Football Features

Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea: Back three cannot solve Lampard’s problems

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:04, 29 February 2020

Chelsea missed the opportunity to close the gap on third-placed Leicester City after a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.

The Blues took the lead through Marcos Alonso but eventually fell behind thanks to goals from Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King.

Alonso eventually rescued a point fo Frank Lampard’s men but it will feel like a defeat with so many teams breathing down their neck in the race for the top four.

The trip to Bournemouth was the ninth time Chelsea had started a game with a back three this season, with varying success.

Lampard’s relationship with the back three

Although Chelsea have a past with the back three, particularly during Antonio Conte’s time in charge, the Blues have used it sparingly this season.

Lampard first tried in away to Wolves back in September with success, matching their hosts’ formation and leaving Molineux with a 5-2 win including a hat-trick from Tammy Abraham. The Blues continued to use it for their next game, at home to Valencia in the Champions League, but it was unable to help as they fell to a 1-0 defeat.

It was briefly brought back for another Champions League game, this time away to Lille in October, and helped Chelsea achieve a 2-1 win but that would be the last we saw of at until December.

An away trip to Tottenham saw Lampard rely on the back three once more with success, as they frustrated Jose Mourinho’s side away from home, leading the former Chelsea boss to draw negative comparisons to Conte’s style of play.

Once again Chelsea continued with a back three following that positive result, but again it ended in defeat, this time to Southampton at Stamford Bridge. Despite that, Lampard stuck with it for the visit to Arsenal but eventually changed to a four-man defence which led to a 2-1 win. And it appeared that would be the end of that.

But another game against Tottenham saw the back three return and it worked once more, helping in a 2-1 win. A 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich followed but Lampard continued with the back three for Chelsea’s visit to Bournemouth, albeit with a personnel change. And it had its moments, but once again the back three failed to solve Chelsea’s problems.

Marcos Alonso shines at wing-back

Starting with the positives, when Chelsea were in control of the game, their wing-backs were excellent.

Playing like wingers at times, Reece James and Marcos Alonso constantly caused Bournemouth’s defence problems, particularly the former with his wonderful crossing.

And it was a James cross that brought Chelsea’s opening goal. Attacking down the right, at Adam Smith, James whipped a teasing cross into the box aimed at Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman managed to get a foot onto it, ahead of Nathan Ake, but could only manage to hit the crossbar.

The rebound was kind to Chelsea, as it fell to another white shirt in the box, other wing-back Alonso who had taken up his customary position as a second centre-forward. Alonso was on hand to hammer a half-volley across the goal and into the net for his second in as many league games, the first time he has achieved a streak in the Premier League. And he wasn’t satisfied there, scoring a late equaliser having pushed into a more central role with Chelsea chasing.

Alonso should have added an assist too, just after half-time, with a good cross into the box having exploited gaps in Bournemouth’s defence. But Giroud scuffed his shot with the goal at his mercy.

Throughout the game, the wing-backs were Chelsea’s best attacking options but they were missing the killer touch inside the box – a problem that is all too familiar for the Blues.

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Blues too open at the back

But, once again, there were more negatives for Chelsea in defence as the back three also contributed to their dropped points.

Chelsea were fortunate not to go behind early on as Bournemouth exploited gaps left by Lampard’s two very attacking wing-backs. The first chance came as early as the fourth minute, with Jack Stacey running into space left by Alonso, getting a cross into Philip Billing, but the midfielder’s shot was poor and straight at Willy Caballero.

Moments later they had another chance down Chelsea’s left, with Billing again capitalising, this time on a lapse in concentration from Fikayo Tomori. However, Billing could only fire his shot into the side netting.

The wing-backs weren’t the only problems, however, with the members of Chelsea’s back three also playing a part in the demise. As well as Tomori’s struggling performance, with a smattering of good moments, Cesar Azpilicueta often pushed very far forward alongside James, leaving Chelsea with an unwanted back two at times.

Bournemouth eventually equalised through Jefferson Lerma from a set-piece, with Andreas Christensen and Mateo Kovacic both beaten in the air – yet another problem that has been rife for Lampard’s men this season.

And it wasn’t long before Bournemouth were ahead, finally taking advantage of the attacking wing-backs. James lost the ball just inside the Chelsea half and play was switched to the left, where Alonso had pushed high to try and retrieve possession. But he was unsuccessful, opening a gap for Stacey to run into yet again and this time his cross was spot on, finding Joshua King at the far post, who finished coolly.

Chasing the game, Lampard took off Tomori and switched to a 4-3-3 which eventually helped Chelsea earn a point, combined with the tiredness of Bournemouth’s players. But is this the end of Chelsea’s back three adventure?

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