With the busy festive fixture schedule looming into view, Frank Lampard has been discussing how he plans to manage his squad through the upcoming period of six matches in three weeks…
The Blues head to Merseyside tomorrow for a Premier League contest against Everton before games against Wolves, West Ham, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City up to the New Year weekend.
It is a relentless programme that will require some adaptation for our new signings, though the boss believes the unusually congested campaign to date has provided his players with plenty of experience in managing lots of matches with little rest.
‘We are constantly thinking about the workload because this season has constantly looked like Christmas,’ claimed Lampard.
‘Every three days we are playing, the players have been away internationally and the breaks haven’t been there – that’s just fact. The workload is a constant one to review.
‘Training is sometimes more recovery than actual work. We have to look across the board at the whole squad to try and make sure we keep all the players at the optimum level. That doesn’t change.’
For the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech, all experiencing an English winter for the first time, there will be mental as well as physical tests to overcome.
While the prevalence of muscle injuries in the Premier League this season has been widely reported, and attributed to the convoluted schedule, managing the flux between heightened concentration in competitive action and psychologically switching off whenever possible can be just as difficult.
‘Mentally it will be a different challenge for them,’ Lampard said of the summer arrivals, ‘but if you sign up to come to the Premier League, which for me is the greatest league in the world, they have to be ready for that mental challenge.
‘At the minute, I see a squad that is very focused going into this period.’
While this festive season is set to retain the feast of football we have become accustomed to over the years, there are many traditional aspects of Christmas 2020 that will be missing due to the ongoing pandemic.
Social restrictions will limit contact among friends and family, while the usual work parties have all been cancelled, and Lampard has revealed that will be the case for the Chelsea players as well.
Even though the more raucous nights out of his generation may now be a thing of the past, team morale has been harder to foster without being able to relax as a group.
‘We have new signings this year and a new fresh squad in a way so we have missed the opportunity to go out and have dinner together more often,’ continued Lampard.
'It’s been one of the tough parts of Covid but it’s the same for everybody. The Christmas party thing of yesteryear has pretty much mellowed now anyway.
'Players are so well followed on social media that some of the parties I might have been involved in back in the day are certainly not happening now!
‘Responsibilities for players is big as role models to the outside, and for their professional careers to do the right thing, particularly when they’re playing so frequently over Christmas. They have to live differently to the rest of the public.
‘I better read up on the tier system because I think a lot of us have a few doubts about it but I know the basics and the players should do by now. I will have those conversations and reiterate their responsibilities.’