Football Features

Man City defeat proves Guardiola comparisons far too early for Lampard’s Chelsea

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:48, 23 November 2019

Chelsea’s six-game winning run in the Premier League came to an end on Saturday evening as they lost 2-1 to Manchester City.

The Blues took the lead against the defending champions through N’Golo Kante but goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez had Manchester City ahead at half-time.

Neither side could add to the scoreline after the break, with Manchester City leapfrogging Chelsea to third in the table.

In the build up to the game, Pep Guardiola drew comparisons between Frank Lampard’s start to management and his own with Barcelona in 2008.

Then, Guardiola had been promoted from Barcelona B to take over his former team and led the Spanish giants as they changed European football – winning two Champions League trophies and three La Liga titles while playing with a patented tiki taka style.

Lampard’s own return to Chelsea, having spent 13 years at the club as a player, came via a year in Derby County and is just his second campaign in management.

There have been positives for Lampard’s side, who went into Saturday’s game in third place, one point clear of Manchester City. And Guardiola admitted Lampard would have had a similar advantage to him, taking control of his former club.

“I would say that if you know the club it’s an advantage,” he told reporters.

“He knows Chelsea, the media, the fans, and for the fact when I arrived, not many people trusted me. The president, sporting director but not many.

“Maybe Frank is similar. When nobody trusts you it’s perfect. You are going to turn the opinions of the people round.”

However, Guardiola himself went on to say it is too early to draw comparisons between Lampard and himself, adding: “In those terms you could say there’s a comparison, but it’s too early.

“He’s just done one-and-a-half years, I’ve done longer as I’m older but he has the future in his hands.”

And Saturday’s defeat was further proof.

The Blues started brightly, moving the ball about well across the back, trying to open up gaps in Manchester City’s team to break through. However, there was an early sign of how they could be opened when Sergio Aguero found space on the left-hand side, playing in De Bruyne who shot wide.

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Chelsea reacted well and stuck to Lampard’s gameplan, which was to pick their chances to press Manchester City – a far cry from Guardiola’s own Barcelona style which had Blaugrana players on opponents like a rash whenever they lost the ball. The only areas in which Chelsea appeared to press hard was on either flank with Emerson and Cesar Azpilicueta often pushing high up to pitch.

But it’s a style that has done Chelsea well, their own spin on the pressing game, and it benefited their midfield.

Ever dangerous on the attack, the Blues’ first good chance of the game came when Tammy Abraham capitalised on a poor pass in midfield, playing the ball to Willian whose shot was just wide.

When Chelsea were on top in the first half, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic are excellent. Playing as a trio alongside N’Golo Kante, it was a hark back to Maurizio Sarri’s midfield with Jorginho at the base. The Italian international was the fulcrum of Chelsea’s play, contributing in both defence and attack.

Pep Guardiola praises Frank Lampard

Jorginho’s passing helped Chelsea move forward, often through Kovacic, while he also found himself in key defensive positions to keep Manchester City at bay.

And it was that duo which played such a big role in Chelsea’s goal, scored by fellow midfielder Kante. Jorginho and Kovacic exchanged passes just inside the Manchester City half before the latter played a beautiful pass into Kante who bundled the ball past Ederson.

It was a lead fully deserved for Chelsea, but unfortunately it also proved to be the start of their downfall.

Frustrated by their start and Chelsea’s toying nature on the ball, Manchester City took their game up a gear and equalised through De Bruyne as the Belgian sold Jorginho a dream on the edge of the area before firing past Kepa Arrizabalaga – via a deflection off Kurt Zouma.

Immediately, Chelsea looked wounded and all their confidence went out of the window. The Blues were making unforced errors on the ball and allowed Manchester City to apply pressure on their backline, taking the rhythm away from Chelsea’s midfield. Jorginho, who had looked so good early on, was getting caught out defensively while Kovacic also struggled to help Emerson defensively.

If Chelsea’s confidence was low after conceding the equaliser, it dropped another level with Mahrez put Manchester City ahead. The goal was a wonderful solo effort from Mahrez, beating Emerson far too easily when cutting inside the box before curling the ball through Fikayo Tomori’s legs into the bottom left corner. Chelsea still haven’t won points from losing a position this season, just one of three teams in the Premier League with that record alongside Norwich City and Manchester United.

It confirmed what had been arguably Emerson’s worst game as a Chelsea player this season, with the left-back being dribbled past twice including for Mahrez’s goal. Prior to Saturday’s match, he was unbeaten.

Things didn’t get much better after half-time as Chelsea kept to their gameplan, giving Manchester City time and space on the ball. At the start of the game it worked for Chelsea, but with Manchester City confident it only allowed the hosts to control the ball and put pressure on the opposition defenders.

As the game approached the hour mark, Lampard made his first change, bringing Reece James on for Emerson and switching Azpilicueta over to the left. It shored up Chelsea defensively and kept them in the game but changed very little to their attack.

The Blues continued to struggle to create with Manchester City happily sitting deep in their own half – signs of how Guardiola has himself evolved as a manager since moving to the Premier League.

Chelsea’s possession increased after a further attacking change, with Mason Mount and Michy Batshuayi replacing Jorginho and Abraham – switching the Blues to a 4-2-3-1. But their chances remained fleeting. Willian went closest with a powerful volley tipped over by Ederson – though no corner was given – but it was not enough to truly test the Manchester City.

The Blues were saved from losing 3-1 by a marginal VAR offside call, but the problems remain the same. It’s now three defeats in the Premier League this season, all of which have come against teams in the so-called Big Six.

Chelsea’s good start to the season cannot be taken away from them and they may overcome their problems with big games but, for now, Lampard is some way off replicating Guardiola.