Chelsea meek as Lampard fails to fulfill promise in defeat to Real Madrid

Will Ford
Lampard Chelsea

Real Madrid not taking chances and being a bit sh*t in general doesn’t automatically mean Chelsea showed fight and passion to keep them at bay. That was pretty pathetic from a team who absolutely battered the same opposition a year ago.

It looked briefly like it was going to work. Chelsea sat back, waited for an error from Real Madrid in the attacking third and then countered, with Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling running in behind, and the incomporable N’Golo Kante charging through the heart of them.

And Felix had to score. Great work from Kante and Enzo Fernandez in transition sent the loanee clear – well clear – of Eder Militao after just two minutes. A £90m forward scores, and if reports that Todd Boehly wants to sign the 23-year-old ‘at all costs’ are true, the Chelsea owner needs to give his head a wobble. It’s needed a good shaking for a while now, to be fair.

Not least as he decided to replace Graham Potter with Frank Lampard.

As was the case for much of  his permanent stint, it looked as though Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were playing with ten men (before they actually were). Even with five at the back and three in midfield, there was space everywhere for Madrid – out wide, in front of the defence, behind the defence.

It’s unreasonable to expect perfect tactics, because of the time in charge, and – let’s face it – because it’s Lampard against Carlo Ancelotti. And those tactics quite frequently left Chelsea with two-on-two at the back.

But what Lampard perhaps should have instilled, with all his DNA and legend juice, is more desire from his players to do everything for the club he loves.

There’s no ‘new manager bounce’ to speak of from the man you would think would get the bounciest of performances from players representing his club. By his own admission there was no “aggression” against Wolves, and that was the case again in the Bernabeu, a year on from one of the most aggressive performances from Chelsea, against the very same team in the very same stadium.

And Madrid were arguably more there for the taking this time around than they were when Chelsea fell agonisingly short of progression last year.

Chelsea were all over Madrid like a rash when playing under Thomas Tuchel, both in 2021 on their way to the Champions League title, and in 2022 when they deserved to go through but couldn’t quite manage it.

On Wednesday it looked as though Madrid were again playing with some ailment or other – they were far from their best – but it had nothing to do with the opposition they were faced with, who meekly watched their below par performance and offered next to nothing in return.

Karim Benzema celebrates scoring against Frank Lampard's Chelsea

Chelsea didn’t need tactical wizardry, they needed passion, and having quite reasonably promised he would squeeze that out of the players under his watch, Lampard has so far failed.

Because although there will be claims after this game that Chelsea did show some fight, having only lost 2-0 despite being down to ten men for half an hour, they were bested in all areas by a side who didn’t really turn up that Chelsea were clearly superior than last year and the year before.

And you’ve got to wonder what this game would have looked like under Graham Potter, whom the fans were sick of and had to go, but who led Chelsea to a brilliant win over Borussia Dortmund last time out in the Champions League, in a performance full of tactical nous, as was Potter’s forte, and fight, which was supposed to be his shortcoming and Lampard’s greatest recourse for improvement.

We recognise it’s unfair to pin too much of the blame on Lampard, who is just the latest mistake of many from the new owners, who have spent over £600m to make Chelsea a significantly worse football team.