At Brighton tonight the Blues will be back in competitive action for the first time in just over a month, and there has been no shortage of activity on and off the pitch for Frank Lampard to reflect on during that brief period as he prepares to welcome the dawn of a new campaign.
Chelsea bid farewell to 2019/20 with defeat to eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich thirty-seven days ago. The ensuing time has included a couple of weeks off for the players, time in isolation for some of them, a number of new signings welcomed, and, most recently, an international break. This unusual pre-season befits an extraordinary year, and though Lampard acknowledges it has presented challenges, he also can’t wait for his second season in charge to get underway.
‘My message with the players has to be very clear in terms of how we want to work and how we want to play,’ the boss said as he considered how to make the most of this fleeting period of preparation.
‘We haven’t had much opportunity to do that in pre-season. Normally you’d have a month or six weeks where you can continually work, and we haven’t had that. I know I’m very fortunate, bringing in players we wanted to and we already have a strong squad, but we had a lot of quarantined players. At one point it was double figures. That knocked a lot of the first week of training we could do out.
‘Then I lost almost all the players to the international break. You have to rely on international games getting them fit, but we haven’t actually had them in our hands. But it’s done, we have them together now, we know what’s in front of us, and we’re excited to get started.
‘It’s going to be a difficult challenge for everyone to try and make it work as quickly as possible, but we should be excited by that as well. The organisation of training needs to be as good as I can get it, and hopefully the players will buy in to that and we can get the process up and running as quickly as we can.’
Following comments made by Jurgen Klopp last week about Chelsea’s spending this summer, Lampard was unfazed, but note Liverpool’s recent success had hardly been built on free transfers. Looking at the wider picture, though, the boss was keen to stress he was not interested in others’ thoughts, and his focus remains on getting the best out of the players at his disposal.
‘The reality is, with probably the exception of Leicester which was an incredible story, most clubs that win the league in the modern day have recruited well and at a high level money wise. You can go through the Liverpool players: Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Keita, Mane, Salah – incredible players that came at a very high price. So Liverpool have done it, and they’ve done it over a period of time.
‘It’s par for the course, we all know that. There’s no point doing the maths for it. We know Liverpool have spent at a high level, we know they have an incredible coach, we know they have incredible players, and the really smart thing they’ve done is believe in the coach and the system for a number of years.
‘In terms of where we are at, we have to not focus too much on what other teams, managers, supporters, radio, media are saying. We have to worry about what we can do on the training pitch. That’s the only thing that will define us.
‘I’m really pleased with the business we’ve done, and now I want us to be excited as a team to work hard and get results.’