The development of one of our defenders and one of our midfielders involved in the win at Hull City have been a plus for Frank Lampard this season, as will being add to the numbers in his squad in the coming weeks as players return from injury.
The Blues booked our place in the draw for the fifth round of this season’s FA Cup, which takes place this evening at around 7.20pm (UK time), with a hard-fought 2-1 win against our opponents from the Championship.
Fikayo Tomori netted the winning goal and the Academy graduate, who spent a year on loan at Derby County last season under Lampard, was the subject of additional analysis from our head coach after the dust had settled at the KCOM Stadium.
‘Working with Fikayo up at Derby, we saw the things we needed to improve, even things like personality-wise, as he was quite quiet,’ said Lampard after the centre-back scored his second goal of the season.
‘Now you see a different change in his personality and his development. He’s played for his country and he’s playing regularly for us and doing very well. I’m delighted with his progress.
‘I’m delighted that we scored from a set-piece – we don’t score enough from them and we work on them a lot. Sometimes it’s the execution, sometimes it’s the delivery; normally those doing the heading blame the delivery and vice versa.
‘We got it right and that’s pleasing. They can tip games. It’s something we work on and we need to do better.’
Another player whose performance came under the spotlight was Mateo Kovacic, who was imperious playing in a deeper midfield role than usual, highlighting the flexibility in his game to give Lampard additional options in the middle of the park.
‘I think he can do both roles [attacking and defensive],’ said Lampard. ‘We changed the midfield around and rotated it in terms of how we’re playing – I never want it to be absolutely structured – and there’s games he’s played well as part of a two and he’s almost doing a bit of both roles. I think he can do it very well.
‘For the development of him, and we’ve got a really good relationship, he loves to talk about his game and he’s very intelligent, he listens when you speak to him, and I think he can get better at all parts of it. He’s very talented and I love working with him and I want to help him improve because he’s important to us.
‘I was part of the conversation [when it came to making his loan switch from Real Madrid permanent] and he was one we could bring in because of the situation.
‘I watched him last year and liked him from afar. It wasn’t the easiest year for him – sometimes he started, sometimes he didn’t – but I just saw an actual talent in the way he can take people out of the game in midfield and he travels really quickly with the ball and can play really nice combinations.
‘But there are other parts of his game that we want to improve. We want to see him score more goals and when he’s in deep defensive areas, of course he has to be very aware to pick up runners and do that job as well.’
Despite making several changes to his starting line-up for his second FA Cup game as Blues boss, Lampard has faith in the quality of his squad and won’t tinker with things for the sake of it, even though the next round of the competition comes at a time when we’re back in Champions League action.
‘It’s very cliched to say we’ll take each game as it comes, and I’ll consider what the draw is and when the next FA Cup round comes along, but I’m not going to be one changing things for the sake of it,’ he said.
‘The position we’re in, we need to push on all levels and I like to have a standard where we just have to try to play to win, whatever competition we’re in. We’ll push on every front.’
Aiding that push in the not-too-distant future will be Christian Pulisic, who Lampard thinks will be back in training in the middle of the week although the Leicester City game on Saturday might come too soon.
However, the boss hopes to soon be buoyed by the return of a player he has yet to be able to call upon during his time as Blues coach, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but no chances will be taken regarding the fitness of a player who has been out since last May.
‘He had his first session with us fully on Friday, which was a light session and that suited him. He’s got a fair way to go still, and I’m not being pessimistic there. He probably needs a full week’s training with us, a tough week, and then he’ll need some Under-23 games.
‘The break comes at a nice time for him, because it’s a nice time for him to work, and we’ll gauge it at the other end of that break and see where we are.
‘I don’t care who you are, you’ll miss Ruben and his abilities, his natural physique, ability to travel with the ball, move it well, the goals he started to score last year – which have to be a big part of his game.
‘Of course we’ll miss a player of that level and it put a smile on everyone’s face to see him back, because he’s popular with his team-mates as well.’