BY PAUL LAGAN
Frank Lampard is a smart and perceptive man.
He knows now what it’s like to be Chelsea head coach after successive league defeats – it’s not pleasant.
He knows he cannot lose his next match.
Already some sections of the Chelsea faithful are questioning Lampard’s ability to pull the side through the current slump, which sees them outside the Champions League top four in fifth place.
Those thoughts are only an echo of what the top brass will be thinking as they assess Chelsea’s chances of being in the top four at the end of the season. If they think the trajectory is something other than upwards, then contingency plans will be enacted.
That’s the nature of Chelsea and it’s one Lampard and his management team fully accept.
The Blues have played poorly at crucial stages in the past two matches, at Everton at the weekend, and at Molineux for the disheartening 2-1 defeat.
The west Londoners face a difficult London derby on Monday night, at home to West Ham. The Hammers are revitalised under David Moyes and will look to exploit the lack of confidence in some of the players and test Lampard’s tactical and technical knowhow.
Lampard said after the last-minute defeat at Wolves: “We didn’t play well enough. It’s pretty simple.
“The threat of Wolves is clearly the counter-attack. They’ve got others but the counter-attack is the main one.
“They defend well, they’re organised, they have speed and quality in forward areas. The players knew it before the game, the players knew it in the game, and we allowed some counter-attacks and if you allow a team to play to their strengths then you may lose that game.
“We could have seen the game out given our strong position with a 1-0 lead. I’m disappointed to lose the game. We had it under pretty good control at the point of 1-0. We weren’t playing brilliantly but we had control.
“The game was there for us to win and then obviously we allowed them back into the game. We allowed them momentum, we allowed them some counter-attacks and we lost the game. So I’m really disappointed.”
Lampard will hope that returning Christian Pulisic can reproduce the scintillating performances of last season following a string of injuries and that Timo Werner recreates his early season form.
The German striker is playing wide on the left and has recently found it difficult to control the game from there.
He is a lethal central striker, but Lampard’s preference of playing a target man in the form of Olivier Giroud or Tammy Abraham is proving problematic for the former RB Leipzig hit man. Werner has not scored in the past eight Chelsea matches. He’s netted eight times – the last a strike on November 7 against Sheffield United.
Ever-present N’Golo Kante echoes the point that Chelsea should have done better up in the Midlands on Wednesday.
The France World Cup winner said: “Even if we were not playing great, we were one goal ahead so we could have managed the game and kept the difference.
“In the first half, they had five at the back and were defending very well so we weren’t able to have many chances. We were happy to score with our first shot on target but we didn’t manage the result well.
“When they scored, we tried to come back but by trying to win the game we conceded many counter-attacks and they scored a late goal.’
“What has happened in these last two games is not what we want.
“We need to get back to winning ways quickly by resting and then being ready for West Ham.”
Petr Cech came out of footballing retirement on Tuesday to shine between the sticks for the Chelsea development squad.
Cech, 39, whose last competitive match was in May 2019 for Arsenal – a 4-1 Europa Final defeat to Chelsea donned his gloves and protective headgear as the young Blues came from 2-0 down to beat Spurs 3-0 at Kingsmeadow.
A brace from substitute Myles Peart-Harris and a strike from Marcel Lewis sealed the points that put the Blues top of PL2.
Cech played to gain some match fitness should he ever be needed by Lampard later in the season.
Out of favour Danny Drinkwater was shown a straight red card for retaliating after suffering a full-blooded illegal challenge.
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