Time for Chelsea and Frank Lampard to take stock after lucky Champions League escape in Valencia

This isn’t to get into old debates from last season about the exact make-up of the midfield, but it does seem that N’Golo Kante should be playing at the base in bigger games, and it points to bigger issues

Reece James delighted for Kovačić's first Chelsea goal

In the Mestalla dressing room, Frank Lampard and his players pretty much had to admit they “got away with that”.

That was because so many chances got away from Valencia in this 2-2 draw. Lampard was keen to point out in the press conference that both teams had many opportunities, but his next lines summed up the night more.

“In terms of whether I loved the match, no, I didn’t love it… it could have been 5-5, 6-6, one of those games.”

But only to a certain degree. It wasn’t quite as “unusual” this season as Lampard made out. The reality is it is one of many similar games in Chelsea’s season, where it could really have been any kind of high score, that is relevant to so many of the bigger games to come.

There are so many of their matches where – much like Daniel Wass’s freakish equaliser to settle it here – you are left wondering what exactly happened, and how it ended up like that. It’s so entertaining, but oh so chaotic too.

The team’s sheer abandon has been one of their most admirable traits this season, and a huge factor in making them such a likeable and entertaining side, but the wonder is how costly a trait it could prove in the long run. It does feel like one of a few elements where Lampard hasn’t completely got the balance right yet, particularly in midfield.

That was something effectively proved by this game. With Jorginho at the base of midfield, and N’Golo Kante wider, Chelsea couldn’t quite assert command of the game when ahead, and couldn’t quite win possession to the same degree when they’d lost it. There were many moments when even Kante was left chasing the ball.

This isn’t to get into old debates from last season about the exact make-up of the midfield, but it does seem that Kante should be playing at the base in bigger games, and it points to bigger issues.

Chelsea remain an imperfect side without the ball, and it’s something they haven’t yet sorted out. It feels one of the areas of the team still in need of most work. There’s still an onus on Kante, and it is further undercut by so many of the individual errors that were on view here, especially at the back.

Some of it may admittedly be down to simple inexperience, both as regards their age and the stage. It can take a fair few games to get used to the extra sophistication of European football, the greater tactical edge, and its consequent capacity for sudden change.

At the Mestalla, it meant Valencia so often overran Chelsea. Lampard’s side looked susceptible to their energy, and were often caught in transition. It led to all those chances. Maxi Gomez missed two big ones in the first half, before Rodrigo squandered the opportunity of the game right as it was ending.

Frank Lampard watches on from the touchline

“Maybe their chances were more clear-cut,” Lampard later admitted.

The manager was correct in insisting it’s actually rare he has to say Chelsea “got away with it”, and pointed to the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at home as the only other example this season. That, to be fair, is because this side have already developed another quality beyond the technical or the tactical. There is a resilience here. They stick with it.

It was illustrated in how quickly they recovered from the 4-0 at Manchester United. It was illustrated in the 4-4 against Ajax. It was illustrated in how they so quickly came from behind here, and then drove on after what looked a bad injury to Tammy Abraham. They persevered.

They may fall into traps of their own making, but they have a capacity to keep going. In that, it’s hard not to say it is another reflection of their manager’s personality.

“Then it is [a case of] 'have you got the character to see you through to the end?' Perhaps we deserved the slices of luck that we got tonight,” Lampard said afterwards.

It’s similarly true Chelsea look to make their own luck in how they try to play every game on the front foot. They’re impressively proactive. The wonder is whether they should really be leaving themselves so hostage to fortune in behind. It may yet cost them in Europe.

So far, though, it gives them far more than it takes. It’s just this match might be a good moment to take some stock.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in