It would not be fair to use one weeks’ worth of results to judge Frank Lampard’s first season as Chelsea manager,.
And yet, here we are.
The Blues’ entire campaign will be defined by what happens in the next seven days, with Champions League football – and the millions that come with it – on the line.
After Leicester City‘s defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, Chelsea know that they need a maximum of three points from their games against Liverpool and Wolves to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Doing so would present a successful campaign for Lampard in his maiden year at the helm in west London after he was left to deal with the sale of Eden Hazard and the club’s FIFA-imposed transfer ban.
The 42-year-old would certainly have hoped for more straightforward fixtures to see out the campaign, but after Sunday’s win over Manchester United in their FA Cup semi-final, the signs are that the Blues are in good shape heading into their dates with destiny.
Though the Blues received more than a little bit of help from United goalkeeper David de Gea, their performance at Wembley was more than deserving of their 3-1 win.
After three successive losses to the Red Devils this season, Lampard got the better of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side by deploying a 3-4-3 formation packed with players who had been instructed to press hard in a bid to keep United at bay.
“We have worked a lot in the last two days to show the players the dangers from Manchester United,” Lampard said post-match.
“People needed to go into midfield, make tackles and not let them feel comfortable. The biggest delight for me was the off the ball work and the physicality. It showed, and it wins you games.”
That same intensity will be required at both Anfield and against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side this week, with Chelsea facing two more of the country’s best footballing sides whose systems revolve around fast-paced attacks.
Whether such a formation will work against those sides is another matter, but Mason Mount’s performance in particular hinted that it may be better suited to his strengths.
The England international capped off an energetic display with Chelsea’s second goal of the game shortly after half-time as he stepped in for Christian Pulisic on the left of the front three as the ex-Borussia Dortmund man nursed a minor injury.
The extra freedom afforded by being in attack rather than midfield played to Mount’s strengths, but given Pulisic’s form since the restart it is hard to imagine Lampard leaving the American star out of either of Chelsea’s upcoming games considering their importance.
Mount could, of course, drop into central midfield, but after the performances of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic against United it would be slightly unfair on either if they were to be replaced.
That may mean Lampard reverts to the 4-3-3 formation that he has played for the majority of the campaign, allowing Mount to slot in alongside more defensively-minded players.
Elsewhere it seems the forward players for the clash with Jurgen Klopp’s side on Wednesday select themselves.
Olivier Giroud has become the club’s talisman up front, with his goal against United his seventh in nine Wembley visits as well as his seventh in his last 11 starts.
Willian, meanwhile, continues to put together quite the portfolio for prospective suitors to mull over as he prepares to enter the free agent market.
There remain question marks over both the defence and Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, and it is likely that their performances will be as important as anyone’s over the course of Chelsea’ final 180 minutes of league football this term.
But with a cup final place now secured, Lampard finds himself in an enviable position with the curtain call on his first league season back at Chelsea just days away.
The time has come for he and his players to provide a fitting finale to what has been a highly-encouraging campaign.