Interview

Lampard: Growing relationships

With some key players approaching full fitness, Frank Lampard is pleased with how his team is starting to shape up on the training pitch for this season.

Our head coach has had to be patient with his players so far in 2020/21, with some of last season’s best performers and several of the new additions to his squad missing the start of the campaign through injury and having to be gradually brought into the fold.

However, we have seen many of them being introduced in recent weeks and with Hakim Ziyech joining Christian Pulisic in the squad for tomorrow’s match against Southampton Lampard is pleased with the wealth of talent now at his disposal, particularly in attacking areas, regardless of any selection dilemmas.

‘Any team that wants to compete towards the top of the league or the Champions League and play in the FA Cup and go through a season needs more than one player per position,’ he explained. ‘It needs to be competitive across the front area and we had it last year.

‘We lost Willian, we lost Pedro, we lost Batshuayi, but we’ve brought in players who bring the same level of competition in terms of numbers and I feel like the quality levels and some of the options we brought in, of course you bring them in because you want to improve.

‘It’s up to the players of course, it will always remain up to them in terms of their performance, and at the same time it gives me nice problems in terms that we can hopefully be selecting players, we can use them through the season, we’ll have options to come off the bench. So I’m happy with what some people might want to call a problem in that area.’

He also underlined how important it is to now be getting the majority of his squad ready to take part in full training, allowing him to work on integrating the new players closer with their team-mates at Cobham.

‘If you’re bringing in players, you’re always looking to build relationships on the pitch, whether it be full-backs and wingers, strikers and people playing behind them, midfielders in combinations, centre-backs, goalkeeper with his back four.

‘Those things can only be worked on and we didn’t have a lot of these players fit and ready, the ones that we brought in. Now we’re seeing that they’re starting to get fit, we’re getting some time on the training ground, the relationships on and off the pitch can grow. I hope that we’ll keep working.

‘We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’re not the end product. There are other teams that showed last year and the last two or three years how long it takes, the work that it takes to become top teams in the world and we have to do it in our own way. We’re in pretty much the start of that journey in a lot of ways. The work has begun and it continues all the time to keep trying to improve.’

Despite the new signings coming into the side, Lampard stressed that the door is never closed for any player in his squad, as he will select his team based on performances in matches and training, meaning with hard work there is a way back into the team for players like Toni Rudiger who haven’t featured so far.

‘Every player can play their way into the starting XI, that’s in every player’s hands,’ said Lampard. ‘That’s how I work here. The things I do are always in the best interests of the team and what’s best for the club because we’re trying to get results every week.

‘The players all know that and the beauty of the window being shut is that we can get to work and know what the squad is. Everybody knows that they can contribute and we’ll need them and rely on them because of the amount of games we play. Toni’s the same as every other player on that one.’

We host Southampton at Stamford Bridge in our first fixture for two weeks due to the international break, but Lampard was pleased to see his players getting additional game time with their countries to help with match fitness and hopes those who performed well will return to club duty full of confidence.

‘I think Reece [James] had a fantastic debut, Mason [Mount] gets his goal and contributed in those two games that he played. Where players have not really had pre-season games or had enough minutes on the pitch, I’m actually happy. Sometimes you might bemoan the fact that a player might go away and play three 90 minutes or big minutes in games when they’re away because you’re kind of selfish and want them for Chelsea. At the moment our players need games so I’m pleased for the ones who have played.’

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