Frank Lampard defended Chelsea’s tactical approach after watching his side go down 2-0 to a rampant Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.
Real’s front three of Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo were at their electric best during Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg, and created problems that Chelsea struggled to live with.
Vinicius in particular terrorised Reece James and Wesley Fofana down the visitors’ right, with Fofana receiving a yellow card after only five minutes for tripping the Brazilian on the halfway line as he threatened to get in behind the defence.
Chelsea’s plans were further thrown into disarray when Ben Chilwell was sent off on the hour mark for hauling down Rodrygo when he was the last man.
By then the Blues already trailed to Benzema’s first-half goal, and substitute Marco Asensio swept in a second 16 minutes from the end as the 10 men failed to weather Real’s threat.
Lampard said he had hoped to be able to stifle the European champions’ attack by selecting both Fofana and James on the right whilst still allowing an attacking outlet for his side.
“Vinicius one-v-one is a big problem for any team,” he said. “We wanted to be able to create two-v-one on that side of the pitch. It didn’t help Fofana getting the yellow card so early, it makes you nervous about that.
“We want to not be a back five as much as we can, we tried to enforce that. With the ball we want to be a (back) three, we want to use the width of the pitch. I think we could have done that a bit better. It was a weapon to use for us today.
“In terms of the system, the thinking was very clear on that to deal with their threats, but also to give us, in possession, control of the game.”
Chelsea posed limited threat even before Chilwell’s red card, with chances for Joao Felix in the first few minutes and Mason Mount in added time their best opportunities, whilst Raheem Sterling drew a save from Thibaut Courtois seconds after Benzema’s opener.
It was the fourth game in a row in which the team have failed to score – and under three different managers – making it the club’s longest sequence of matches without a goal since 1993.
By the time Brighton visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday it will be 28 days since a Chelsea player last found the net, with the team’s 29 goals in 30 games meaning they have scored fewer times than any of the sides in the Premier League’s top half.
Lampard was asked where the answer to the club’s goalscoring woes lay, and said: “Work on the training pitch. When I consider the work that we do, we work a lot in the last third, in terms of finishing and crosses, and the idea of how we want to get in the box.
“The last bit is sometimes confidence. Whether it’s an individual thing or team confidence. I think I’d come back to the work side of it. If you work and keep going, something can change. Mason’s chance at the end might go in and the tie looks completely different.
“The early part of the game we might get a goal, which gives the whole 90 minutes a different feel. (We will) continue to work, speak to the players. No player doesn’t want to score a goal. Sometimes they need support, confidence, a push.
“Not just before next week, it’s my job until the end of the season. My job is to try and address it as well as I can.”