There have been times — rather a lot of them, in fact — when it has felt like the tables have stopped turning at Stamford Bridge. Or the record is scratched and the same loop stutters over and over again.
Another week under Frank Lampard, another dash of attacking brilliance undone by defensive chaos.
Again after this 3-3 draw with Southampton, the manager was forced to explain individual errors and shield his hapless keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Frank Lampard was unimpressed as Chelsea gave up two leads to draw 3-3 with Southampton
Jan Vestergaard (middle)’s stoppage time equaliser salvaged a point for the Saints
‘It’s my job,’ he insisted. But then came a change of tune, or at least a change of tone. Throughout his tenure, Lampard’s young team have played with courage and attacking intent — a welcome antidote to the suffocating caution of Maurizio Sarri.
Adding £180million of attacking talent this summer suggested that wasn’t about to change.
And yet after his side had thrown away a 2-0 lead, and then a 3-2 advantage in the dying moments, against Southampton, Lampard was asked if he would ever change course — whether he would go more route one and be negative to shut games down.
Chelsea showed more defensive clumsiness as their back line woes under Lampard continue
‘Yeah, I would,’ he admitted. ‘I’m certainly not wanting to play brave football in the last moments of the game and that was my message to the side throughout the second half: we needed to go longer and miss out their press.
‘I don’t think the players did that enough. We tried to play too much. Missing out the press is certainly a route to getting the ball into the other half.’
Lampard played enough under Jose Mourinho to know the value of pragmatism. Now that message needs to hit home.
Jannik Vestergaard’s last-gasp equaliser was the 14th goal Chelsea have conceded in the final 10 minutes of Premier League games since Lampard took over. Only Aston Villa have shipped more; champions Liverpool have conceded four.
The Blues have dropped 20 points from winning positions since Lampard (above) took over
Chelsea have also dropped 20 points from winning positions in that time. Here, at least, five teams have a worse record.
No Chelsea manager in the Premier League era with more than one game in charge has conceded goals at a higher rate than Lampard (63 in 43 games). And perhaps no match better illustrated their fragility than this.
Chelsea raced into a two-goal lead thanks to two pieces of brilliance from Germany striker Timo Werner, only for Saints to be handed a lifeline when Kai Havertz was pickpocketed inside his own half.
Then neither Kurt Zouma nor Kepa cleared a simple ball in behind and Che Adams made it 2-2.
The Blues were boosted by first top-flight goals for Timo Werner (left) and Kai Havertz (right)
But Chelsea conceded either side of half-time via Danny Ings (left) and Che Adams (right)
Immediately Havertz restored Chelsea’s advantage but Southampton, the better side throughout the second half, were undeterred and left with a deserved point.
The curious question, then, is why Chelsea are so immune to game-management.
‘Some of that is ingrained in the players — they want to try to play football,’ Lampard said.
‘It’s certainly not something I’m not a big advocate of. That was probably my biggest disappointment of the second half, that the players didn’t put into action that message.’
Ralph Hasenhuttl is pleased with the way his Southampton side are progressing under him
The biggest frustration for Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, meanwhile, was the long walk back to the changing room.
To comply with social distancing, away teams are now housed in the health club behind one stand. Hasenhuttl used it as motivation and his side showed great spirit and intensity to leave with a draw.
‘We have been together for nearly two years now and we are becoming convinced about what we are doing,’ he said.
Theo Walcott (right) impressed on his second Southampton debut after his deadline day move
‘We know on a good day we can give every team some issues.’
It was particularly sweet that Theo Walcott — on his first Saints appearance for 14 years — created the late equaliser.
After a ‘crash course’ from his manager, the 31-year-old played the full 90 minutes and, along with Ings, Adams and Nathan Redmond, is forming an English attacking quartet that might turn some heads before next summer.