It may be the shortest pre-season on record, but Frank Lampard thought long and hard about how his Chelsea side could take the next step.
One of the priorities was to set up a strong backbone to remind Lampard of the way the successful Jose Mourinho played.
It was achieved by signing four of the five goals with Edward Mendy, Thiago Silva in midfield, Angolo Kante in midfield, Kai Hawartz before him and Timo Warner ahead.
Reese James and Hakim Ziyach celebrate after Burnley scored for Morocco’s Chelsea
James (left) and Giach (right) signed in the summer are developing an effective understanding
Frank Lampard has acknowledged the possibility of a partnership to the right of his team
But what has become clear in Chelsea’s last three games is that Lampard has figured out how to get the best out of the coming summer, Hakim Zyach.
Admittedly, the Chelsea manager had some more time to do this calculation. Ziach’s ৩ 3m transfer from Ajax was sealed in February, after he suffered a knee injury that set him apart for the first month of the season.
But now Zyach is flying high and Lampard’s best plan to work with Reese Witherspoon at the Morocco International has proved to be a masterstroke.
Watching 20-year-old James play in his groundbreaking season, you can imagine a light moment for Lampard when he realized that the young man and Ziach could complement each other perfectly.
“When Hakim Ziach came to the club, the balance on both sides of the pitch was very important to us,” Lampard said before Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sheffield United.
‘We knew the quality of the race last year when it came to crossings. And when you think you can put a winger in front of him that can provide different angles and combinations in that direction to keep the ball in the box, I think that could be a big strength for us. ‘
Ziech leads the ball during Chelsea’s Champions League win over Rennes last week.
James, who was seen against Sheffield United on Saturday, is adept at leading the attack
Patience has proved a virtue. Zeech’s injury meant he didn’t appear on the same pitch as James until the 3-3 draw with Southampton on October 17 – and still only three minutes off the bench.
Chelsea had another small cameo with Champions League opener Sevilla but the situation has started very quickly since the pair started together against Burnley, Rennes and Sheffield United.
It was a quickly established understanding that former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole noticed at the Sky Sports Studio over the weekend.
“I think there was a relationship between Giach and Reese James today – I think they started to build a really good partnership,” Coyle said.
‘He could pop inside and come in and give Reese James a place to attack. It’s hard to identify when you come across these small pockets and areas. “
Lampard spotted the possibility of calling James from his right-back position
Hakim G.’s status so far this season
Get James ’stats this season
The whole premise of playing them together on the right side of Chelsea is an element of unpredictability that can make defenders fox and get the ball in the attacking area.
Burnley were promised a 3-0 win – the first in which Ziech and James started together – once scored for Morocco and another for Warner.
Champ’s third goal in last week’s Champions League game against Rennes came from an overload on Tamim Abraham’s right side.
Reynolds is already ten men down and stretched, but Ziach takes the ball forward and knows James will come out of him in the overlap.
The defender has to keep track of which player is in the minds of the two and the easiest way for James to cross it is to pass it to Abraham to score from six yards out of his delivery.
Zach is on the right-hand ball as James comes forward from the right to create a double against the already drawn Rains defense.
On this occasion Ziach slips James into space and his cross is inch-perfect for Abraham.
The 4-1 win over the Blades showed further signs of growing understanding between the pair, a game in which Zeich demanded two more assists.
Chelsea’s first goal was a good example. James was already inside the inside half of the opposition, where he returned to get a pass from Kurt Zoumer before showing awareness to move to the right touchline where Zeich is located.
Defenders expect James to pass inside instead of going outside, with enough time left for Zyach to pick up a nice ball on top and find Mateo Kovacic. He dropped the ball properly to score Abraham.
K inside half of James Sheffield United
Ziach falls into the pocket of space on the touchline and James discovers him there
Not sure who the Blades defenders could pick, letting Ziach play a ball into Kovacic
Kovacic became clear about the defenders, beating Abraham to score Chelsea’s first goal and scoring.
In the second half, James tested the ball to the right and a forward run to get him back in front of him and face him.
James passes Jorginho but Ziach and Kante quickly get involved, causing panic among the Blades players. In the end, Kante scored for Warner
So the combination of James and Zeech gives Chelsea a lot of options. James can overlap and use his crossing ability, serving as a touch when Ziach cuts inside to pass or shoot.
Or wait until Zemch returns, drawing defenders towards him before bringing another midfielder into the game.
Later in the game at Sheffield United, James is leading the ball to the right
Instead of pushing, Jisch checked his run and got the defenders out and back
Ziech, Jগrginho and N’Golo Kante won the ball from two Sheffield United players.
Kante was able to manage the ball and Timo Warner ran and was careful to score
This understanding will only further develop and have the potential to become the best in the Premier League.
It shows Liverpool overlapping Trent Alexander-Arnold and merging with Mohamed Salah on the right. If you have a right back with such great crossing ability, the technique is understandable to use.
The fact that James was surpassed certainly matched well with Alexander-Arnold last season even if he somehow followed on the support front (13 to 2).
But there’s already more creativity about Chelsea this season and goals are flowing.
With a stiff spine and the right side of the right hand, Lampard’s team is looking at rude health.
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