Kepa’s calamities intensify pressure on Lampard to solve defensive riddle
Chelsea’s eye-catching summer spend will continue this week with the formal completion of the arrival of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. About time, too, will cry the club’s fans who witnessed another Kepa Arrizabalaga howler in the defeat by Liverpool.
But head coach Frank Lampard will know only too well that adding
more than £200million of new talent to his squad will also multiply the scrutiny put on each and every decision he now makes.
And, now blessed with so many options, Lampard is going to upset an awful lot of his players on a weekly basis. So, he will know that Andreas Christensen’s red card will have only heightened Antonio RudiBy ger’s belief he should have been on duty at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
And Rudiger will not have been the only person wondering how Kepa had kept his place for Chelsea’s opening two games, in both of which he has now made an error.
The Spaniard gift-wrapped Sadio Mane’s second goal and Chelsea’s hope that the arrival of Mendy could bring out the best in Kepa looks optimistic at best.
Whether we are now approaching the final straight of Rudiger’s Chelsea career will soon become clear, with the German international due to talk to his agent.
But what is crystal clear is that it will take Lampard some time to solve the riddle that is Chelsea’s defence, even with Mendy, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell to boost his options even further.
Christensen is not the only central defender to have been caught out by Mane’s pace and he will not be the last, but the Danish international’s challenge on the stroke of half-time was clumsy in the extreme.
Silva will have had another full week of training with his new teammates by the time Chelsea play again in the Premier League and one would expect the 35-year-old to bring a much-needed sense of calm to Lampard’s defence. Replacing the fumbling hands of Kepa may also cure some of Chelsea’s nerves but, other than finding the right mix at the back, Lampard now has the added challenge of managing a squad of players who will all want to play each week. Rudiger is unlikely to put up with effectively
being fourth or fifth-choice centreback, while Fikayo Tomori, who stepped off the bench at half-time yesterday, wants regular football.
Chelsea have delayed a decision on whether Tomori, a target for Everton, can leave on loan and the situation regarding Rudiger adds extra complexity to that dilemma.
Lampard would have also known only too well that a World Cup-winning striker and last season’s top scorer will not have been overly enamoured to see Kai Havertz employed as a false nine.
With Lampard switching Timo Werner to the left to try to catch out the onrushing Trent AlexanderArnold, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham would have hoped to get the nod through the middle.
But that role went to Havertz, who had completed a quiet debut at Brighton and who, more pertinently, is not a natural striker.
Abraham finished last season with 17 goals, while Giroud’s strikes effectively sealed the club’s qualification for the Champions League.
Giroud will have confidence he can force his way in from the bench, but an 11-minute cameo appearance, during which he almost scored, is unlikely to have appeased Abraham. Callum Hudson-Odoi will also be worried that he is yet to start either of Chelsea’s opening games at a time when both Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech are injured.
Lampard needs time to blend his new squad and he may well have to put out a few fires along the way.
Headache: Frank Lampard must deal with frustrated players