Many factors are likely to come into play in deciding today’s encounter between Chelsea and newly promoted Leeds United, but one identified by Frank Lampard in the build-up to the game that could be important is the strong running ability of midfielders with the ball at their feet.
Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz were particularly prominent with that skill in Seville where the Blues won 4-0 in midweek, and Lampard frequently praised the former’s ball-carrying prowess last season, when he was named Chelsea’s Player of the Year.In fact the boss goes as far as to say he was envious of those with that quality during his playing days. Although he was renowned for his extraordinary endurance running and ability to arrive in dangerous areas at just the right moment, Lampard says his moving with the ball at pace was not at the same level.‘I didn’t have the speed to travel at the speed both those players can,’ he says when considering the performances of Kovacic and Havertz.
‘I worked on it and tried to, and it is important to cover ground when you can, as long as it is done in the right areas.‘I love the fact that when Kai drove forward for Oli’s first goal [against Sevilla], he then had the calmness to find the right pass for Oli, and that is something we can forever improve on - the idea of driving but then making sure the final pass is right as well, and those two did it very well the other night.’
Lampard explains why the importance of these particular skills might be highlighted against Leeds today.‘They have a man-to-man nature to how they defend and if you can take one man out of that you can travel quickly up the pitch. It is a great help and they really have the natural attribute to do that, so it is a balance in finding the right time to move the ball quickly or when space opens up.’