Ahead of our return to Premier League action in the Midlands this weekend, Frank Lampard has spoken about the need for collective responsibility as we seek a return to winning ways, and also discussed his faith in captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
The Blues have had a fortnight to digest a home draw with Sheffield United last time out and Lampard explained how he has been using the time to reflect on our start to the season. The boss admitted there were areas for improvement but emphasised the need for this work to be taken on collectively, with a particular emphasis as a team on conceding fewer goals.
‘We’ve tried to address some things from the Sheffield United game with the group that were here during the international break and, as soon as the others were back, we were able to speak to individuals as well,' said the boss. 'We regularly sit down as a group to focus on different elements of the game.
‘It’s not a back four issue, it’s a team issue and it’s something we have to address across the board,’ he added about our defensive record, which has seen nine goals conceded in four league games. ‘We’ve obviously conceded more than we want to so it’s our job to put it right.
‘Some of the goals we’ve conceded have been either individual errors or us giving away possession which leads to the opposition scoring so we always try to look at both sides of the game.’
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One player who faced specific criticism from some quarters after our draw with the Blades is captain Cesar Azpilicueta. However, Lampard knows from his time as a team-mate of the Spaniard that the defender is more than capable of dealing with such scrutiny and has all the tools to come through any difficult spells.
‘I played with Azpilicueta and I know him very well,’ continued Lampard. ‘He’s the first player to stand up, which is the reason he’s captain because of that professionalism and attitude, and he’s been an incredible player for the club.
‘He will be more aware than anyone of his form but he’ll also be the first one who’ll want to address it and look to do that in every minute of training. He’s a big player for us, a great personality and I’m hugely behind him.
‘I remember countless times in my career playing with players who had these moments for whatever reasons and the top players come through it. Azpilicueta is a top player for us but I don’t think there are any major issues there. In the modern day, when all eyes are on you, people will react to any little mistake and players just have to put up with that.’
Lampard reported on Friday that Antonio Rudiger, Mateo Kovacic and Pedro were all in contention to feature at Molineux, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James played for our development squad last night. Options in the squad are increasing as injured players return, allowing for a greater choice in personnel and possibly system.
‘We have a lot of big players coming back who will really up our level because they’re going to compete to play,’ Lampard continued.
‘Azpilicueta is someone who played at times last season at centre-back and he played there in a three in the [Antonio] Conte era. Reece is also adaptable and so are certain other players so there can be interchanging of positions.
‘Reece can play in midfield, which he did at Wigan last season when he played the run-in as a holding midfielder, and he can play at centre-back and right-back so we have options.’
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However, our trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers comes too soon for N’Golo Kante, who continues to work towards a return from his longstanding ankle injury, as well as Emerson Palmieri, who limped off for Italy in midweek.
‘Emerson is not fit for tomorrow,’ reported Lampard, before going on to provide details on the fitness of another long-term injury absentee, Marco van Ginkel.
‘Marco is a long-term injury because he’s had some complications with knee surgery,' said Lampard. 'I feel for him because it’s not a nice place to be as a player when you have repetitive long spells out injured.
'His demeanour is as good as it can be, he’s at the training ground working every hour of the day and we'll give him time to get on with his rehab.’