Chelsea’s old guard couldn’t live with Bayern Munich… Frank Lampard’s youth brigade gave him his best night since returning to the club but his plan to field experience against the German side failed to pay off
- Chelsea were comprehensively beaten by Bayern in the Champions League
- The Germans romped to a 3-0 first leg lead against the Blues at Stamford Bridge
- Frank Lampard went for experience with an average age of 28 against Bayern
- But Chelsea struggled to cope with them as they shifted through the gears
- Lampard’s young guns have shown they are capable of producing this season
- Now the manager must decide who he trusts to try to rescue the tie in Bavaria
They say football can put years on you; judging by Tuesday night’s team selection, Frank Lampard doesn’t necessarily believe that’s a bad thing.
During the most crucial four days of his reign, the Chelsea manager’s decision to lean on his senior players represents something of a change in direction.
Against Tottenham on Saturday, the average of Chelsea’s starting XI was 28 years and 171 days – the oldest team Lampard has selected in the Premier League thus far.
Chelsea’s team against Bayern featured several experienced names such as Marcus Alonso
But Frank Lampard’s men were undone by the German side and have work to do after a 3-0 loss
In contrast, in their 1-0 win at Ajax in October – arguably Lampard’s most impressive night since returning to the club – the average age of his team was 25 years and 71 days.
After this comprehensive defeat, Lampard will feel like he’s aged three years overnight.
His decision to name an unchanged team was understandable given the 2-1 win over his old boss Jose Mourinho at the weekend.
And for 45 minutes it worked a treat as Chelsea’s old guard used every trick in the book to keep Bayern at bay.
Matteo Kovacic gave Kingsley Coman the warmest of Stamford Bridge welcomes with a sharp wrap on the back of the ankle inside the first 15 seconds.
The Blues couldn’t contain Bayern for long as the Bundesliga side ran riot at Stamford Bridge
Moments later, Olivier Giroud won a free kick when backing into Jerome Boateng when referee Clement Turpin should have awarded Bayern the foul.
A little later, Willy Caballero perched patiently on the deck, much to the visitors’ frustration, for treatment to delay a Bayern corner. Streetwise to say the least.
Yet, when the Germans shifted through the gears in the second-half; Chelsea simply couldn’t live with them.
That’s not to say his players – young or old – let him down. Any team of any age could have crumbled at the unerring nature of Bayern’s blistering attacks.
This loss said far more about the gap Chelsea must bridge if they are to return to the upper echelons of European football. On this evidence it’s going to be a very long road back.
Chelsea’s young guns beat Ajax 1-0 in October in arguably Lampard’s most impressive night
With games against Liverpool and the second leg at the Allianz Arena on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see how Lampard’s team selections continue to evolve.
This isn’t by any means the end Chelsea’s refreshing commitment to youth; Lampard’s faith in the swaggering clutch of academy talent that have carried Chelsea’s fight this season is immovable.
Indeed, in the midst of Chelsea’s 30 somethings last night, Mason Mount and Reece James – certainly in the first half – looked like they hadn’t given the intimidating task of taming Bayern a seconds thought. Totally unfazed, totally undaunted, totally at home on the Champions League stage.
The pending returns to fitness of teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi and 20-year-old Christian Pulisic will apply an even more youthful complexion on Lampard’s selections.
Lampard’s recent reliance on experience is telling with the business end of the season arriving
But, as the business end of the season beings to unravel, Lampard’s recent reliance on experience is perhaps telling.
Thirty-three year old Giroud was selected ahead of the fit again 22-year-old Tammy Abraham, the club’s top goalscorer. Willy Caballero, 38, kept his place ahead of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who is 13 years his junior.
Marcos Alonso, 29, was picked ahead of 25-year-old Emerson Palmieri at left-wing back. There was no place at all in the match-day squad for central defender Fikayo Tomori, whose performances at the heart of Chelsea’s rearguard earlier in the season earned him an England cap.
Lampard will argue that the absences of some of his fledglings have been enforced. That’s accurate to a point: Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic were both unavailable.
The seasoned Olivier Giroud was picked over Tammy Abraham but couldn’t make an impact
But you get the impression Lampard’s recent ploy to field older teams isn’t borne out of necessity.
He knows precisely what it takes to get over the line on nights like this. You can’t put a price on experience.
In the end, though, the margin between Bayern and Chelsea was significantly sizeable.
Too sizeable for Chelsea to carry any realistic hope of continuing their European journey this season.
Lampard has a decision to make over whether to unleash his youth brigade for the second leg
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