Frank Lampard is not sure yet if N’Golo Kante will be able to play a part in the start of the Premier League campaign next weekend, but further progress has been made towards our midfield star returning to full fitness.
The most recent step forward was 20 minutes worth of action at the end of our final pre-season game, the 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany at the weekend.
‘It was always the plan,’ explained Lampard on that level of involvement for Kante. He has not played since the final game of last season due to a knee injury suffered in the build-up to that Europa League final in which he Frenchman played.
‘It was to give him the feeling of some match time because he has not been able to have that yet. It was an awkward injury and I want him to feel it [time on the pitch] and us to see it and you can’t replicate it quite unless you do it. It was a good opportunity for him to do that and we will work hard on getting him fit.
‘Who knows if he can be ready for next week or not, we will work hard for that but we just have to be careful as he played so many games over the last three seasons, you don’t want to rush him back if it is going to be a negative but we will do our best to get him back.’
When it comes to deciding the line-up for the first competitive fixture of his tenure, Lampard admits the pre-season form of young Mason Mount is giving him plenty to think about.
‘He [Mount] has done a lot coming back here,’ said Lampard.
‘I worked with him last year and I am really happy with how he is training, with how he is playing, with how he has improved, his status within the group. The players recognise quality instantly but they also recognise work rate and character and Mason has all of those and shown that.
‘He has given me a problem because Ross Barkley has also had a good pre-season and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be back later on. It is good because they are adaptable, it does not have to be one for one, they can play a variety of positions among themselves and I could not ask for more than Mason has done.
‘I more or less know my team selection but it is a long week to come and players have to train every day to get themselves in the team, so the door isn’t shut on that.
‘We need all the squad, we need players to be competitive, we need players to come on like Giroud did on Saturday and show a desire to impact a game, to try to turn a result and that is what we need for the season, so I want to set that tone going into it.
‘I think it has been a good pre-season. When you are new as a manager, you have to try to get your ideas across as quickly as possible. The team have a certain way they have been used to playing, certain messages, and me and my staff have been trying to get our message across. I think we have done that.
‘I have a good feeling after Saturday’s game. I didn’t like the first half of course but the reaction we showed in the second half, the chances we created, we should have won comfortably. It was a nice way to finish pre-season but we still need to stay focused throughout this week because Manchester United in the Premier League is a different animal to a pre-season friendly.’