In the build-up to Sunday’s red versus blue London derby, Frank Lampard has been discussing his opposite number, the benefits of being a manager who knows his club inside-out and why David Luiz’s switch across the capital will not taint his respect for the Brazilian.
The Blues are currently on a seven-match run of yo-yoing results, bouncing from defeat to victory since the end of last month. The form book, allied with our impressive record away from home this campaign, might suggest a return to winning ways at the Emirates but Lampard knows the task will not be that simple.
‘It’s a tough visit to a London rival,’ he stated, ‘big stadium, new manager, good players so we will just focus on what it is.’
While Lampard’s side have faced difficulties in recent weeks, Arsenal’s problems have been more severe and they have just one win in 14 matches in all competitions stretching back to October. Their struggles ultimately cost boss Unai Emery his job and the Spaniard has since been replaced by compatriot and former Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta.
It is the 37-year-old’s first managerial job after three-and-a-half years working under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, therefore the inevitable questions about inexperience have quickly followed. However Lampard, who got his first role as Derby County boss 18 months ago before returning to west London in the summer, believes years in the dugout count for only so much in the cut-and-thrust of the modern game.
‘He’s worked with one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest, for a couple of years at Man City and he was always an intelligent player so I don’t buy the whole inexperience thing,’ claimed Lampard.
‘You don’t know until you take the chance with somebody, and who’s to say that a manager is better or worse because they’re in their first year or their 50th year of management?
‘There are challenges daily and I’m sure he would have seen that at City but he would have observed it more and obviously been a big support for Guardiola. Now it’s his turn to make those decisions himself but from the years he’s had working with Guardiola at a huge club who have been successful, I think it puts him in great stead.
‘He was a very good player, very intelligent and very technical. He seemed to be a leader, not in a fist-pumping way but a leader in whatever team he was playing in so it looks like he could be well-suited for management. I do wish him well on a personal level – not on Sunday – but I do because when you see a fresh manager come into a job like that, I can understand the strains and the pressures of it.’
Arteta’s appointment increased the stock of Premier League managers in post who have strong affiliations to their club to almost half and Lampard acknowledged there are merits to knowing a club well when you are in charge. Yet those benefits tend to be short-term only and ultimately the quality of any manager will always shine through in the end.
‘I’m not sure if you looked at it across the board whether officially it helps but I’ve certainly found that it helped me knowing some faces behind the scenes, knowing the values of the club, what the standards and the wants are,’ he continued.
‘I think that can help certainly at the start in the early stages but after that it probably levels out and your work is your work.’
Our final contest of 2019 brings about a reunion with David Luiz, the defender who won six major honours across two spells at Stamford Bridge. Lampard has reiterated that there are no hard feelings between the pair and that the Brazilian’s switch across London was purely a football decision.
‘There are decisions you have to make and it was just a decision that was made,’ he explained. ‘While I’m here, I’ll be making countless more of those in different ways so that’s just what it is. I don’t want to talk too much going into a game against a player who I respect and played with.
‘If you look at our defenders and the emergence of [Fikayo] Tomori, that’s obviously been a big plus for us but I certainly wished David well when he left. He was part of a Champions League-winning team, he played with half a hamstring in that final and he got himself fit when he was under pressure with the injury so I will always respect that.’
A player who moved in the opposite direction across London has also been in the headlines in recent days but Lampard confirmed there was no update on Olivier Giroud’s future.
‘It’s still the same, he’s part of our squad and we’ll see when the window opens if anything happens,’ he added. ‘I know he’s commented this week but as I’ve said before, his professionalism and how he’s trained has been spot-on for me.
‘It’s purely been at times over the course of the season so far my selections and a lot of that has probably been Tammy’s form – he’s been one of the outstanding strikers in the Premier League in my opinion. That’s the way it’s been so when January comes, then we can officially start talking about it more.’
Mateo Kovacic will be available again after serving a one-game suspension against Southampton, while Mason Mount could be back in contention to start after suffering with illness in the build-up to the Boxing Day game. Marcos Alonso missed out and may also return but another full-back is unlikely to recover in time.
‘Marcos Alonso got a small muscle injury against Tottenham but hopefully he’ll be okay,’ revealed Lampard. 'Reece James probably won’t. He’s got an ankle injury and we need to look at it but I think it’s going to be a little longer.’