Frank Lampard compares his current Chelsea dressing room to the one he was part of as a player and highlights how those who are not getting on the pitch at the moment will be able to play their part as the season progress…
There has been much made from the outside of the youthfulness of the Blues side this season, as our head coach has given plenty of playing time to players from our Academy. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have performed at a level which has earned them call-ups to the England national team.
Indeed, there has not been nearly as much focus on some of the more senior players in the squad and ahead of this afternoon’s trip to Southampton, Lampard has discussed the role they have played both on the field and behind closed doors in the dressing room and on the training pitch.
‘Without a doubt there’s a responsibility on the senior players, particularly when we have a group of young players coming through, that they set the tone and the young players will look up to them and follow that lead, and hopefully in the right way,’ he said.
‘That’s on and off the pitch. I’m not naïve enough to think I can walk around and be the dictator of this building at all times to everybody. It’s impossible. I rely heavily on my staff and all the players. And the senior players take on that responsibility, they do. I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far.’
It’s certainly a different landscape to the one he came across during his playing days here, when the dressing room was largely made up of big personalities and senior international players, most notably in the form of the likes of Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, John Terry and Lampard himself.
‘All era and all groups are different,’ he said. ‘You’ll never replicate an exact group of a dressing room that was here 15 years ago. You don’t have to have the stereotypical leader, thumping his chest; it’s not always there, so you find a different way and you find a different group.
‘The modern dressing room has changed a lot and that’s just how it’s gone. The strength within the group can be shown in different ways, it can be shown through the young players and it doesn’t mean you have to have a big core of experienced players that are banging the drum daily.
‘What you need is a strong group and then you see the leaders come from within it. Where we are quite young, the leaders are still going to come and come out of themselves more. That comes with a bit of confidence, probably with being around the first team even more.
‘It seemed to have become a bit cut and dry [from outside], the young boys and the old boys, but I never saw it that way. I always trust in the players and in the squad, and you will rely on them.
‘Willian scored two in two, Jorginho’s influence and how he is, Azpilicueta club captain and N’Golo Kante, back in and 28 years of age. We need all those players and I expect them to deliver and take burdens throughout the season. Hopefully they’re doing that.’
As well as trying to find the right balance in terms of experience, Lampard also has to contend with a large squad where not every player is necessarily spending as much time on the pitch as they would like.
Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud are two players who perhaps haven’t featured as regularly as some may have expected, but our head coach insists their time will come, as will any who find themselves out of the starting line-up, if they continue to put the hard yards in.
‘This is one of my difficult problems in this job,’ said the 41-year-old. ‘I have good players – and everyone has a story. Christian Pulisic has a price tag, Ross Barkley is an international player, as is Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi just signed a new contract and Bayern Munich wanted to sign him last summer, another international player. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be coming back, an international player.
‘I can’t pick them all, unfortunately. All I have to demand of them is that they show me in training or in their chances to play that they’re worthy of the place. That’s not to make me sound like a hard taskmaster, it’s just a brutal reality of my job. Next week you’ll be asking me about two other names, that’s the competition we have.
‘I spoke to Christian two days before the Grimsby game and was very clear about the standards. We have to give him the fact he’s moved country and moved leagues. He’s as young as all the young players we keep talking about, just turned 21. If anybody is getting too excited about this, they should calm down. He’s started five games for us and what he needs to do is work daily, work to show he deserves to play – as all the players do.
‘My relationship with Olivier is really good. He’s a great professional, trains at a level every day, great in the dressing room and passes on his experience, but everyone keeps asking me about the players that aren’t playing. It’s a difficult one.
‘Some players can’t play, whether they’re 32 or at the other end of the spectrum at 21. They have to keep working and be positive within the group. I want the club to win and when I choose to select people or not, it’s because I think it’s the best thing.
‘Everyone wants to play, I understand that – I was one of the worst, I hated not playing – but all I want to see is positivity. I’m seeing that, and that’s something maybe the outside world doesn’t see. We need a big squad to be a successful team.’