Football Features

Frank Lampard’s exciting new midfield set-up shines in Burnley 0-3 Chelsea

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:39, 31 October 2020

Chelsea moved into the top four of the Premier League thanks to a dominant 3-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.

Ziyech gave Chelsea a half-time lead, beating Nick Pope with a low shot from outside of the area following good play from the right. Burnley came out after the break pushing for an equaliser but goals from Kurt Zouma and Timo Werner sealed what was a comfortable victory.

Over the past few weeks, a lot has been made about Chelsea’s improving defence with what was their fourth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions. But this win was all about the midfield.

A dream trio

The excitement around Chelsea’s midfield came as early as an hour before kick-off, when the teams were announced. For just the second time this season Lampard started a game with a 4-3-3, having previously done so in the 2-0 Premier League defeat against Liverpool. Then, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic were the midfield trio, in a hark back to the brief Maurizio Sarri era.

But on Saturday Lampard finally brought out a trio Chelsea fans had been waiting a long time for. When Kai Havertz signed for Chelsea, and fans were compiling their dream starting XIs, many had wanted the German to be played in a midfield three alongside Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante. They finally got their wishes at Turf Moor, and it was worth the wait.

Chelsea’s midfield were, quite simply, excellent against Burnley. When the Blues had the ball, they operated essentially as a 4-1-4-1 with the two “No.8s” Mount and Havertz joining the attack while Kante sat deep, sometimes dropping alongside the centre-backs mimicking Jorginho’s style.

He also showed Jorginho-esque passing, looking more composed on the ball than he has recently, mixing things up with cross-field passes and even a stepover/chipped through ball combo late on.

But where Kante differs from Jorginho is that he is understandably a more solid defensively option, which allowed Mount and Havertz to push forward.

After a slow start to life in the Premier League, having been played out of his favoured positions on occasion, Havertz’s form has been improving in recent games and Burnley was arguably his best league performance so far.

Despite starting further away from the goal Havertz was a big attacking threat for Chelsea, particularly when driving with the ball at his feet. Positioned on the right, Havertz created a dangerous triangle alongside Ziyech and Reece James, both as the deepest player and the most advanced.

Havertz created one chance, completed 94.3% of his passes in Burnley’s half, had 82 touches and completed three take-ons, more than any other Chelsea player.

He also did his bit defensively too, showing that he can play in that deeper role. Some sloppiness did creep into Havertz’s game in the second half, the same thing happening against Southampton two weeks ago, but that will improve.

Havertz’s performance was slightly overshadowed, however, but his partner Mount’s excellent display. The Englishman has often been subject to criticism from both Chelsea fans and opposition, who believe his selection comes through favouritism. But he was the perfect fit in Chelsea’s midfield trio, wonderful in both defence and attack.

Like Havertz, Mount pushed to attack when Chelsea had the ball and was at times the most advanced Blues player on the pitch. But he did his best work slightly deeper, easily switching the ball from left to James on the right with excellent cross-field passes.

Mount was on top in almost every aspect of the midfield game, whether it be passing, creating chances, tackling or shots.

He capped off a wonderful attacking performance with an assist, sending in the corner for Zouma’s header to double Chelsea’s lead when Burnley had threatened to draw level. Mount wasn’t just good in attack either, he was once again on the ball defensively.

It won’t get talked about much, due to his attacking contributions, but Mount’s work rate and eagerness to help out the backline was perfectly summarised in an excellent tackle in the first half when Burnley looked like breaking.

The trio wasn’t perfect, as there were moments where they were too open through the middle, particularly as Kante was pulled over to the flanks while Havertz and Mount were up, but it was a solid performance overall.

A unified attack

The win was not just about the midfield trio, however. Chelsea’s wingers, and forward, were excellent too. Lampard had initially planned to line up with Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic but the latter had to be replaced by Werner due to injury.

Ziyech was making his first Premier League start for the Blues, having recently returned from injury and wasted little time in showing Chelsea what they have to look forward to.

The Moroccan was constantly peppering Burnley’s defence with his crosses into the box, forming an artillery on the right with James, though he did like to drift over to the left on occasion. Having already opened his Blues account in midweek against Krasnodar, Ziyech found the net once more against Burnley, linking up well with James, Werner and Abraham outside the Burnley area.

Ziyech’s movements away from the right also brought an assist in the second half, as the Moroccan was in a central position to neatly play in Werner for Chelsea’s third.

Chelsea’s average positions in their 3-0 win over Burnley

Credit should also be given to Abraham and Werner, who seamlessly switched responsibilities, taking turns to lead the line and run the wings.

As shown by their average positions, Werner was often the more advance of the two, with Abraham apparently deciding he wanted to be a midfielder for the day, dropping almost alongside Kante to link up play. And his selflessness bore fruit in his assist for Ziyech’s goal.

Special mention should also be given to Chelsea’s two full-backs who were essentially wingers for the 90 minutes. The duo of Chilwell and James were relentless with their crossing, and the former was often finding himself on the end of balls from the latter.

This was another step in the right direction for Chelsea, and they look to be finally living up to the expectations that comes with their squad.