There was some early team news provided by Frank Lampard ahead of our visit to Hull City in the FA Cup, with Willy Caballero a confirmed starter as we look to book a place in the fifth round.
The Blues boss ruled Tammy Abraham out of the trip to East Yorkshire and also had words of praise for his veteran goalkeeper’s contribution when addressing the assembled journalists at his customary pre-match press conference at Cobham on Friday afternoon.
‘Willy will start tomorrow,’ confirmed Lampard. ‘I’m very happy for him to be at the club. I’ve found him nothing but professional and very talented in training day-in, day-out and whenever he gets his opportunities to play.’
The 38-year-old kept a clean sheet in his last runout, the 2-0 third round victory over Nottingham Forest that booked our place in round four and a meeting with the Tigers. Kepa Arrizabalaga has returned between the posts in our three games since then, though the Spaniard has come under some scrutiny for his part in goals conceded against Newcastle and Arsenal.
‘He’ll have to deal with that because that’s what football is,’ said Lampard. ‘Every player, no matter how good or great you are in your career, even the best get criticism and that’s what players have to deal with.
‘Goalkeepers may have slightly more of a spotlight on them but it’s a similar thing really. The important thing is not get too embroiled in what the outside world is saying and just look at your own game, look at yourself, how hard can you work – those are always the basics. This is not just Kepa, it’s any player. If you’re lacking form, you have to fight to get it back.’
With a week remaining until the closing of the winter transfer window, Lampard was asked whether there was a chance he could be in the market for a new goalkeeper but quickly shut down the suggestion and insisted that the answer to improvement was to keep on working.
‘I’m not looking at it now and I’m not affected by criticism from the outside as much,’ he explained. ‘I’m aware of it but not affected by it. I think Kepa knows and he’ll be honest, there have been some mistakes that he’s made that have cost goals and that’s the nature of it so that needs to improve.’
Lampard also insisted that the FA Cup remained a top priority for his side as they attempt to juggle multiple competitions in the second half of the campaign.
‘We respect the FA Cup,’ he stated. ‘I do, the players do and this club has been fortunate enough to win it a fair few times in the modern era so we want to win it again.
‘People will argue whether top four is more important than the FA Cup but I don’t think we need to get into that one. We’re professionals so we want to win the game and get through to the next round.’