International football is over for a month and the Premier League is back. Multiple Chelsea players returned to Cobham this week with differing stories to tell of their time with their national side, and ahead of today’s game at the Bridge their manager has shared some thoughts on two of those who have been away.
Ross Barkley and Christian Pulisic have not been in our starting line-up as regularly as others this season but they both scored for their respective countries during the international break, even if there were contrasting fortunes in the second of their two games away.
Ross Barkley was a late substitute in England’s defeat in the Czech Republic but he returned to the starting 11 in style in Bulgaria when he scored two goals having set up the opener.
‘Ross played well,’ praises Lampard. ‘I am loving his arrival into the box, that is what you always want when you are playing with midfielders with attacking qualities, for them to be in the six-yard box, not just to be in and around the area, and it is good for his confidence.
‘He knows that it is competitive here for a place in midfield. I am delighted to see players going away internationally and doing well, particularly if they have not been playing as much as they would like to here. It gives me a good problem and I am pleased for him.’
Lampard, one of the great goalscoring midfielders in his playing days, believes there is potentially more to come in terms of Barkley raising his performance level, as there always should be with competitive players regardless of their age.
‘One thing I have found from working with Ross is that he really wants to learn and improve,’ he reveals.
‘He wants to listen and he has great talent. That is probably why people have judged him to be at a level from a young age because we do get excited when a great talent comes through in England.
‘His move here to Chelsea where it is competitive has given him challenges, and it is up to him to show what he showed for England on Monday night, and what he is showing in parts already since I have been here because midfield players who can go by a player and who can use right and left foot and conjure a moment out of nothing are gold.
‘But then you have to have the complete game with that and Ross certainly has those talents and can get better.’
Pulisic scored for the United States in a big win last Saturday but then, having struggled with flu-like symptoms, he was substituted in Wednesday’s defeat by Canada and was seen to be upset.
‘People say he was crying but I know he had a few problems with illness in the week and he came off in the game and I know he cares deeply about playing for his country,’ points out Lampard, ‘so I don’t think we should jump to conclusions on that.
‘Emotion is not the worst thing to see, whichever way it comes out, and I am completely with him. He needs, as every player in the squad does, to work hard in training, keep improving daily in training and see the direction we are going in and be a part it. Players need to show what they can give on a match day, it is the same for all the players, and Christian is no different from anybody else.
‘With Christian he has come to us and it is a big move, let’s make no mistake about that, and he has just turned 21 recently. We have a competitive squad here and I always have a problem who to pick and I make my decisions on training and by how they’re playing.
‘Christian came through at a very young age at Dortmund and huge credit to him doing that. He was playing in a top-level team and there were times when he was in the team and times when he was not. That is part of development.
‘He has come to Chelsea in a similar situation where the demands are huge and the interest from outside is huge and he is a young boy.
‘I see the big picture with Christian, I see it with all the young players - development day to day, getting better, being part of the group, and when you are not playing be positive and have a spirit about you that you want to get back in the team and you support the ones who are playing.
‘Those are things that will make or break us, because we have a talented squad so every player has to go along those lines and that is what I promote.’