Frank Lampard’s Christian Pulisic dilemma and Hakim Ziyech attribute key to Chelsea success

Abraham masterclass

Tammy Abraham is more than taking his chance in the Chelsea team at present.

In and out of Frank Lampard’s XI to begin with this season, the England international has now started the team’s last three Premier League games and has played his part in all three victories.

Teeing up Hakim Ziyech for the opener at Burnley last month, Abraham then found the back of the net last time out in the league in the 4-1 win over Sheffield United.

He deservedly took his place in the side at St James’ Park once again on Saturday afternoon and added another goal to his tally for the season with a neat finish in the 65th minute.

It was exactly what his performance deserved as he linked up incredibly well and caused problems for Steve Bruce’s men with his hard work.

Having created an opening for Mateo Kovacic inside the opening few minutes of the contest, he really should have had an assist to his name later in the first half as he played in Timo Werner only for the German international to drag his shot wide of the target.

Thankfully the pair teamed up again in the second half as the summer signing turned provider for Abraham to fire home with a low strike.

Given many had predicted that the ex-Bristol City loanee would find himself on the bench more often than not this season due to the club’s summer business, he is doing everything possible at present to remain in the starting XI on a consistent basis.

Deserving of his place in Lampard’s strongest team on current form, the hard part now is ensuring that he remains there due to the Blues’ wealth of attacking options.

What it means for Pulisic

The arrival of Werner in the summer didn’t exactly look good for Abraham with Lampard able to field a mouthwatering front four.

With the German leading the line after scoring for fun during his spell at RB Leipzig, Chelsea fans envisaged Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Ziyech behind him pulling the strings.

Havertz, who was absent for the game on Tyneside, has moved slightly deeper in recent weeks to play in Lampard’s three-man midfield after a change in formation, with Ziyech and Werner then starting either side of Abraham in attack.

Coming into the new season carrying a hamstring injury sustained in the FA Cup final defeat against Arsenal, Pulisic has so far only played in three league games for the Blues this term and he hasn’t been included in a matchday squad since pulling out at Burnley due to a problem he sustained in the warm-up.

Lampard did describe the American’s injury as “problematic” during his pre-match press conference ahead of the Newcastle game and it’s not exactly clear when he will be back in action.

One thing for sure is that he will only come back when the time is right as the Blues will not want to rush him into action and risk a further injury given the importance of the games between now and Christmas.

Abraham is in the starting XI on merit at present and that means the boss is going to have a Pulisic dilemma on his hands once he is good to go.

Ziyech attribute key to future success

Ziyech has made quite an impact since his summer move from Ajax.

Moving early to clinch a deal for the Moroccan after announcing his signing back in February, Lampard and Chelsea appear to have found a transfer bargain.

Excellent in the recent wins over Burnley and Sheffield United, the 27-year-old started brightly at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon and was involved in most of Chelsea’s good play.

Prior to the Blues’ opener as Federico Fernandez put through his own net from Mason Mount’s cross, the visitors were unlucky not to take the lead courtesy of Abraham’s header as Karl Darlow did very well to tip his effort over.

The chance all came from some excellent play from Ziyech as he turned inside from his position on the right to swing in a delicious left-footed cross.

Creating a grand total of 82 goals during his 165 Ajax games, Chelsea are going to get a lot of joy out of Ziyech over the coming seasons due to his vision and precise delivery.

It’s not the first time that the player has demonstrated his ability with an inswinging cross either as he registered two assists in the Sheffield United win as Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva netted.

Lining up on the right so far for Chelsea since his move to the club, Ziyech is going to cut inside time and time again to pick out his teammates and that only bodes well for the future given the three goals he’s had a hand in so far.

Rudiger’s return

Lampard revealed ahead of Saturday’s fixture in the north east that Thiago Silva was unlikely to make the trip after representing Brazil during the international break.

As expected, there was no sign of the veteran defender in the squad so that meant a rare opportunity for Antonio Rudiger.

So long a regular in the Chelsea backline under Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Lampard, the German has fallen out of favour recently and it appeared that he might be heading for the exit door before the summer transfer deadline.

Missing out on the matchday squad on a number of occasions this term, Rudiger had only featured in two Champions League games prior to his St James’ Park selection.

Not exactly having a lot to do throughout the 90 minutes due to Newcastle’s struggles in the final third, he was alert when called upon as he produced a brilliant block to stop Allan Saint-Maximin’s shot from testing Edouard Mendy after the Frenchman cut inside Kurt Zouma.

Asked by after the game about the ex-Roma man’s display, Lampard was full of praise for his man.

“I was pleased with his performance,” admitted the 42-year-old. “I talked about it before the game that a lot of managers would love to have five centre-backs but it brings difficulties as you can only pick two if playing in a back four and then two or three are unhappy.

“It’s not easy to come straight into a team if not playing so regularly and perform. That means you need a good attitude throughout the week and a good attitude in how they prepare.

“I’ve got confidence in Toni. I think he came in and thought his performance alongside Kurt they were very strong. Anything that came in the box they dealt with very well. They had a lot of the ball and they moved it well.

“I’m really happy as it’s hugely important to have a strong squad this year with the schedule as it is. For Toni to come in and play and keep a clean sheet was brilliant for him and brilliant for me.”

Looking bleak for the player not so long ago with his Chelsea future in doubt, things certainly look a bit better for Rudiger after getting the nod ahead of Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori.

Although Thiago Silva will come back into the side next week, Rudiger will be given more minutes under Lampard on the back of his showing on Tyneside.

Five on the spin

The Premier League table makes for good reading at present with the Blues riding high in the league table.

Perhaps not in pole position as Tottenham’s win over Man City knocked them off top spot, Chelsea sit in second after nine games of the campaign.

The good thing for Lampard’s team is that they are not at their best yet and there is still so much more to come from them.

Ziyech, Havertz and Werner are only going to get better with the more minutes they play in the Premier League, while there is still Pulisic to add to the team following his injury-hit start to the campaign.

Winning becomes a habit for teams and that very much looks to be the case for Chelsea as they registered their fifth victory on the trot.

The team do have some tricky game coming up between now and New Year, including fixtures against Spurs, Everton, Wolves and Arsenal, but they will go into the matches full of confidence given their recent run of results.

Don’t be surprised at all if the winning run carries on for a few more games.

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