The 2020/21 campaign was always going to be one like no other for Chelsea and Frank Lampard.
No summer break. No pre-season. A gruelling schedule. And the constant threat of matches being postponed due to Covid-19. It’s hardly an ideal situation for clubs, coaches and players alike.
Yet they’ve had to muddle through; the Premier League show must go on. Some sides have done better than others in this respect, drawing on experience, familiarity and sheer will to grind out results.
For the opening three months of the campaign, Chelsea certainly looked to be overcoming their issues with a maturity few predicted. Despite several new arrivals, points were regularly being collected at home and abroad.
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The Blues topped their Champions League group with relative ease and, after defeating Leeds United at the start of December, briefly topped the Premier League. But then the roof fell in.
Chelsea won just one of their next seven games in all competitions and slipped to ninth in the top-flight table. Lampard was suddenly under intense pressure and his job under threat with big-money arrivals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both struggling for form.
Lampard has urged throughout the season that patience is required with both players, and the Blues other summer recruits.
“Football is all about relationships on the pitch,” he said in October. “It is always about the timing of the pass one forward wants, whether you go inside, or you come on the outside. Those sorts of things are what you work on the training pitch.”
The problem for Lampard, Werner and Havertz is Chelsea have rarely had considerable time on the training pitch this term. The relentless fixture list has seen to that.
Prior to the Blues’ defeat to Manchester City on January 3, Chelsea had only had one free midweek…