In a straightforward afternoon of football, Chelsea beat Spurs 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues dominated the game from start to finish and picked up their second win of 2020. What did we learn?
1. Olivier Giroud is good at football
Turns out that winning Ligue 1 with Montpellier, scoring 105 goals in 253 games for Arsenal and helping to end their trophy drought, winning the World Cup, then being such a quality and selfless team-mate that Eden Hazard basically breaks into song whenever he starts talking about you, are all hallmarks of a great footballer that is well worth being given a chance.
But coming into today’s game at Chelsea, Giroud had played just 213 minutes of football this season. That is such a massive length of time that you could watch The Irishman on Netflix and only have four minutes left to wonder if you actually enjoyed it.
Still, after the way Michy Batshuayi played against Manchester United, Frank Lampard had to make a change and did. So in came Giroud and as the clock struck 15 minutes, the Frenchman gave Chelsea the lead. His run in behind the defence was a surprise (though I guess he’s had enough rest that his muscles probably think he’s 28 again) and his first shot was well-saved by Giroud, but when the ball fell to him again seconds later, it was on his left foot and he showed no hesitation, arrowing it in at the near-post.
The Frenchman was also useful in the build-up to the second goal and left the field with 20 minutes left to a standing ovation. Giroud proved his quality against Spurs, and you’d expect he’ll probably play a whole hell of a lot more than 213 minutes over the remaining three months of the season as Chelsea try to secure their top four position.
2. VAR undermining itself
You’d imagine it’d be hard for VAR to undermine itself any further in the eyes of Premier League fans, but today might just set a new record in terms of absolute nonsense decision that drives people absolutely barmy.
During today’s game, Giovani Lo Celso stamped on Cesár Azpilicueta’s leg during a 50/50 challenge. Whether or not the stamp was deliberate is almost irrelevant: it probably was an accident as Lo Celso simply looked to plant his foot, protect the ball and spin away.
But it doesn’t matter if the stamp was intentional, it still happened. Lo Celso drove his foot down onto Azpilicueta and if the Spaniard was a little less lucky he could have had his leg snapped in two. VAR looked at it and decided it was no foul, and the game continued on.
That alone was bad enough, just another dumb VAR call in the Premier League. But then they went and released a statement that they had made a “human error” and that it was, in fact, a red card. For VAR to basically admit that it was a flawed process wholly vulnerable to human error completely and utterly undermines it as an objective authority in refereeing decisions.
Frank Lampard said that their correction was “not good enough” in his post-match comments and honestly, he’s right. What an omnishambles.
3. Super Frank’s Super Changes
Frank Lampard knew he had to do something to fix Chelsea’s form. The Blues had won just one game in 2020 and they were most recently stifled and smashed at home by a Manchester United side missing their two best players. So what could he do?
Well for starters he changed shape, switching to a 3-4-2-1. Then he brought back Olivier Giroud, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount. All of them played well, repaying the faith that Lampard showed in them.
Giroud opened the scoring as mentioned. Barkley drove hard from midfield, keeping Chelsea on the front-foot and always looking to hurt Spurs. Mason Mount was electric in everything he did – absolutely cooking the Spurs defence with his movement. And Marcos Alonso doubled Chelsea’s lead in a move that would have thrilled Lampard because it involved all four of his subs coming good.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s long throw down the line was headed on by Olivier Giroud to the onrushing Mason Mount, the Englishman then cut infield and fed it across to Ross Barkley who instantly slipped the ball on into space where Marcos Alonso showed up and absolutely smashed it low into the bottom corner. It was a beautiful goal and almost perfectly summed up how influential Lampard was on this victory.
4. With apologies to N’Golo Kanté…
N’Golo Kanté is one of the nicest men in football, a genuinely lovely person and a world-class defensive midfielder. A relentless hurricane of tackles, energy and defensive protection. But there is no doubt that Chelsea Football Club as managed by Frank Lampard are a better team without the Frenchman in it.
With the exception of games where Kanté himself goes supernova (think the UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool) there is no way Chelsea are as good with the Frenchman than they are without him. It’s not that Kanté is bad, but Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have such a great chemistry in midfield that their pairing simply lifts Chelsea to greater heights.
Witness the first Blues goal today, yes it ended with a great finish from Giroud but it began with a simply stunning pass in behind the defence by Jorginho. This thing was a work of art. A first time clipped ball that moved beautifully through the air and landed perfectly at the feet of Giroud. That is what he can do, that is why Chelsea are better with him.
5. Lampard owns Mourinho
For all the “master vs. apprentice” vibes of the three Lampard vs. Mourinho clashes we’ve had so far, none of them have really been all that close. Lampard has beaten José Mourinho three times, first with Derby against Mourinho’s Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. Then earlier in the season 0-2 at Tottenham Stadium, and finally today.
It’s not that Lampard is some managerial prodigy or anything. He’s a good coach with a decent track record, but the main reason he dominates Mourinho so much is that the Portuguese coach has fallen off. He is still lord of the mics, sure, and will no doubt produce some press conference gold to explain why Spurs lost yet again, but in terms of motivating and managing his side? Nah.
Mourinho’s tactics were retrograde today against Chelsea (much as they were against Leipzig midweek). Obviously he had huge injury problems in attack, but the way Mourinho’s team had no idea how to use the considerable pace of Lucas Moura as an effective counter-attacking weapon speaks so poorly of Mourinho’s men. And to cap it all off the defeat makes this the first time that a José Mourinho team has ever been “doubled” in the Premier League, confirming how much Lampard dominates his former manager.