David McGoldrick is a rare thing in the Premier League, a regular first-team forward who doesn’t score goals. He is valued highly by Sheffield United fans, teammates and his manager for other things, like his unending work rate and his ability to drag away defenders and make space for others.
Here though, he finally got the goals his efforts have long deserved. The first wasn’t pretty, reacting quickest to a rebound after a deflected Oli McBurnie shot was palmed back into the six-yard box by Kepa Arrizabalaga and smashing home for close range, but that mattered not. His relief was palpable and the broad smiles on the faces of those players coming to congratulate him told the story. And he added another late in the second half to wrap up a great day for both himself and his club.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
There was that errant pass against Barcelona, which Lionel Messi turned into a goal moments later. The struggles in both of Manchester United’s goals, the failed clearance against Manchester City which led to their winner. More recently Andreas Christensen was “ball watching” in the build-up to Michail Antonio’s goal for West Ham, according to pundit Ashley Cole.
Christensen has talked openly and honestly about mistakes and learning from them, yet they still seem to be an all too regular part of his game when, aged 24, he should be beginning to iron them out. Perhaps he had an excuse here: he did pick up an injury, turning awkwardly in the first half, and he was replaced at half-time by Kurt Zouma because of the knock. But it was another performance which lacked assurance. Lampard has five centre-backs, yet it’s hard to know if he has great faith in any of them in that position.
Frank Lampard is clearly a man learning on the job, and sometimes impressively so. His substitutions have often been effective in changing games, and he has never shied away from making switches either in personnel or shape. But there comes a point when you have to ask whether he should be getting it right more often from kick-off.
Here the back four didn’t seem to click, particularly against Sheffield United’s threat crossing from wide areas, and it seemed a sensible game to play three at the back. Marcos Alonso is clearly not trusted at left-back, and Cesar Azpilicueta’s deployment on that side failed, with the defender scuffing a left-footed cross into the stands from a promising position. Even small things seem to show indecision: why did Ross Barkley take a second-half free-kick when Willian, a specialist, is in the side?
Lampard must find some solutions and greater clarity of thought right from the get-go if he is to emerge beyond this season as Chelsea’s manager in the long term.
The league-winning manager normally wins the end-of-season prize for manager of the year, as has been the case the past five years and will almost certainly be the case this season, given Jurgen Klopp’s achievements. Yet Chris Wilder deserves more than just a mention for an extraordinary debut season in the top flight. It seems unlikely, but might he join Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp and George Burley to win the gong having not won the title?
It is very early days for Mason Mount, of course, and at 21 he will only better, yet his form will concern Frank Lampard. While he continues to work hard in midfield, Mount has lacked the spark in attacking positions which shaped much of his early season. Since the turn of the year he has added only one Premier League goal to his tally of five in the first half of the campaign, and it seems that while his teammate Christian Pulisic – also 21 – is gradually growing into the side, Mount needs time to rediscover his touch.