Frank Lampard is keen to stress that he is not a dressing room dictator following the emergence of his fines system into the public domain last week, though he is adamant that discipline remains a big part of success in elite sport.
The disciplinary measures followed by the Chelsea squad, and related financial penalties, have initiated plenty of discussion in recent days. Some commentators have baulked at the hefty sums, which include a £20,000 fine for being late to training.
However, Lampard believes setting standards and building a culture in which team-mates respect one another is crucial in his vision for the early days of his reign at our Cobham training base.
‘I can understand it might sound harsh but it’s not harsh if you’re not late,’ he said with a smile. ‘My only concern when that list came out was that it makes it sound like I’m trying to be Mr Tough Guy, which I’m not.
'We spoke to the players, they were part of the process and I spoke to Cesar Azpilicueta as well to get his opinion so it was certainly a joint effort.
‘Discipline is an important thing. I want to be successful. I expect the players to look after each other on the pitch and when they train so I expect them to respect each other in terms of turning up.
'We arrive at 10am and we start training at 11am so if you’re late for training, you’re an hour and 15 minutes late and I think that’s quite a big deal if we’re preparing for a game against Man City the next day. I’m not here to be a dictator and make things difficult. We’re here to be successful as a football club and discipline is a part of that.’
Petr Cech, our technical and performance advisor, revealed in an interview this week that fines for breaching certain dressing room rules were not a new thing at Chelsea, and had been in place since he arrived at the club when Jose Mourinho was manager.
Mourinho has also been a topic of conversation this week following his appointment as the new head coach at Tottenham, although it was his recent comments as a TV pundit that Lampard wished to address in reflecting on Chelsea’s form and results against ‘Big Six’ opponents this season. The Portuguese said he was worried about our ability to beat those teams around us but Lampard feels just looking at the scorelines from those games can be misleading.
‘When you work as a pundit on television, you have opinions to make based on the way you see the game,’ continued Lampard. ‘As a manager, you can’t get too swayed by the opinion of others, even though I respect Jose completely. My worry is Chelsea, it’s not anybody else’s worry and it’s certainly not his worry, particularly not now.
‘When you look at the bigger games we’ve played, it can be quite loose to just look and see we haven’t won those games. Against Liverpool, anybody who watched closely could see we were possibly the better team in Istanbul [in the Super Cup final] and we were very unlucky not to get at least a draw at home. That’s against Liverpool, who as it stands are the best team in the country in terms of points.’
There are clearly no hard feelings between Lampard and his former boss, even though the two are now managerial adversaries in the capital, only respect and admiration.
‘I’ve talked a lot about that period with Jose and what he did when he came to the club was give me a real self-confidence,’ Lampard went on. ‘He had a lot of that in himself, we all see that and it’s still there now, but he had a really good way of transmitting that into his players.
‘He probably saw me as a bit of a project, or whatever it was, because I was slightly within myself at that point in terms of how much I believed in myself. He gave me great encouragement and also bonded a real team spirit at the club. We hadn’t won anything before and he wanted to make us winners so we all really bought into that. I think he’ll try to inspire his players [at Tottenham], just like we all try to do.’
Another current Premier League manager Lampard has the utmost respect for will be in the opposite dugout today. Pep Guardiola has guided Manchester City to back-to-back league titles and our boss remembers how tough his teams were to face as a player.
‘It’s a pleasure to look back on and have felt the quality of those teams,’ he admitted. ‘The feeling I always had at the Nou Camp and when we played Bayern Munich is that they would squeeze the life out of you off the ball so you had no time.
‘We spent so much time defending the quality they had and trying to deal with how they moved the ball so quickly and so well. When you talk about how you want to be as a manager, playing against those teams was certainly an experience to take forward.
‘We all recognise the quality of his Barcelona team in that period but we went toe-to-toe with them, which was a massive credit to us. In terms of the best teams I played against, they were absolutely right up there.’
Facing Guardiola as a manager will be just as difficult but Lampard will be hoping his Chelsea side can produce another special performance at the Etihad Stadium this evening.
Follow today's game on The 5th Stand app