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.

 

Who are the NRL 2019 Contenders?

The Sydney Roosters narrowly finished atop the table in the 2018 NRL season, creeping ahead of the Storm in the final round and finishing just a solitary game ahead of the Warriors in eighth in what was an incredibly close season.

Throughout the finals series, however, they showed that they were every bit the best team in it, dismissing all challengers they came across with aplomb. This season, they are tipped to be the team to beat again, but nipping at their heels is a long list of talented teams. Let’s take a look at the top contenders heading into 2019.

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters, fresh off their fourth victory in the World Club Challenge in mid-February, will head into the 2019 season full of confidence and eager to become the first team since the league went national to win back-to-back Premierships. Despite their triumph last season, the Roosters will most likely be an even better side this year. Angus Crichton is a huge addition, the 23-year-old back rower set to make an immediate mark in a forward pack that is already one of the best in the league. Englishman Ryan Hall could be an important addition once he recovers from a knee injury, while all three of James Tedesco, Joseph Manu and Latrell Mitchell have the capacity to take their games to yet another level. The Roosters roster is a scary prospect for any side, and they are deserved favourites as we enter another season.

Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos are an enigma. In 2018, they finished sixth after an up-and-down season, and were promptly belted by the Dragons in the first week of the finals. A disappointing end to the year no doubt, but heading into 2019 there is plenty of reason for fans to be optimistic. The Broncos have a young but extremely talented forward pack, while Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima have the potential to be a dangerous halves combination. They will also receive a boost from the returns of Matt Gillett and Jack Bird, each of whom missed a large portion of the 2018 season due to injuries. Brisbane had a difficult off-season with Anthony Seibold taking over the coaching reigns from Wayne Bennett in controversial fashion, but the talent they have on the field is undeniable, and if they can put it all together they may just be one of the best chances to challenge the Roosters.

Melbourne Storm

The perennially successful Melbourne Storm deserved plenty of credit for making it through to the Grand Final last year despite the loss of Test halfback Cooper Cronk – who would ultimately play a vital role in the Roosters’ victory over his old side on Grand Final day – but that would have been of little solace after they failed to defend their 2017 Premiership. This year, they will again have a huge hole to fill after the retirement of Billy Slater, and how either Jahrome Hughes, or Scott Drinkwater fares as his likely replacement will have a major impact on how deep into the finals they are able to go. With Cameron Smith still hanging around, and plenty of capable support in the form of Josh Addo-Carr, Jesse Bromwich and Will Chambers to name a few, the Storm should find themselves there or thereabouts at the pointy end of the season.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

The South Sydney Rabbitohs won’t have to wait long for their chance at revenge against a Roosters side that knocked them out of the finals in 2018, with the Round 1 match-up between the two sides sure to be quite the spectacle. You can check out the full Round 1 fixture and odds here: https://www.odds.com.au/sport/rugby-league/nrl/.

The Rabbitohs were a good team last year, finishing the season in third place, and this year they will probably be even better – though not necessarily due to changes in on-field personnel. The most successful coach in Australia Rugby League history, Wayne Bennett, will attempt to lead the Rabbitohs to a 22nd Premiership in 2019 after moving across from the Broncos, and with a squad as talented as the one he has at South Sydney, it would be of little surprise if he managed to do exactly that.

Who looks the strongest team in the NRL?

There’s no doubt that the Sydney Roosters head into the 2019 NRL season as the team to beat – they were the best side last year and have made some valuable additions to their squad in 2019. As 2018 highlighted, however, the league is as close as it’s ever been, and there are plenty of teams more than capable of challenging the reigning Premiers. The Broncos are capable of beating anyone on their day, the Storm have a culture of success and the experience to go deep, and the Rabbitohs have added the game’s best coach to a great roster. Add to that the probable improvement of the likes of the Panthers, the Dragons and the Sharks, and it wouldn’t surprise to see yet another bottleneck at the top of the table come the end of the season. Bring it on.

 

Who Were the Top Five Standout Golfers of 2017?

An exceptionally strong core of young American golfers asserted its dominance over the sport in emphatic style in 2017.

US stars with an average age of 25 won three out of the four available majors and the future looks extremely bright for the American Ryder Cup team. Fans across the world were treated to another thrilling 12 months of golf in 2017, a year packed full of intriguing storylines, star turns from budding giants of the game and plenty of nail-biting finishes to big tournaments. Here are the top five stars of 2017:

  1. Justin Rose

Rose achieved T10 finishes in his final 10 tournaments of 2017 to move up to sixth in the world. He won three of his last six, including a sensational eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Open, and heads into 2018 in fine form. He went into a sudden-death playoff against his great friend Sergio Garcia at The Masters, only to miss out on winning a second career major. But he responded superbly and improved as the year went on. At the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in October, he went into the final day trailing by eight shots but stormed back to overhaul world number one Dustin Johnson on the final day to claim an improbable victory. He will be a real threat to the golfing elite at this year’s majors thanks to his all-round brilliance.

  1. Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama can now lay claim to being the world’s best player without a major to his name. The Japanese has long held down a place in the top five of the Official World Golf Ranking chart and rose as high as number two when he finished runner-up at the US Open in June. He shared the lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Championship before falling away, and it seems like only a matter of time before the 25-year-old joins an elite club of major winners. But he still won three Tour titles, including his first World Golf Championship, along with $8.4 million in prize money in 2017, and displayed great consistency throughout the year.

  1. Dustin Johnson

It is testament to Johnson’s prowess that he held onto the world number one spot throughout 2017, despite suffering an injury that kept him out of the Masters. He did not add to his tally of majors in 2017, but he did win four Tour titles for the first time and moved up to sixth in the career money list. He also became the first player to ever win all four WGC crowns after a dominant performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event. Johnson is on the ninth longest streak atop the world rankings in PGA tour history and nobody looks like dislodging him any time soon.

  1. Jordan Spieth

Spieth roared back to form in 2017, winning his third career major at The Open and taking two further Tour titles. Spieth was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and continued to impress the following year, but really hit the big time in 2015. That year he won the Masters and the US Open at the tender age of 22, establishing himself as a superstar of the present and the future. He reached number one in the world and was expected to continue his dominance in 2016, but his form tailed off.

He suffered one of the most spectacular collapses of all-time at The Masters, blowing a five-shot lead, and dropped to third in the world, with just one title and no majors to his name.

2017 was a comeback year of epic proportions as Spieth, who took his 10th PGA title with a playoff win in the Travelers Championship. At Royal Birkdale he claimed The Open, becoming only the second man after Jack Nicklaus to win three of the four majors before his 24th birthday. A couple of runner-up finishes put him in contention for the FedEx Cup title, but he ultimately finished second, as well as ending up second on the 2017 money list. He is expected to continue his resurgence in 2018 and is currently the favourite in the US Masters 2018 odds as he has been exceptionally strong at Augusta over the years.

  1. Justin Thomas

Thomas enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 and usurped childhood friend Spieth by topping the money list, winning the FedEx Cup and claiming a first major.

Thomas was named PGA Golfer of the Year and earned a cool $9.9 million throughout 2017. While Spieth and Thomas were always considered wunderkinds, it was the former that rose to stardom quicker, soaring to the top of the world rankings, while Thomas claimed just one Tour victory in his first two years as a pro and was lurking on the outskirts of the elite. But Spieth’s success pushed him to achieve greater feats and he delivered on his promise in 2017, winning the PGA Championship ahead of Matsuyama.

He took five Tour titles in total and dominated the end of year awards. He finished 2017 at number three in the world rankings and the future looks extremely rosy for American golf thanks to the talents of Thomas, Spieth, Johnson, Rickie Fowler, US Open winner Brooks Koepka and more. But right now Thomas is in the ascendancy and he is the man to beat heading into 2018’s majors.

 

 

Stephen Hendry takes ‘Name That Table’ test

BetStars put Stephen Hendry to the test to see if he could remember some of the highs and lows of his trophy-laden career in ‘Name That Table’.

We presented the seven-time world champion with three significant situations from the past, but would he be able to recognise the tables when the pressure was on?

Click on the video below and hear the Scot talk about what those matches meant to him.

Stephen Hendry was speaking on behalf of online betting site BetStars. #Callit at BetStars.

Starc issues warning to England

Mitchell Starc has warned England that they should expect things to go from bad to worse for the remainder of the winter’s Ashes.

Starc has been in blistering form, taking 14 wickets in Australia’s two victories so far, and believes he and his colleagues have the scope to step it up another gear when the series heads to Perth.

England have not won in Perth since 1978, and Australia only need victory their to regain the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead – regardless of what happens in the final two tests after.

The Aussie bowler is already licking his lips at the prospect of putting England under immense pressure, on a pitch which has been long renowned for being one of the world’s quickest.

“The exciting thing is our bowling group can still get better,” said the 27-year-old left-armer.

“We’ve obviously managed to take 40 wickets in the last couple of weeks and do some really good things, but I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

Starc added: “‘Gazza’ (Lyon) is bowling outstandingly at the moment.

“That allows the other three of us to do what we need to do from one end if need be.

“Then Josh does what he does and allows Pat and me to bowl as fast as we want.

“I hope we see a nice, fast, bouncy wicket – a WACA of old – and we can get stuck into their batters again.”

Loftus-Cheek won’t let injury dampen positives from England bow

Ruben Loftus-Cheek will remain positive after a back injury cruely cut short his second appearance for the England national team, during the goalless draw with Brazil at Wembley on Tuesday.

Loftus-Cheek, who is currently on loan with Crystal Palace from Chelsea, put in an eye-catching performance on his debut for the national side against Germany last week.

The 21-year-old was then rewarded for that positive display by being given the chance to start for England when they faced Brazil.

However, the midfielder was only able to complete 35 minutes of the game with the South Americans, when a lower back problem flared up.

After the match, Southgate said he expected the issue to “settle down fairly quickly” and praised the contribution of Loftus-Cheek, whom he coached in the under-21s, as “absolutely outstanding”.

In a post on his personal Twitter account after the game, Loftus-Cheek wrote: “Disappointing to have my night cut short after being on the pitch with some amazing players. Will stay positive after a good week.”

An update on whether Loftus-Cheek will be available for Palace’s upcoming Premier League match is expected when Roy Hodgson holds a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The Eagles currently sit bottom of the table, and have picked up just one point since recording their first and only league win of the season, when they defeated Chelsea on October 14.

Alex Lozowski signs new deal with Saracens

Alex Lozowski
Image source: @alexlozowski10 on Twitter

England international back Alex Lozowski has signed a contract extension with the current Aviva Premiership leaders, Saracens.

The deal will keep Lozowski at the reigning European champions until 2020.

Lozowski, 24, has been a crucial player for the Saracens since he joined them from the Wasps last year, offering options not only at fly-half, but centre too.

His form has seen him rewarded with two England caps, whilst on the Argentina tour four months ago.

“We are delighted that Alex has agreed a new deal,” Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said.

“Alex will have an important role to play for us as he continues to develop as a player, so naturally we are very happy to announce that he will be staying at Allianz Park until at least 2020.

“In his brief time at the club, Alex has already shown how good a player he is, but the most exciting thing for us is how much improvement we believe there is to come from him alongside our core of young, hungry, home-grown players.”

Lozowski is not the only player to sign new terms with Saracens in the recent weeks, as he follows Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Nick Isiekwe to sign on the dotted line.

“I have really benefited from being in the environment and from being around good players and good coaches,” Lozowski said.

“I think being surrounded by the calibre of guys that we’ve got here is only going to bring your game up. I am really grateful to be part of this team.”

Worcester sign Lance on short-term deal

Jono Lance
Image source: @WorcsWarriors

Worcester have confirmed the signing of fly-half Jono Lance on a short-term deal, in the hope the Australian can boost their Aviva Premiership campaign.

The 27-year-old playmaker will help to add experience to the Warriors’ ranks at fly-half, alongside current players Sam Olver, Tom Heathcote and Jamie Shillcock.

“Jono is a player who’s got vast experience at the top level having won Super Rugby titles with different clubs,” said Worcester rugby director Gary Gold.

“He will help drive the competition for the number 10 jersey and we’re looking forward to seeing what he has to offer.”

Lance admitted he is looking forward to the move, adding: “I’m really excited about the opportunity to represent the Warriors in the Aviva Premiership.”

Police make arrest in connection to Chris Brunt coin throwing indicent

The Police have made an arrest in connection to the coin throwing incident, in which West Bromich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt was struck by the object after his side lost 3-1 at Reading on Saturday.

Brunt’s side were beaten comfortably by Reading, with the result sending the Royals into the FA Cup Quarter finals against the odds. The Northern Ireland international was heading towards the travelling faithful to hand a supporter his shirt when he was hit in the face, leaving a visible mark immediately.

Throwing a coin at a player is shocking enough, but the fact the coin was thrown the traveling Albion fans makes the case 10x worse. Brunt has made over 300 appearances for the club and is one of the longest serving players. He told the press of his “disgust” at the coin thrower, and was “ashamed” by the whole thing.

Thankfully, Thames Valley Police said the man was arrested on Tuesday, also announcing that the arrest was part of a joint operation held with the Hampshire Police department. The club have also announced that they will impose the “severest of actions” on the guilty party.

A case of ‘monkey see monkey do’, Chelsea fans were also guilty of coin throwing this weekend, as they pelted Manchester City player David Faupala and his teammates on Sunday as they celebrated their equaliser at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s statement following this incident stated they would impose lifetime bans for the offenders.

 

Hiddink is the man to replace Mourinho

Guus Hiddink is all set to become the interim manager at Chelsea following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal on Wednesday evening.

The former-Netherlands coach was in London on Friday to hold talks with the hierarchy at the Blues, as the two parties look to iron out a deal.

Saturday’s visit to Sunderland will be a game too soon for Hiddink, with the Chelsea players looking to bounce back from Monday nights 2-1 loss to unlikely Premier League leaders Leicester City.

Hiddink, who has hosted a host of clubs, had managed Chelsea before as the interim coach back in 2009. He won the FA Cup with the club that year.

Mourinho endured jubilation at the end of last season as he led his Blues to the Premier League title, but his joy was short-lived, as seven months later he is now without a job having led Chelsea to one of their worst first halves of the season in recent times.

Chelsea sit in 16th place, one point above the relegation zone going into Saturday’s game.

Rumours of the dressing room being against Mourinho may have been quashed by club captain John Terry, who described Wednesday as a sad day for Chelsea on his personal Instagram.

“Going to miss you boss,

“The very best I have ever worked with, unbelievable memories together. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.”

Terry was not alone in thanking his former boss, as Cesar Azpilicueta also claimed it to be a sad day.

“I would publicly like to thank Jose Mourinho for his contribution to this club and for everything he has taught me over the years.

“He will always be remembered. Thank you mister.”

Hiddink’s challenge for the remainder of the season will be to try and lead his team up the table and into the European places – whether that be the Europa League or Champions League, at a push.