Before the fireworks and title change took place, another team arrived at Anfield on Wednesday evening knowing they had more to play for.
Chelsea’s supporting role in the 5-3 thriller showed their minds and the best of their attacking talent, as well as the weaknesses that left them 33 points behind the champions.
On the way to the final day – and with a cup final ahead – Chelsea remains pole position for a top-four finish. Here, Sports email looks at what has gone right and wrong so far under Frank Lampard.
Frank Lampard deserves credit for the work he has done at Chelsea, but still has problems to solve
Chelsea’s 5-3 defeat at Liverpool showed their offensive prowess and defensive problems
Combine youth and experience
So much has been said and written about Lampard’s confidence in youth this season. Rightly so. The likes of Mason Mount and Reece James were excellent, while Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Co also played a major role, especially in the first half of the season.
But equally important? How Lampard leaned on his experienced players. He refused to let Olivier Giroud leave in January, he remained confident with Willian, even though his contract uncertainty raged and Cesar Azpilicueta remained the figurehead. How they refunded it after the restart.
It is the manager’s credit that he was not swept up in the call for revolution and did away with his older heads.
Lampard has put his trust in youth stars such as Tammy Abraham (C) and Reece James (R)
The way he mixed them with senior figures like Olivier Giroud (C) has also been crucial
There is a reason why Jurgen likes Klis Pulisic.
In his second half cameo at Anfield, the US international continued his good form after lockdown and showed just how devastating he can be.
Now on his way to the final act of the season, he has 10 goals and 10 assists – some returning for his debut campaign. Pulisic deserves the credit for that. But Lampard too.
His initially sparse use of the winger brought ruthless questions and research. After giving Pulisic time to sleep out of the limelight, Chelsea and Lampard are now reaping the rewards. Ahead of Pulisic’s second season in English football, £ 58 million now looks like smart business. At the age of 21 he should only get better.
Lampard also deserves the honor of getting some big performances from Christian Pulisic
For Lampard, Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban was both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it initially stopped him from strengthening, but it also demonstrably helped him get the job.
What is certain is that Chelsea has made up for missed opportunities since the ban was lifted in January.
They stole a march to their rivals for next season after sneaking into Hakim Ziyech through the back door and smothering Timo Werner under the nose of Europe’s best.
That shouldn’t be the end of their earnings this summer, but it’s not a bad start.
Chelsea has stolen a march to their rivals by signing Hakim Ziyech (L) and Timo Werner (R)
Aside from the romance of Lampard’s return, there has been much substance. He has replaced Maurizio Sarri’s slow death by passing for a more offensive, slick football brand. But that shouldn’t be the reality of their season: they’ve already lost 12 league games – four more than last season and more than anyone in the top 10 except Burnley.
Their current total of 63 points after 37 games, meanwhile, would have been good enough for the seventh on this point in 2018-19. Only collective failures among their rivals have kept them on the hunt.
The team suffered 12 losses in an inconsistent season, relying on their rivals’ failures
What is his best team?
Ziyech and Werner’s arrivals will deceive Chelsea’s attack and threaten the target. The question is: who is playing around them?
At the end of his first season, there is no area on the Lampard side that looks peaceful. A new left back is on the wish list, while each of his center backs has struggled to strengthen their place. In midfield, Lampard has constantly shaken his backpack and in the front, what happens to Giroud, Abraham, Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi?
Compare it to Liverpool, whose rear five and front three reap the benefits of consistent selection.
If a statistic very well reflects Chelsea’s yo-yo season between the brilliant and the barmy, it is that only Norwich (12) has admitted more Premier League goals from corners than Lampard’s side.
It’s not just angles, either. Chelsea have scored 14 goals from set pieces, better than just four teams, three of which are in the bottom four.
The best teams are built on a solid foundation and Chelsea will have a hard time competing if they remain so charitable due to deadball situations. It speaks of a lack of organization, which requires work on the training field, but also a lack of leadership, which may require new faces.
At the back there was a lack of organization, which Lampard has to solve on the training field
Kepa Arrizabalaga has not provided the presence needed for one of the best parties in the world
What happens at the back?
Another figure to illustrate Chelsea’s defensive problems across the board: Lampard’s side has made 54 league goals this season. That’s more than anyone in the top 11.
The reasons why are less clear. Left back has been a consistent problem, and neither Marcos Alonso nor Emerson offers much hope for the future.
On the right side, they are well stocked with Azpilicueta and James. It’s the heart of their back five where the water gets particularly muddy.
There has been chaos in the defense – 54 goals sent is more than anyone in the top 11
Fixing his leaky defense and signing a new central defender should be a priority for Lampard
In goal, Kepa looks like a costume of the world’s best goalkeeper. He has not provided the presence or stopping of a shot necessary for a great side. Chelsea’s problem is finding a club eager to pay a hefty fee, or its wages of £ 190,000 a week.
Then, for him, more chaos. Tomori, Andreas Christensen, Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma have sometimes made an impression this season. The problem? No one has done it consistently.
At Anfield, Lampard could see firsthand how a few ready-made reinforcements at Alisson and Virgil van Dijk were the springboard for Liverpool’s success. On the way to summer, that should also be his priority.