept shape well and defended as a unit, this is something they have often forgotten to do this season.
The decision to bring Kepa Arrizabalaga back in was the next good call, with the Spaniard having the game of his life for Chelsea just like he had a point to prove, which he did.
The inclusion of 18-year old Billy Gilmour was the next massive call he got spot on, and this was a risky one in such a big game. But Lampard and his assistant know Gilmour’s game so well after watching him a lot in the youth sides, they knew exactly what he could and did bring.
Perhaps Lampard’s biggest secret weapon last night though was including the choice to either play out from the back, or hit Olivier Giroud long. Of course, this tactic needs a big target man like Olly for it to work, but it stumped Liverpool, who didn’t know whether to press Kepa from kick outs or drop off. Chelsea looked very dangerous from this.
Next up, they actually took shots. This is something that Lampard has been drumming into his players all season and last night it looked like they finally decided to listen. It was only 2-0 in the end, but it could have easily been more because they were actually getting shots away.
Chelsea had more attempts on goal (17) than Liverpool (14), and 7 of those were on target compared to Liverpool’s 5.
The compact formation of 4-2-3-1 was the best call, it kept them tight when Liverpool were attacking, but it also gave them a real threat on the counter. Lampard was happy for Liverpool to have possession, and they were well drilled and got back in numbers.
Finally, Lampard’s in-game management was great. He called when to press, when to drop off, when to get men behind the ball, when to attack, and this worked perfectly. It was a dynamic tactic and the players knew how and when to switch in an instant.
Also, the substitutions were great calls. Mateo Kovacic was replaced with Mason Mount rather than Jorginho because Lampard wanted someone central who was playing with the same intensity, pace and ability to dribble like Kovacic was doing, Mount was closest to that.
Then when Willian went off injured, moving Mount out wide and then bringing Jorginho on for extra experience and calmness when under pressure at the end of the game, was a forced but great call.
Kudos to you, Lampard!