Football Features

Ndidi redemption act spoils Lampard’s homecoming: Five things learned from Chelsea 1-1 Leicester

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:52, 18 August 2019

Frank Lampard couldn’t mark his first game at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea manager with victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester City.

Wilfred Ndidi was the main protagonist – firstly playing a hand in Mason Mount’s opener before equalising late on.

The result earned Chelsea their first point of the 2019/20 Premier League season but it was a missed opportunity for the five-time champions to register a much-needed win following a difficult start.

As for the Foxes, they remain unbeaten, and can take some positives just as Chelsea can ahead of gameweek three. With the dust now settling, here are five things we learned from the encounter in west London:

1. Mount ushers in new era

One pleasant aftertaste following Chelsea’s transfer ban was the potential opportunity for their academy graduates. Lampard’s arrival was more good news and since taking charge he’s eased in a number of young talents including Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori but no one symbolises this new approach more than Mount, the exciting young English midfielder who is cut from the same cloth as his manager.

Mount, who not long ago was part of L’Équipe’s ’12 stars of the future’ alongside Kylian Mbappé and Matthijs de Ligt, started in their unfortunate 4-0 loss at Manchester United before enjoying a 47-minute Uefa Super Cup cameo against Liverpool and, such is Lampard’s trust, he wasn’t going to sit out Leicester’s visit. And the move, playing him off striker Olivier Giroud, paid immediate dividends.

Leading the Chelsea press, Mount was constantly on the move, harrying the Foxes backline and could have put the hosts into an even faster lead. With the game three minutes old the 20-year-old saw a shot well-saved by Kasper Schmeichel, whose quick feet also denied a bearing Christian Pulisic, the only real new face at Stamford Bridge this season.

However, that was the calm before the storm, just four minutes later Ndidi – after receiving possession from Schmeichel – was caught napping by Mount, and his immediate strike flew past the Danish goalkeeper. A landmark moment in more ways than one. Mount had scored his first goal for the club he’s called home since childhood whilst Lampard celebrated his inaugural Premier League goal as a coach.

2. Familiar feeling

Lampard’s history with Chelsea is well-documented. A club legend, the Londoner is universally revered at the Bridge, but someone with a strong past that gets overlooked (understandably) is Brendan Rodgers, now guiding a possession hungry Foxes side. Back when ‘Lamps’ was strutting his stuff, Rodgers was shaping minds as the Blues academy coach under Jose Mourinho, he swiftly left for senior management at Swansea City and the rest – as they say – is history.

Today’s meeting was the 13th time Rodgers faced his former club as manager, but going into Sunday’s showdown he lacked a single victory, having drawn and lost six times each. Despite their indifferent start – though it’s worth pointing out Liverpool and Man Utd are either further ahead of Chelsea or floating at the same level – very few were betting on Rodgers banking a first win.

And those naysayers, if you prefer, were proven right. Lampard’s team continued in their free-flowing mode, which they displayed in glimpses against Liverpool, but this time but this time around they were effective in pinning the opposition back and not allowing them to breathe. However, it’s a work in progress and Leicester managed to breach through Ndidi, who pounced on a James Maddison corner – with 23 minutes remaining – to draw the sides level.

Two points from their opening two games is a meagre return but just like Chelsea a week ago, Rodgers shouldn’t panic, you won’t find a better midfield outside the league’s ‘Big Six’. Upcoming games against Sheffield United (H) and Bournemouth (A) present an opportunity to really kick start their campaign.

3. Söyüncü fills Maguire void

There’s no question Rodgers was disappointed to lose Harry Maguire in the summer. Not just because the world’s most expensive defender, after Man Utd paid £80m for his services, is good at his day job, but what he offers them from an attacking perspective.

Rodgers’ style hasn’t really changed from his Swansea days, that approach earned him the Liverpool job before Celtic brought him up north. A ball-carrying defender is a must and for all his aerial supremacy Maguire was equally nifty with ball at feet, especially when encouraged to dribble into midfield and beyond, his departure either needed Rodgers to be creative or the chequebook.

In truth, the Sheffield-born centre-back’s successor was already in-house, signed from SC Freiburg last year Turkish international Caglar Söyüncü has stepped up. He’s quickly forged a promising central defensive partnership with Premier League veteran Jonny Evans, but what is really starting to catch the eye is his distribution, in their goalless opening weekend draw against Wolves no one completed more accurate passes than him (71) and he carried that form into Stamford Bridge despite finishing second best.

Against the Blues he produced 56 accurate passes, again topping the chart, this seamless assimilation will no doubt encourage Rodgers as Leicester look to return to winning ways.

4. Unwanted record just averted

No one says management is easy. Lampard knew very well the pitfalls long before deciding to enter the world of coaching. For one, he’s seen them come and go whilst playing for Chelsea, having played under no fewer than 10 men. Given the predicament the club was facing on his arrival one can assume he’s under no serious obligation to bring silverware back this season. However, being a proud man, Lampard will not want to go down the easy road.

You can taste his desire for success in every interview he’s given to date and following that humbling 4-0 loss at Old Trafford there was no way of allowing a repeat this weekend. Lampard made it clear his focus isn’t on the past. So, it’s natural to assume he wasn’t aware of Gianluca Vialli being the only Chelsea manager to lose his opening two Premier League games in charge.

Joining the Italian in that very exclusive club didn’t come to pass, but his side after such a bright start didn’t make things easy. Again, they started like a wildfire, but as the game progressed they failed to maintain that momentum as it burnt out.

5. A creative force to be reckoned with

Maddison becoming a Premier League player was inevitable. Highly thought of whilst at Norwich City, the Coventry-born attacking midfielder joined Leicester ahead of the 2018/19 campaign in which he finished by registering seven goals and the same number of assists. What really stood out, in a league blessed with creative geniuses, he was the only player to create 100 goalscoring chances, and the first English player to do so since Leighton Baines in 2012/13.

If anyone was to get something from this game for Leicester it was Maddison whose Beckham-esque corner was headed home by Ndidi; across the game no one created more chances (3) than him. In fact, he was responsible for producing half of the Foxes’ opportunities on goal and that shouldn’t really come as a surprise anymore.