Chelsea, Lampard missed one thing in opposition to Aston Villa and so they have run out of time to search out it

While Chelsea were far better against Aston Villa than they were in the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal, the football world is still waiting for Frank Lampard’s side to be in top form again.

Monday’s 1-1 draw wasn’t the result Chelsea wanted or needed to get their season going again. Instead, things are stuck in a vicious circle of whether or not Lampard knows his best XI or, just as urgently, whether he knows how to get the best out of them. They responded to his pre-game rallying cry to improve their intensity, but the game’s record is not yet falling in their favor. Only one win in the last six games (all competitions) shows this.

– Report: Chelsea hold 1-1 with Villa

Chelsea spent a lot of money over the summer building on last season’s promise and battling for the title. Heading into the New Year, this £ 220 million figure is now an albatross around Lampard’s neck. This doesn’t mean Aston Villa are doing a disservice – they are a superbly organized team and putting their remarkable job performance to good use at Stamford Bridge – but Chelsea had to win that home leg after three losses in four games which ultimately fell short.

“When you are in a difficult moment, things don’t quite work out for you – you have to fight your way through,” said Lampard after the game.

This was Chelsea’s second game in 48 hours. The festive schedule is bloody and relentless, and since it’s played against a backdrop of COVID-19 logistics and stress, you can forgive the players for a day or two. But Aston Villa is suffering in the same circumstances and while Chelsea made six changes to their Boxing Day loss at Arsenal, Villa only made one change, enforced by a suspension.

You could see two different approaches in the game on Monday night: Dean Smith, who does a brilliant job at Villa, is happy to know his best team, stay with them and help them overcome the fatigue and deliver. Lampard’s squad is a bigger beast with a lot more options, but lacks consistency. “Mentality” was the catchphrase after the game, but that doesn’t just get you titles. And so it was the old tried and true who brought Chelsea to the point.

Lampard has yet to find the right formula for his expensive Chelsea team. Time is running out with the hectic list of games and the pressure to get results. John Walton – Pool / Getty Images

Take the ever-dependable Olivier Giroud, who returned to Chelsea in a moment of need. His clever header gave Chelsea the lead in the first half. Ben Chilwell was great and both wingers Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi were lively. Pulisic had two good chances in the first half, while Timo Werner, who fell on the bench, shot over the bar late and Chilwell shot one last nice volley right at the far post by Emiliano Martinez, but the Frenchman is through their dominant presence the middle of the field.

Chelsea lacks momentum in midfield, and here lies the Lampard’s enigma: they’ve spent jealous depth and a lot of money giving themselves the talent to compete in multiple competitions but it still looks like they have a presence like Declan Rice from West Ham in midfield need to really anchor things and give security in the middle of the park. Rice is on the radar but Aston Villa standout midfielder John McGinn gave them a close look at what they are missing.

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Julien Laurens believes Timo Werner’s performance over the weekend was one of the worst he has seen this season.

Lampard and Chelsea intended to make this campaign a title challenge. But when form slumps – they seem far from their November best scoring six straight Premier League and Champions League wins – the squad pressure and noise builds and the players go wild seem even more glaring absence.

Both Kai Havertz and Timo Werner sat on the bench after an overwhelming defeat against Arsenal and did not score any of the necessary goals 20 minutes before the end. Individual quality is not enough for Chelsea at the moment as they have difficulties creating clear opportunities. Tammy Abraham and Giroud are playing well and their overlapping full-backs get a lot of crosses into the box but they are either thrown up the near post and cleared or pushed back into midfield and Chelsea have to rebuild. How to hope that Hakim Ziyech will be back sooner rather than later; Until then we are still waiting for this Chelsea team to be defined.

What is Chelsea at the moment? They are well organized in the back, although Andreas Christensen looked shaky; solid but unspectacular in midfield; and then like a permanently coiled spring up front with this embarrassment of wealth but lacking general cohesion. Havertz, undoubtedly one of the best young players in the world, has only one goal this season and adds to his name. Werner last met in early November and now has zero in eleven for Chelsea. Lampard needs to get the best out of these two.

Giroud was again the goalscorer on a day when Chelsea’s attack lacked creativity and coherence. Darren Walsh / Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Feeling Chelsea is quick to haunt her identity, Villa wears hers proudly on her chest. They are well organized, work incredibly hard, press well, and have brilliant flashes. Anwar El Ghazi’s fifth goal in five games was just a reward for good all-around performance, while Jack Grealish offers the flair to mate with McGinn’s industry. McGinn was ubiquitous, rattling a howitzer shot at Chelsea’s bar, which deserved a goal after a sensational performance. They still have better service to serve Ollie Watkins, and that could come when Ross Barkley comes back, but Smith judged Monday’s game perfectly.

Smith said before and after the game that he has never seen a player “exhausted” but what Villa is doing well at the moment is collective trust in one another. “If they’re okay, I’ll keep playing them,” was Smith’s attitude after the game. Compare that to Lampard, and that’s the problem with Chelsea: some got up, like Chilwell and Pulisic, but he needs more of the collective, not just a few individuals.

Until Lampard finds out, Giroud is simply not allowed to leave. He was stellar last season with six goals in his last nine league games and will certainly play a huge role for Chelsea this season, but Lampard needs to bring this formidable squad to improve his voice. Next up is Manchester City if the game continues.

While Chelsea was better than their Arsenal defeat, we’re still waiting for them to roar back. They sense that the very two types of players they need right now were on the sidelines: Lampard and John Terry. Now it is up to Lampard to get this great ship back on course and move in a profitable direction.

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