An enjoyable detail when browsing Premier League player profiles is Kurt Zouma’s middle name being Happy.
Unfortunately for the centre-back and his new boss Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford was not a great time for nominative determinism.
Lampard earned praise for his strong, decisive call in allowing David Luiz to join Arsenal on transfer deadline day this week, meaning Zouma played his first Chelsea game since loan stints at Stoke City and Everton over the past two seasons.
An absent-minded pass across his own penalty area in the seventh minute almost allowed Anthony Martial to open the scoring.
It was virtually Chelsea’s only missed step until Zouma’s clumsy foul on Marcus Rashford allowed the England forward to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
David Luiz has rarely been viewed as a towering presence of reliability, but in an instant, Lampard’s strong decisiveness came to look rash and misguided.
4-0 – As well as being the joint-heaviest managerial defeat of his career so far, Frank Lampard has suffered the heaviest defeat by a Chelsea manager in their first game in charge since Danny Blanchflower lost 7-2 at Middlesbrough in December 1978. Crying. #MUNCHE pic.twitter.com/QbBlZBFMSh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2019
Loan stars shine briefly
Such are the fine margins Lampard knows he is letting himself in for so early in his fledgling managerial career, there was enough to like about his new-look Chelsea, despite a galling final analysis.
The other returning loanees, pressed into action through a combination of their own promise and a FIFA transfer ban, fared better than Zouma.
Tammy Abraham scored 26 times for Aston Villa in the Championship last season and set about trying to prove his top-flight quality was a sharp turn to rifle against the post.
Emerson roved forward to similarly test David de Gea’s right-hand upright and the United goalkeeper saved impressively from Ross Barkley, as Mason Mount – so impressive under Lampard at Derby County – roved with intent and confidence.
When an undulating contest fell into periods of relative calmness, with a structure to the play, Chelsea looked the most comfortable.
Man Utd are enjoying a better spell since their goal. Still plenty of time left in this one though.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 11, 2019
Fabulous, fast-food football
The Premier League’s leading lights – on this evidence, United and Chelsea are short of being labelled as such– have treated us to moments of high-end brilliance recently; the footballing equivalent of fine dining.
This game was more like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Plenty of rubbish, almost certainly not very good for many of those involved but immensely enjoyable. Whether by accident or design, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cooked up an Old Trafford storm. Rashford and Anthony Martial gorged themselves with delight.
For all Chelsea’s periods of midfield control – there is certainly life after Sarriball for Jorginho – Paul Pogba produced the game’s outstanding creative moment.
The much-discussed France star measured his pass for Rashford’s second to perfection. His previous best attempt at a throughball came in the first half, having turned into trouble and fallen over. Pogba also lost possession 28 times over the 90 minutes. Twenty-eight. And, of course, provided two assists. It was that sort of game.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 11, 2019
United’s lavishly acquired defensive steel went down well. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire had their names sung by the home faithful before the break.
Along with keeping a lively Chelsea forward line at arm’s length, they shifted the ball forward quickly whenever possible. Solskjaer appeared to have decided his players would not match Chelsea in a passing contest – the game ended with a 46 per cent share of possession for the hosts – but settled for ransacking them in the transitions.
Even allowing for luck ridden, it worked like a charm as Chelsea caved in completely. Their captain was particularly culpable.
Cesar Azpilicueta tends to be more reliable than David Luiz and Zouma put together. But Martial manhandled him for United’s second before Pogba and Rashford caught him napping for the third.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2019
A dream home debut goal for Daniel James saw the Blues cut to ribbons once more. Half of United’s attacks were targeted down Azpilicueta’s flank and he had no answer.
It would be foolish to suggest Solskjaer has solved United’s shortcomings with this enjoyable outing of running and rampage, but the feelgood factor of earlier this year can start to return.
Lampard showed a clear plan but was undermined by a busy but blunt attack and flimsy, paper-thin defence. Those are no small problems to address. Welcome to the Premier League.
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