Fearless and arrogant, Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea team look like early title contenders

James Robson
·5-min read
 (PA)
(PA)

Of course Frank Lampard is right to try to keep a lid on the growing excitement surrounding Chelsea.

Of course the Premier League table means little at this time of the season – even if a 2-0 win sent his side to the top, albeit momentarily.

And of course it’s too soon to make any sweeping judgements about their title credentials.

And that was very much the message from Lampard after a fifth straight win in all competitions.

“It’s pleasing, but I’m not going to get excited about going top of the table for five minutes,” he said in the immediate aftermath at St James’ Park.

Lampard has been there and done it. Maybe not as a manager, but as a veteran of Chelsea teams that knew how to win the biggest prizes.

It is not about leading in November – it’s about being there when it counts. Facing up to the pressure of a tense run-in and finding a way to get over the line when the odds are against you.

But it is impossible to ignore the coming threat his side poses to Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and any other team with genuine title aspirations.

Lampard admits he’s having to take on the role of party pooper – such is the growing sense of expectation within his squad.

His young side can feel something special is happening. They are playing with the fearlessness of youth – and the arrogance of a team with complete confidence in their ability.

The danger is of that confidence turning into complacency, which is why Lampard is trying to keep feet on the ground.

He can only do that for so long. With each passing week, Chelsea look more assured – more like real title contenders.

An early kick-off and a long trip to Newcastle on the back of an international break had the potential to bring them down to earth.

But for all of Lampard’s pre-match concerns, there were no signs of a lack of preparation or loss of key players having any adverse effects.

Chelsea asserted their control from the off. The biggest danger was in having too much of it, without making Newcastle truly pay.

They took the lead through a Federico Fernandez own goal after 10 minutes – but a 1-0 advantage at half time didn’t come close to reflecting their dominance.

Timo Werner was guilty of wasting the chance to double their lead – firing wide with only Karl Darlow to beat.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Tammy Abraham had already forced the goalkeeper into a fingertip save with a powerful header.

It was that moment that led to Chelsea’s opener. From the resulting corner, Mason Mount’s low cross fired across the face of goal – and as Ben Chilwell tried to make contact, Fernandez inadvertently bundled over the line amid claims he’d been pushed.

Werner allowed another chance to go begging after the break when trying to find the run of Hakim Ziyech rather than going for goal himself – seeing his under-hit pass easily cleared.

But it was a moment of brilliance from him after 64 minutes that put the game beyond doubt.

Bursting from midway inside his own half he demonstrated the explosive pace that Lampard was so keen to add to his attack.

Leaving black and white shirts in his wake, he laid off to Abraham to fire in off the post and set Chelsea on course for the top of the table.

They may not stay there for long, with their rivals all due to play over the weekend – but they hardly look out of place there either.

Abraham delivers perfect response

Getty Images
Getty Images

In a week when Olivier Giroud’s agent claimed Abraham was unfairly ahead of the Frenchman in Chelsea’s pecking order, the England striker justified Lampard’s faith.

It remains to be seen if he will get so much game time when Christian Pulisic returns to fitness and if Werner is moved back into a central role. But Abraham’s height, strength and aerial ability give Chelsea’s attack another dimension.

With the crossing ability of Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Reece James, it seems a waste not to have a target man like him to aim at.

Meanwhile, he showed his brain and good feet with a slick one-two with Werner that the German should have scored from.

That partnership is one to watch, with the pair combining again for Abraham’s third goal in as many games.

Rudiger out from the cold – but no guarantees over his future

Antonio Rudiger appears to have established himself as first choice cover for Thiago Silva after being on the verge of leaving in the summer.

It’s still not ideal for the Germany international – especially ahead of the Euros. But he has impressed Lampard with his attitude since failing to secure a move in the last window and convinced the Chelsea manager he still has much to offer.

But his desire for regular first team football remains – and remaining back-up is not seen a viable option long term.

Chelsea were prepared to sell in the summer – and it would be no surprise if he still ended up departing in January.

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