Though they were able to claw their way to a share of the spoils thanks to a second-half fightback at the Hawthorns, there was little left to cheer from a dismal defensive display.
New boy Thiago Silva, all-conquering in eight years at Paris Saint-Germain, was at the centre of the mess while Marcos Alonso was hauled off at half-time after perhaps his worst 45 minutes in a Chelsea shirt.
Thiago Silva reacts after his slip let West Brom score their second goal against Chelsea
The veteran Brazilian had a nightmare Premier League debut at Selhurst Park on Saturday
Frank Lampard has struggled to field a regular, consistent defence in 14 months at Chelsea
Lampard blamed the language barrier, but not knowing the English for ‘clean sheet’ had little to do with Silva’s costly slip which allowed Callum Robinson to score the Baggies’ second.
‘It is something that we will work through because it is what it is’, Lampard said.
‘He hasn’t had any time. Thiago turns up here pretty fresh and he is in and around us. He will learn it quickly; I am sure some players do speak the languages that he speaks in the squad.
‘He speaks French, being the main one, but we have lads here who speak Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and Italian so that one is again, if the language is a slight barrier, we need time to work. That’s what we have in front of us.
‘We have seen that leadership already and people are going to want to talk about the second goal and that’s fair play and that’s the nature of being the top player that he has been all his career, but at the same time, we saw how he is, his leadership and his qualities and we are going to see more of that.’
Marcos Alonso endured a torrid evening and was hauled off at half-time at West Brom
Mateo Kovacic and Andreas Christensen look dejected after another West Brom strike
|Chelsea defence under Lampard||Games Started Together||Goals Conceded||Clean Sheets|
|Christensen – Azpilicueta – Zouma – James||5||9||1|
|Christensen – Rudiger – Azpilicueta – James||4||5||1|
|Christensen – Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Alonso||3||5||0|
|Christensen – Azpilicueta – Emerson – Zouma||3||7||0|
|Rudiger – Tomori – Zouma||3||3||1|
|Azpilicueta – Emerson – Tomori – Zouma||3||5||0|
|Azpilicueta – Tomori – Zouma – Alonso||3||3||1|
|Christensen – Zouma – Alonso – James||2||3||0|
|Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Zouma||2||5||1|
|Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Zouma – Alonso||2||0||2|
|Emerson – Tomori – Zouma – James||2||1||1|
|Christensen – Rudiger – Azpilicueta||1||1||0|
|Christensen – Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Emerson||1||2||0|
|Christensen – Rudiger – Tomori||1||2||0|
|Christensen – Azpilicueta – Emerson – Tomori||1||2||0|
|Christensen – Azpilicueta – Tomori||1||2||0|
|Christensen – Azpilicueta – Tomori – Alonso||1||0||1|
|Christensen – Alonso – James – Thiago Silva||1||3||0|
|Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Emerson – Zouma||1||1||0|
|Rudiger – Azpilicueta – Zouma – James||1||1||0|
The defensive shambles was nothing new, and points to a problem that Lampard has been unable to rectify since taking over at Chelsea in the summer of 2019.
If anything, it is only getting worse. Chelsea conceded 54 goals last season, as many times as Brighton, who finished 15th. In four of the nine games played in Project Restart, the Blues conceded two or more.
Simply, Lampard doesn’t know his best side.
In 41 Premier League games, Lampard has fielded 20 different defensive combinations, a changed backline almost every other game.
The lack of consistency in selection has hardly helped to develop any chemistry among the various combinations Lampard has fielded.
It is hard to imagine that, for all his deficiencies, the under-fire Kepa Arrizabalaga has been helped by the uncertainty in front of him. New signing Edouard Mendy will have the same problems to deal with.
Lampard’s most popular defensive combination so far has been Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma at centre-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and Reece James on the right.
Cesar Azpilicueta was a regular last season but hasn’t featured much so far this season
|PL Since Aug 2019||Away Goals Conceded||Away Clean Sheets|
They have only played five times together. And they have conceded nine goals, keeping just a single clean sheet at that time.
That combination has started just one more game than the second most represented, with Antonio Rudiger replacing Zouma. They have fared better, conceding five times in four games, though keeping only one clean sheet in that time.
Five defensive selections have played together three times and only two of the 20 in total have kept the opposition from scoring at all.
Rudiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso have two clean sheets from two, while Christensen, Fikayo Tomori, Azpilicueta and Alonso kept one in their single game together.
Another damning statistic, shows that Chelsea have conceded 42 times on the road since the start of last season. That’s more than anyone else in the league in that time, staggering considering they finished fourth last season and were widely tipped to be title challengers this season.
Christensen (centre) reacts to being sent off in Chelsea’s home defeat by Liverpool
Roman Abramovich has bankrolled an impressive spending spree this summer, one that has focused on an already overloaded frontline.
Chelsea’s issues last season were in stopping goals, not scoring them. Ben Chilwell will be an upgrade on the erratic Alonso when he is fit but the 36-year-old Silva is only a short-term fix.
Azpilicueta surely makes Chelsea’s best defence, but Lampard appears to have legitimate concerns about playing him and Silva together – two ageing defenders hardly blessed with recovery speed.
Silva’s champion mentality will be crucial in trying to turn around an area of the pitch that is sorely lacking both winners and leaders. But if he struggled with the pace of the game at the Hawthorns, how will he fare when the opponents aren’t favourites for relegation? And who will be his regular partner?
That is a question that, form tells you, Lampard still doesn’t know the answer to.