What will Frank Lampard the Manager Bring to Chelsea?

A couple of months ago, Frank Lampard was labelled hot favourite to be named next Chelsea manager as soon as the rumours about Maurizio Sarri’s possible exit after just one year at Stamford Bridge started to surface.

The bookies confidence in Lampard being installed as the new man at the helm was justified, with Lampard taking the reins at Stamford Bridge ahead of the 2019/20 season.

There will be some who feel his appointment as Chelsea manager came just a little too soon and that it wouldn’t have been a bad idea for both club and player to have waited at least one more season before taking what would still have been, a pretty big gamble.

This is after all a club legend, Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer no less, returning to the club as manager under huge pressure to deliver almost straight away.

But maybe one season of management is enough after all. Yes, they were different times but back in 1993 Glenn Hoddle joined Chelsea as player-manager having had just one year of management experience at Swindon. When Hoddle left to become England manager in 1996, Ruud Gullit took over in the same player-manager capacity despite having no experience of being a manager at all. Both were relatively successful.

Lampard will have learnt a lot from his season at Derby. The routine of training sessions, press conferences, travelling, match day preparations and the games themselves over a nine-month cycle.

The highs and lows, the systems that work and the ones that don’t, the sort of players he wants on board and those he doesn’t, the type of opposition teams he finds hard to beat… and those he finds easier.

He will also have learnt plenty about all the pressure and fatigue that comes with the job.

The Championship is a good league in terms of cutting your teeth as a manager but Lampard may just find that Premier League management, where he has more technically gifted players to work with, suits him even better.

Will Lampard Strengthen Legendary Status with Successful Spell as Manager?

Lampard will have nothing if not good will on his side, at least to start with. Not only was he a huge part of the most successful era in Chelsea’s history but he was also always an extremely popular player with managers, other players, the fans and the Chelsea hierarchy during his playing days at Stamford Bridge.

Contrast that with Maurizo Sarri last year, for example. How suspicious everyone was of the chain-smoking Italian who had won absolutely nothing after a relatively long career, had a Plan A but no Plan B and seemed obsessed with asking midfielder Jorginho to run the show, whether that brought success or lack of it.

Lampard knows the ground, the training facilities, the fans, the Board members and to use that tired cliche, the tea ladies. Familiarity can go a long way in football and that’s without even mentioning the players.

Of those who were at the club in his last season at Chelsea back in 2013-14, only Willian and Cesar Azpilicueta are left but as senior figures in the dressing room, that could be an important link between his days as a player and his time as Chelsea boss.

You may have noticed the absence of David Luiz from that list of two. That’s because Lampard decided that the quirky Brazilian was becoming a disruptive influence in the Chelsea dressing room and was someone he didn’t want around. Apparently, Luiz was quite vocal in his support of Sarri, the job the Italian did and his conquering of the Europa League; unsurprisingly, that didn’t sit well with Lampard. Which is why, he sold him to Arsenal for a reported £8m deal.

As it happens, it seems the former PSG defender was keen on the move anyway but what it does also show is Lampard’s ruthless side. He’s not there to treat old team-mates differently or provide jobs for the boys and is confident enough in his management style and personality to do things his way, even if that means upsetting some people along the way. But what is his management style?

What’s Lampard’s Style?

Last year in the ‘regular season’, Derby scored just 69 goals, less than anyone else in the Top Six and a full 24 goals less than champions Norwich City. However, at the other end of the pitch, they conceded just 54 goals, which was less than three of the five sides who finished above Derby, including Norwich.

It suggests Lampard favours a balanced approach. No Gung-ho all-out attack style that you may have expected from a former attacking midfielder but on the on other hand, you’re unlikely to see performances that resemble some of those under Jose Mourinho at his worst: teams set up to play for 0-0 from the off and animated celebrations when the game actually ended up goalless.

The former England midfielder tended to prefer playing a 4-4-2 system and liked to use a blend of youth and experience. Proof of that is that 36-year old Ashley Cole came in to do a job in their promotion push and that at the other end of the age spectrum was Mason Mount. Still a teenager at the start of the season, the Chelsea-owned player featured 35 times in the league. It would be no surprise if Mount ends up getting some game time under Lampard again, this time at Chelsea.

Similarly, his top scorer in the league, Harry Wilson, was just 22 while two of his more trusted midfielders in Tom Huddlestone and Bradley Johnson, were both 32.

So as we said already, he enjoys having a good mix of young and older players.

The Plan for Chelsea

It will be interesting to see if Lampard sticks with his favoured 4-4-2. On the one hand, no-one really seems to use that formation in the Premier League anymore and he could be criticised early on for using a somewhat out-dated system. On the other hand, he has players suited to playing it. A front two made up of two from Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi would provide power, aerial presence and goals and it might just be the one that he starts the season with.

The more likely scenario however would be playing just one of those as a target man, supported by a trio of attack-minded players in support: new man Christian Pulisic and two from Willian, Pedro and Ross Barkley. He’ll have a lot more options once Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek return from injuries.

That three would then play in front of the brilliant N’Golo Kante with either the prolific passer that is Jorginho alongside him, or the more mobile Mateo Kovacic.

The four-man defence pretty much picks itself now that Luiz has left and Antonio Rudiger is injured. Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen will be looking to impress and make sure that they stay in the XI once the German international returns.

Finally, and no sniggering at the back, Lampard is famed for his absurdly high IQ. Football management is of course rarely about deciding which two shapes from a selection of six are the same (but have just been rotated), or other such exercises typical of an IQ test.

But alongside his outstanding playing career, decent start to his life as a manager at Derby and calm, likeable demeanour…that analytical mind and ability to work things out quickly may just be the missing part in the jigsaw on his way to being a top manager.

 

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Jamie Vardy is no longer having a party

The 2018/2019 season is proving to be one of the more trying ones for Jamie Vardy at Leicester as the striker battles to adapt to Claude Puel’s tactics.

The Leicester boss insists his players keep the ball given he favours a more possession-based style. But that doesn’t always get the best out of Vardy, who is more of an old-fashioned striker that thrives on collecting through balls and finding the back of the net.  

Vardy has now admitted that Puel’s style doesn’t suit him – but that won’t stop him from trying. In fact, the 31-year-old has suggested that it is up to him to find a way to make it work under Puel and rather pointed towards working harder in training as a way of it all coming together. Despite Vardy’s pragmatic tone, his comments will be slightly worrying for Leicester City fans and for the more cynical among them. The timing may be quite curious as well with the January transfer market just around the corner.

After all, this is a striker who played a massive part in their title-winning season as he broke the record for scoring in the most consecutive games in Premier League history. If Vardy is happy in a certain system, he will always score goals and now that he is retired from international football he should be able to keep playing at a very high level in the Premier League.

His recent comments may well prompt one of the top six to splash some cash and bring Vardy on board.

Still, you’d have to think that any move to a club in a better position than Leicester would mean Vardy would play second fiddle to someone.

That doesn’t mean an offer won’t arrive for the former Fleetwood Town man. The Foxes may well see the sense in letting him go should Puel also agree that Vardy isn’t a natural fit for his style of football.

It’s not unheard of to think that Vardy may well feel he can win the Golden Boot in the Premier League, but it certainly won’t be this season with his odds at William Hill of being top goalscorer at 50/1 suggesting his race is run already.

That will be frustrating for Vardy, and what he does next will be very interesting – especially if he chooses to grumble a bit more in public.

There’s still every reason to believe Vardy is happy at the King Power and it was only in August that he signed a new and improved deal to keep him at the club until 2022.

One shouldn’t forget though that the last few months at the club would have been a mixture of sadness and agony for Vardy after Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was tragically killed in a helicopter crash outside the ground in late October. Both Vardy and Srivaddhanaprabha were very close.

In some ways, it would be more than understandable if the striker was feeling a bit too close to all of it at the moment.

Jamie Vardy’s latest utterances certainly weren’t a “come and get me to another club”, and it’s highly unlikely he would go as far as to say that at any stage given his respect for Leicester City. There is, though, reason to believe he may not be as happy as he was once was and that as well all know in football, invariably leads to a change.  

 

Man Utd unveil club legend Solskjaer as caretaker manager

Manchester United have announced that club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take over as caretaker manager for the remainder of the season.

Jose Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year stint at the club came to an end on Tuesday, two days after the Red Devils were beaten 3-1 by bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield.

The club’s start to the season has been a disaster, and Toals Coupon Code who offer free bets tips have noticed a huge drop in punters backing the team this season, and it’s easy to see how, with United as high as 1000/1 with many bookies to claim the Premier League title.

The move may, however, revive their chances of success in Europe, and England’s other domestic trophies. Having said that, United’s odds of winning the Champions League this season are 50/1 – and with PSG up next for the Red Devils, and taking into account their form – it’s easy to see why.

United revealed that the interim appointment would be made before bringing in a full-time replacement in the summer.

After deciding to axe Mourinho, the club moved quickly to secure the services of Molde boss Solskjaer, with the deal finalised within 24hrs of Jose’s departure.

Mike Phelan – who was Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man whilst he was with the club – will join as first-team coach at United, working closely with Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna.

Solskjaer is fondly remembered for his 126 goals in 366 appearances whilst at Old Trafford in his playing career, but captured the hearts of many United fans none more so than when he was a key part of the Champions League final triumph in 1999, which confirmed the treble.

Speaking after his appointment, Solskjaer said:

“Manchester United is in my heart and it’s brilliant to be coming back in this role,” Solskjaer said upon being appointed.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club.”

United’s chiefs were keen to bring someone in for the interim who understands the club, and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was delighted to announce his return:

“Ole is a club legend with huge experience, both on the pitch and in coaching roles,” Woodward said.

“His history at Manchester United means he lives and breathes the culture here and everyone at the club is delighted to have him and Mike Phelan back.

“We are confident they will unite the players and the fans as we head into the second half of the season.”

 

Sarri cannot wait to add Hazard to free-scoring Chelsea attack

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri took major positives from Chelsea’s free-scoring form without their star man Eden Hazard – but claims the talent will be back into the first team once he’s fit.

Hazard missed his second consecutive match with a back problem as Sarri’s side hammered Burnley 4-0 at Turf Moor.

The talented winger is already a doubt for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup fourth-round clash with Derby, it has been revealed.

There were plenty of Blues players getting in on the goalscoring act at Burnley, as Alvaro Morata, Ross Barkley, Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were all on the score-sheet.

Speaking after the game, Sarri said: “I want Hazard in every match if it’s possible because we have a lot of very good players but Hazard I think is something different.

“I am very happy because the team was able to score seven goals in two matches without Hazard. It’s a very good sign. I want Eden as soon as possible. I don’t know for Wednesday but I hope for Sunday.”

Barkley has been in fine form, and added two more assists in addition to his goal on Sunday.

Discussing the England players form, Sarri said: “Barkley is doing very well in this period.

“He improved in the defensive phase, improved very much. He improved his physical condition because the last season for him was really very difficult.

“He’s a very good player from the technical point of view. Now I think Ross is complete.”

 

TEAM NEWS: Arsenal and Chelsea news ahead of Europa League clashes

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is in line to make his first Chelsea start of the season when the Blues face Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League Group L.

Loftus-Cheek has recovered from a shin problem in time for the game, and Chelsea also have winger Pedro and defender Antonio Rudiger returning to full fitness.

Blues head coach Maurizio Sarri is expected to make a host of changes for the clash, with the likes of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Emerson Palmieri, Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas all touted to feature at some point in the game.

Meanwhile, also in the Europa League, Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan for their game against Qarabag in Baku, due to diplomatic tensions between the country and Mkhitaryan’s native Armenia.

 

Juventus star set to miss four games for allegations against Di Francesco

The aftermath of the aggressive impact Juventus winger Douglas Costa made on Sassuolo star man during the match is starting to dawn on the Brazilian winger as he will be set to face a four match ban in the Serie A.

During the Serie A game, Costa was first seen giving an elbow to Sassoulo’s Federico Di Francesco and head-butting escaping both before being sent off for spitting at Di Francesco by the referee with the disgusting act caught on camera.

However Juventus was able to gather all three points from the game thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace in the second half of the match. Costa was sent off during the match at the last minute of the Serie A match.

The 28-year-old winger will be missing four games altogether in the Serie A when the Biaconeris will take on Frosinone, Bologna, Napoli and Udinese, but will available for selection in the Champions League  as the ban does not extend to Europe. According to the Serie A experts of FootballPredictions.com this will be quite a big miss for the current Scudetto holders.

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri refusing to relive the moment of the incident said to the press: “The episode on Sunday surprised everyone,” Allegri told a news conference via Goal.

“And in my opinion, Costa apologised and will pay with the suspension.

“He will have the opportunity to show that this is an isolated gesture, a bad example for children.

“[On Monday] he had a good workout and again this morning [Tuesday]. He had a moment of madness – that should not happen.

“The club will not appeal for Costa. The boy suffered a shock because it is something outside of the behaviour he has always shown on the field. Usually when he passes by a fly he dodges it.

“[Wednesday’s] choice on Costa will be exclusively technical.”

 

Morata did consider leaving Chelsea in the summer

Alvaro Morata has revealed he did consider leaving Chelsea this summer after claiming his first season in English football was “a disaster”.

The 25-year-old joined from La Liga giants Real Madrid in the summer of 2017, and enjoyed a fruitful start to life at Stamford Bridge, but failed to capitalise on that form, and eventually found himself out of the side.

Three goals in the final 23 games of the season saw him miss out on Spain’s World Cup squad, too.

Despite the upset of missing out on the Worl Cup in Russia, Morata has found himself called up for Spain’s UEFA Nations League games against England and Croatia, but admits he did consider quitting Chelsea in favour of a move home, or to Italy.

“I thought about playing again in Spain or Italy, of course I thought it would have been happy, but you cannot always escape from reality,” he told the Spanish press.

“It was a disaster last year, I did not know where I was, I was not happy.

“Not going to the World Cup was hard for me. I did not have the best season and the coach made the decision.

“I signed for Chelsea to be there and I was not, although that ultimately made me motivated.

“I do not hold a grudge against (former Spain coach Julen) Lopetegui, I’ve lived a lot of nice things with him too, it was his opinion and I did not do my best season either.

“But I do not hold a grudge against anyone, I wish him all the best and more now that he is at Real Madrid.”

 

Part 2: ‘A Fan Diary – 10 Positives from the World Cup’.

And, we’re back again… Have you recovered from the lack of football yet? Thankfully the EFL season starts in just a couple of weeks, and transfer speculation is in the process of hitting fever pitch.

Meanwhile though, here is Part 2 of our ‘A Fan Diary:10 Positives from the World Cup’. If you haven’t already, make sure you enjoy Part 1 first!

6) 3-5-2

There was much discussion heading into the tournament, sealed by our friendly games against Nigeria and Costa Rica, as to whether the anticipated decision to play with 3 centre-halves would be wise. Safe to say those questions have fairly solidly been answered now.

An excellent performance in the Quarter-Final victory over Sweden, showed precisely why allowing an extra centre-half meant you could have one sweeping round the back with pace covering the long ball (hello Kyle Walker), one pushing forward with possession (hello Harry Maguire), without either sacrificing an extra man in Central Midfield, or playing up front.

The fact that both of England’s wing-backs made it into FIFA’s official team of the tournament also pays testament to how the set-up made best use of the resources available to them. Harry Kane, John Stones, Jordan Pickford, and Harry Maguire can also consider themselves at least a little bit unlucky to have not made the Team of the Tournament too.

7) Harry Maguire

Ah slabhead, you beautiful man. His arm draped lovingly over the barrier – it made a wonderful meme to see one of England’s best centre-halves just acting like a teenager in a nightclub. And you know what, it fitted. No doubt in years gone by, the Sheffield-born lad had done exactly that in West Street Live, Plug or Leadmill.

His Northern everyman qualities made him all the more endearing. That his CV includes Hull City and Sheffield United, whilst he has brothers playing for Chesterfield and Gainsborough Trinity is just a bonus. I bet you he has scraps with his chips, and remembers to thank the bus driver.

But also, he put to rest the inferiority complex that envelops English football sometimes. Why can’t our centre-halves dribbled out from the back? Harry can. If Beckenbauer was from South Yorkshire.

And as a key part of England’s famed ‘love train’ from set-pieces, he was an integral part of our attacking output too. With 75% of our goals coming from set pieces – almost all of them were down to either a Maguire assist flick on, him just causing havoc generally, or powering home the kind of header that made you whelp with delight. Take that Sweden.

His consistently assured performances indicate that he’s going to have one hell of a future for England. The next Tony Adams or Terry Butcher. If he has a good season for Leicester – watch the vultures begin to sniff round.

8) Russia

Look, don’t get me wrong. Russia is bonkers. The Cyrillic alphabet is ridiculous, the level of spoken English was quite low, and the police / border guards were just generally terrifying (often without doing much). They’re always the villains in Bond films for a good reason!

But you know what? There were no hooligans jumping out with AK-47s, everyone I had the joy of meeting there always wanted to be helpful (even when they didn’t speak English), and there wasn’t even the vaguest hint of trouble. I had no problem arranging for my FAN ID, and whilst the immigration-related bureaucracy did seem excessive at times – as long as you didn’t lose anything, it was fine.

Government laws were passed to prevent hotels from scalping tourists, and when you were partying out on the streets – the police left you alone (unlike the French constabulary from Euro 2016, who were very hands on). There wasn’t even the vaguest hint of trouble.

Which begs the question, what happened? We all remember the crazy scenes in Marseille 2 years ago. Well – the stories and rumours vary… But it really does seem that if you *properly* take no prisoners as an entire government, that you can stop a violent minority from ruining things for the rest of us.

Moscow is a fascinating place, full of absolutely amazing history (if that’s your bag). St Basil’s Cathedral is one of the prettiest buildings on the planet, and not even the Coca Cola signs everywhere could take the atmosphere away. If you ever get the chance, go and visit. There’s even a McDonalds in Red Square nowadays!

9) Euro 2020

It’s never the failure that kills you, it’s the hope. But you know what? It’s time to get helpful.

England are officially the 4th best side in the World (and Europe). Which is convenient – ahead of the upcoming 2020 European Championships. There are plenty of painful memories to banish – and with the ridiculous 24-team format set to continue, there is surely a place for England at the next festival of football.

And heaven forbid if England were to do as well as we did this Summer; then it won’t be trips to Moscow we’ll be worrying about… There is no one host country for the whole tournament; with 12 host cities looking after a number of games. Namely; Baku (that’s in Azerbaijan in case you’re wondering); Copenhagen, Munich, Budapest, Rome, Amsterdam, Bucharest, St Petersburg, Bilbao, London, Glasgow, and Dublin.

And rather conveniently / dangerously, London will be taking a centre-stage role in this travelling circus; hosting both of the Semi-Finals, and also the Final. Wouldn’t that be something eh?

10) Football Came Home

No really, it did. The memes were absolutely everywhere – and this is just one of my favourites.

With this being England’s first good tournament in the age of social media, it was perhaps to be expected that the whole country seemed to lose its mind for a little bit. But it was fun whilst it lasted.

And that’s the thing – is that football coming home, was only ever about fun. It became acceptable to like the national team again. There were no under-performing superstars running wild with their WAGs, no captains having affairs with a teammate’s wife, and nobody racially abusing the brother of their centre-half partner. Jesus, that was all just John Terry!

So you know what, football was already home the second we were celebrating. The second that viewing figures went through the roof, the second national happiness went through the roof, the second we really did start to believe again. To see my 9-year-old brother fall in love with his country’s team for the first time – that was more than worth the inevitable heartbreak, just on its own!

And after this Summer, it transpires that Three Lions is the only song in British history to reach Number 1 on 4 (yes, four!), separate occasions with the same artist line-up. That might just sum up exactly how wonderful, yet utterly eccentric this country is.

Football came home. And wasn’t it bloody great?

Thoughts On Marouane Fellaini’s Contract Extension At Manchester United

Marouane Fellaini’s Manchester United career has been…  interesting. With plenty of highs but just as many lows, it would be fair to state that the Belgium international has struggled to endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful. Fellaini has been a decent ‘Plan B’ for United at times but he is very much a last resort at best if the Red Devils are chasing a goal.

According to WhoScored, the Belgium midfielder made 16 Premier League appearances for United last season – 11 of those coming from the substitute’s bench. Fellaini has struggled for regular game time under Jose Mourinho and that looks set to continue with the arrival of Brazilian Fred. Fellaini still has a reduced role to play at Old Trafford, though, and he isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Fellaini is now contracted to the club for the next two years, with the option to add a third year in 2020. The Belgium man is like marmite; you either love him or you hate him – and it would be fair to claim that there was a mixed response to that news. Fellaini can do a job for United at times but he isn’t the most reliable and he will always be the main scapegoat from the David Moyes era.

To be fair to him, Fellaini has had a positive impact for Belgium at the World Cup 2018 this summer. Trailing 2-0 to Japan in the last-16, Roberto Martinez turned to Fellaini and the United man helped his side get back on level terms – notching the equaliser less than 15 minutes after coming onto the pitch. United fans will be keeping a close eye on his efforts throughout the rest of the tournament.

At the time of writing, Belgium are preparing for their quarter-final clash with Brazil and the European outfit are 6/1 in the latest World Cup Betfair odds ahead of that fixture. Fellaini will almost certainly start on the bench again but he could profit in the second half. Brazil’s main weakness is in the air and Martinez may turn to Fellaini if Belgium fall behind in the early stages.

Fellaini could head back to Old Trafford as a World Cup winner if everything goes to plan and United will benefit directly from his experience next season. Despite his obvious flaws on the pitch in terms of creativity and work ethic, Fellaini has played at a very high level for most of his professional career and he can help a few of the younger, newer players on the training ground.

Was tying Marouane Fellaini down a new contract a risky move from Manchester United? Not really. He is a bit-part player and most fans know that – Fellaini is not going to take centre stage in Jose Mourinho’s squad. He has a unique ability to make an impact off the substitute’s bench and United can always turn to him if needed. Mourinho will be hoping that he doesn’t need to turn to Fellaini quite as often next season.