Barkley, Mount & Gilmour give Chelsea boss Lampard the right kind of selection headache
The Blues were missing several regulars for Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with Everton, but their replacements inspired a rousing 4-0 win
Chelsea were without a host of first-team players for Everton’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but they ended up putting in their best home performance of the season.
There was no N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic or Callum Hudson-Odoi, yet the Blues were dynamic in midfield and incisive in attack.
Indeed, a totally dominant performance has raised questions about whether the likes of Billy Gilmour, Ross Barkley and Pedro should now be considered first-choice in their respective positions.
Gilmour is just 18 and was making his first Premier League start but, just five days after starring against Liverpool in the FA Cup, he proved against Everton that he is ready now for regular first-team football by brilliantly filling the void left by the suspended Jorginho at the base of Frank Lampard’s midfield.
Barkley, meanwhile, looks fitter and stronger than ever before in a Chelsea shirt. Just like Gilmour, he built upon his excellent showing in midweek. He scored a goal against Liverpool; he created two against their Merseyside rivals.
Alongside them, Mason Mount turned in an excellent performance, with his incisive passing and well-timed runs tormenting Everton throughout his time on the pitch.
Indeed, it was Mount who opened the scoring, ending an 18-game goal drought with a fine finish. The attacking midfielder suffered a prolonged slump after his bright start to the season but has now turned it on in games against Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton in recent weeks.
The one negative on a day full of positives for Lampard was that Mount appeared to hurt his knee during the second half, but his substitution was hopefully just precautionary.
It would certainly be a shame if Mount were to spend any time on the sidelines after playing his part in such an encouraging Chelsea display.
With one player holding and two others surging going forward, Chelsea’s midfield looked more balanced than it has for months – and this in spite of the unavailability of their three most experienced options (Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic).
“Look at how City play it with offensive No.10s working off the ball,” Lampard told reporters at Stamford Bridge. “You’re aware that when you play like that, you have to work harder.
“They (Mount and Barkley) had to protect Billy when the ball was on the other side. We had that talk, and they gave us that. When we had the ball, we had two really offensive players creating. The players and the midfield got that balance on the pitch right.”
Chelsea’s front three also impressed.
Pedro was outstanding and scored only his second goal of the season after earning praise for his performance against Liverpool in midweek.
The 32-year-old may well leave Chelsea in the summer but his work-rate cannot be questioned, with his ability to defend from the front deserving as much attention as his goal threat.
It was only right that both Willian and Olivier Giroud got on the scoresheet, too. The Brazilian found the bottom corner with a low drive before whipping over a superb cross for his French forward to divert home.
Overall, Chelsea looked like a well-rounded team, a perfect mix of youth and experience in both defence and attack.
Everton were restricted to just three shots on goal – illustrating the kind of defensive discipline that Chelsea have struggled to produce with any regularity this season.
Such was their overall dominance that Lampard could even give Premier League debuts to 18-year-old duo Tino Anjorin and Armando Broja.
In short, this was a near-perfect day for Lampard, one that has left him with the kind of selection headache he will actually welcome.
“It is encouraging,” the former England international admitted. “We’ll always need our squad and we’ve got a lot of injuries.
“But the only way to tackle that is to play at high energy and, today, it all came together: the energy, speed of pass, tempo. We need to keep our feet on the ground, but we saw some really good stuff today.
“The attitude and focus of the team was really strong. I could see that after Liverpool in midweek. We’ve missed focus sometimes. Maybe the challenge of the injuries worked out well today, as the application of the team was spot on.”
After spending the lead-up to the Liverpool game worrying about who to include; now, it seems, Lampard is going to find it more difficult deciding who to leave out.
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And that can only be good for Chelsea’s hopes of holding onto that precious top-four spot.