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Frank Lampard offers early clues for attack plan with new Chelsea formation

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 11/7/2019 Simon Collings
Frank Lampard in a blue shirt © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Given the jet-set nature of modern pre-season tours, this was not the most glamorous setting for Frank Lampard to begin his reign as Chelsea head coach.

He will make his competitive bow against Manchester United at Old Trafford on August 11, but for this opener the venue was Dalymount Park in Dublin. Home of Bohemians, it is a stadium that has seen better days, with only two stands being open to the public.

The ageing arena was in stark contrast to the young squad that Lampard chose, as we got a first glimpse of how Chelsea may look under their former midfielder.

It is always difficult to read too much into pre-season friendlies. Bohemians finished with a 14-year-old playing up front, while their equalising goal — one minute before the end — was scored by trialist Eric Molloy, who had worked in a chocolate factory.

Nevertheless, there was still plenty to learn and one deduction was easily made after watching Lampard complete his first 90 minutes as boss.

Last season, under Maurizio Sarri, the Blues stuck to a 4-3-3 formation, as the Italian tried to implement his philosophy. Tactics can, of course, change, but it would appear Lampard is leaning towards 4-2-3-1.

He fielded different XIs in each half, but both stuck to the formation. It is a system Lampard used at Derby and its merits for Chelsea were clear.

Going forward, they looked slick and sharp, playing with an attacking intent fans will enjoy. It has thrown up some questions in central midfield, though, which will be answered over the course of pre-season.

Under Sarri, the system always revolved around Jorginho playing at the base of a three-man midfield. Lampard, however, opted for a double pivot of Danny Drinkwater and Ethan Ampadu.

Drinkwater is something of a forgotten man, having played just once last season, but given the fact N’Golo Kante will surely be one of the midfield two this year, could he emerge as an unlikely partner? It worked during Leicester’s march to the title in 2016.

Frank Lampard: Chelsea job is the biggest challenge of my career

Up front, Michy Batshuayi staked his case to lead the line. His goal was a timely reminder of what he can offer and the Belgian was lively during his 45-minute spell.

Batshuayi never seemed to fit what Sarri or, for that matter, Antonio Conte wanted from a striker, but he could be Lampard’s man, given his ability to run in behind and be a threat in the box.

a crowd of people watching a football ball on a field: (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Getty Images)

Batshuayi may have got the goal, but it was the young players who stole the show. Lampard’s desire to blood academy talent was made clear before he was even appointed and this performance showed why he is right, too.

Ampadu, 18, looked composed in the middle, while in Conor Gallagher, 19, and Billy Gilmour, 18, Chelsea have two No10s with real potential. Defenders Ian Maatsen, 17, and Marc Guehi, 18, are worth keeping an eye on, too.

a football player on a field: (PA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (PA)

We will have to wait to see how many of those youngsters make the step up, but what is not in doubt is the love Lampard has from Chelsea fans.

It was he who got the biggest cheer when the team stepped off their bus in the pouring rain and he was still being serenaded after the match, to the point where he struggled to conduct his post-match interview.

Frank Lampard holding a football ball: Lampard led Chelsea out for the first time on Wednesday night. (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Lampard led Chelsea out for the first time on Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

He is a hero at Chelsea, adored by the fans, and that may just turn out to be his greatest asset.

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