The final whistle at the Bernabeu in midweek marked four games without a goal for Chelsea. It’s their worst run in front of goal since Glenn Hoddle was in charge in 1993, and yet the club have spent over half a billion pounds on new players this season alone.
Todd Boehly’s ridiculous spending spree has meant the Blues have accumulated a whole host of talented young players. Those players will likely provide long-term success but right now, there is a lack of plan in attacking situations which has led to this bluntness in front of goal.
The main issue, despite the vast recruitment haul, is the lack of a genuine number nine. The decision to bring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the club was made when Thomas Tuchel was still in charge. The pair had worked well together at Borussia Dortmund but Boehly sacked the German boss just one week later. Since then, Aubameyang has barely featured. He’s not even been included in the registered squad for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
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Instead, Joao Felix was brought in on loan in January. He has been given the opportunity to shine but lacks the physicality and goalscoring edge needed to lead the line for Chelsea. He’s not hit double figures for goals since leaving Benfica and although his quality on the ball is unquestionable, he is just another attacking flair player with little end product. It's almost as though Chelsea are desperate to acquire the most talented wide players and false nines, without signing a genuine number nine.
Mykhailo Mudryk was bought for £89m but still hasn’t found the net in the Premier League and is yet to set Stamford Bridge alight despite his blistering pace. Raheem Sterling has been a bit-part player since his move from Manchester City, Noni Madueke hasn’t been given many opportunities and actual striker David Datro Fofana has been completely forgotten about.
And those are just the new signings. Kai Havertz is a more physical option up top but even he isn’t a natural striker while Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic have been pushed to one side due to injury and lack of form. So with more attacking players that he can shake a stick at, but no natural number nine - what can Lampard do to solve Chelsea’s goalscoring woes?
Frank Lampard says his Chelsea players need a push to help solve their lack of goalscoring on the pitch ❌
Against Real Madrid, Chelsea created an xG of 0.46, but against one of the best sides in Europe, down to ten men for half an hour and under a new manager, that is not too bad. You could see the structural integrity and the plan to counter-attack quickly in a 5-3-2 system, and Lampard could slightly tweak this to succeed in the Premier League.
What the Blues have in abundance is pace. It won’t go down with Chelsea fans but allowing a team such as this weekend’s opponents Brighton to have the majority of the ball while they stay compact, could lead to improved results. And Lampard doesn’t have to be quite as conservative as he was in the Spanish capital.
The creativity can still come from the attacking wing-backs, but one of the defensive minded central midfielders could be dropped to include another wide forward. Mudryk, Sterling and Havertz should have enough about them to cause teams problems while the physicality of the German should provide a better focal point than Felix in a 3-4-3 system.
The other option is to switch to a high-pressing 4-2-4. With Kalidou Koulibaly coming off injured and Ben Chilwell suspended for the second leg, this aggressive option could work out for Lampard. With N’Golo Kante able to cover the space in midfield alongside Enzo Fernandez, the English manager could solve the goalscoring problems by taking the pressure off one individual forward.
With Mudryk wide left, Sterling wide right and Havertz and Felix paired together in central areas, Chelsea could pin back opposition defences in the most simplistic manner. Felix and Havertz wouldn’t have to occupy centre-backs and could take up spaces between the lines while the wide players could make penetrating runs inside the full-backs - much as Roberto De Zerbi’s wingers do at Brighton.
A 4-2-4 would be bold from Lampard but, at this stage, Chelsea need to produce something spectacular. They are unlikely to finish in the European places even with a strong end to the season, so a Champions League comeback against Madrid must be their sole focus. They need at least two goals, and this bold approach could be their only hope.
*18+ | BeGambleAware