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Chelsea: Four lessons learnt as Blues move on to FA Cup semis

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Tactics and Transfers: Chelsea sees off Leicester, defence remains indefensible by Barrett RouenNext1 of 4Prev postUse your ? ? (arrows) to browse

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 18: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea shakes hands with Kurt Zouma of Chelsea following the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Chelsea flexed its muscles in an ugly—yet telling—victory at the King Power Stadium, but there were many talking points throughout.

Chelsea defeated Leicester City 1-0 to advance to the semifinals of the FA Cup. The competition is the Blues’ only realistic shot at silverware this season, so advancing was crucial. At times, the Blues looked incredibly shaky, but came out with the win regardless. Here are the lessons learnt from the Blues and the Foxes:

1. Frank Lampard takes no prisoners

If Ross Barkley is to be believed, Frank Lampard pulled no punches when addressing the team at halftime. Ripping your squad a new one is always a risky venture. If the strategy backfires, it can lead to an irrevocable disintegration of the delicate player-manager relationship. Plenty of decent managers have found themselves kicked to the curb after applying the hairdryer treatment haphazardly. That said, when a mid-match dressing-down is perfectly executed, you’d be excused for thinking an entirely new team showed up to play the second half.

Such was the devastating effect of Lampard’s halftime talk and subsequent substitutions. As an overwhelmed Billy Gilmour, a lackadaisical Reece James and a heavy-legged Mason Mount made way for Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea immediately looked reborn from the opening whistle of the second half. Kovacic and Azpilicueta managed to relieve some of the pressure Leicester had been applying to Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma, while Barkley breathed new life into a frustrated and fruitless Chelsea attack. The remaining players who managed to survive Lampard’s halftime thrashing responded with the type of effort and heart that earned Chelsea three points against Manchester City just three days prior.

This newfound mental fortitude is a welcome surprise. It has taken different shapes for each match: the comeback against Villa, losing and then regaining the lead against Manchester City, and withstanding and shrugging off an abysmal first half against Leicester City. The weaker-willed Chelsea we saw at times earlier this season would have very easily lost all three of those matches.

Such a dramatic change in mentality starts with the manager. For most of the season, Lampard enjoyed a long leash afforded to him by the extenuating circumstances that led to his appointment in the first place last summer. The tempered expectations around the club made embarrassing losses more bearable, while victories over rivals felt like welcome surprises. For whatever reason, the long layoff seems to have re-ignited the club’s sense of exceptionalism. Lampard is demanding more maturity from his players, and the players have responded thrice over already. He made have had to kick the intensity of his message up a gear on Sunday, but you get the feeling that this deep well of mental strength is set to be a cornerstone of Lampard’s management and hopefully the ethos of the club as a whole going forward.

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Hopefully, this particular type of chest-thumping, full-throated inquisition doesn’t become a regular halftime ritual for Lampard and his team, but my god was it effective on Sunday.

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