Ahead of our trip to Sheffield United this evening, Frank Lampard has been discussing the challenge of keeping his players happy and the reasons why he believes Billy Gilmour is in a good position to make a swift recovery from knee surgery...
It is impossible to manage a group of motivated football players without seeing unhappy faces from time to time, according to Frank Lampard, given the fact that only 11 individuals can be selected to start each game. However, the boss is happy for his players to be annoyed when they’re not in the team so long as they stay professional and fight hard for a recall.
Only Manchester United have amassed more than Chelsea’s 12-point haul in the five full rounds of Premier League match action since the restart, with the Blues having moved up to third in the table following our most recent victory away at Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
Such good form invariably leads a manager to limit the changes made to his team selection, even if the games are coming thick and fast every few days, meaning those not in the starting line-up have to show patience and persistence in order to earn their chance.
Jorginho has been one such player, a 10-minute cameo at Selhurst Park the only involvement the Italian has had since football’s resumption, though Lampard insists his vice-captain’s attitude and application during this period has been a measure of the man.
‘A good professional will be unhappy that they’re not playing but will deal with it in the right way, which he has done,’ said Lampard of the 28-year-old. ‘In my job, you have to understand that every individual is different and I try to deal with them as I feel our relationship is individually.
‘I can see sometimes in a player’s face that they’ve got the hump but that’s the nature of my job. There are 11 places for a squad of 20-odd players so I can’t keep everybody happy all the time. I don’t mind an unhappy face.
‘I have to accept in my job that I see that but at the same time we want professionalism and players to act the right way. Jorginho has absolutely done that so for that I’m delighted with him and it says a lot about him. Of course, he’s a top-class player - there’s no doubt about that.’
Managing the person behind the unhappy face is part of Lampard’s job and he believes there are contrasting approaches to take when dealing with different individuals.
‘Some I will decide to speak to more than others or feel like I have to give reasons to more than others but some I will want to see from their reaction in training how they’re dealing with things,’ explained the boss. ‘With Jorginho, he’s been a big influence for us this season but I have to make choices and they’re not easy choices.
‘He knows I’m always ready to talk - I’ve got a really good relationship that’s very open with him and where he’s trained well and shown the right character, we haven’t had to have many sit-downs. I know that I can rely on Jorginho at any moment. I can rely on him to drive the team and be the one in training that wants to win a small-sided game as much, if not more, than everyone else so in that way he’s a fantastic player to manage.’
The Italy international demonstrated those qualities and his importance to the side when he came on against Palace, slowing the tempo of the game in the final 10 minutes and bringing a calm head to a generally frantic set of proceedings. He replaced Gilmour, who Lampard reported in his Friday press conference had undergone knee surgery that would rule him out for the remainder of this season.
The injury was sustained in the first half of the London derby and the boss elaborated on the circumstances behind it, as well as offering his belief that the teenager had the right conditions and characteristics to bounce back quickly.
‘It was a single moment that happened in the game,’ said Lampard. ‘I saw it happen midway through the first half and it was completely accidental. He’s damaged the meniscus in his knee but we’ve got the best surgeon on it.
‘The things that are behind Billy are the fact that he’s young, he has an incredible attitude and health to hopefully get over it as quick as possible. I spoke to him on Thursday morning but he’s got a tight-knit family as well. Don’t be tricked by the baby face because I think there’s a tough nature to him.
‘I remember being out myself at around 17 or 18 years old with a broken leg for about three months which went over a summer as well and it’s part of the process unfortunately.’
While Gilmour’s breakthrough season has been brought to a premature end, there is still plenty of opportunity for our other young players to make an impact in the final four Premier League games, with Lampard accepting that inexperience has led to inconsistencies this term.
The boss also reiterated that mistakes must be learned from quickly as the margins for error remain slim, though he is keen to place individual instances in the wider context of this season’s body of work, citing the criticism of Tammy Abraham losing possession against Palace and conceding a late chance to the hosts as a prime example of this.
‘Tammy gave the ball away and has to react better,’ added Lampard. ‘Of course I speak with the players when these sort of things happen. It’s part of the development but that can only go so far - some things in football are basic and they need to be better.
‘It’s a mistake which can happen to anybody. Reactions and work ethic are where I would really come down hard but I think generally with the players we don’t have that issue. We do make mistakes, maybe sometimes with the youthfulness we have, and that’s something that we work on and we’ll get better at.’