Shortly before heading north for tomorrow’s game against Manchester United, Frank Lampard spoke to the media via videolink to look forward to what is always a big fixture in the football calendar.
The boss was pleased to report a ‘pretty clean bill of health’ for the trip, with Kepa the only recent addition to the injury list because of a shoulder problem. Lampard confirmed Petr Cech will not be involved in a playing capacity, with Billy Gilmour the only other absentee.
Man United’s last home game was a 6-1 defeat to Tottenham, but they have since responded with two wins, most impressively away to Paris Saint-German in midweek. It was put to Lampard their recent results have summed up the unpredictable nature of the campaign so far.
‘We can talk about certain games where big teams have conceded a lot of goals, or there have been big turnarounds in games, but I’m not interested in that,’ said Lampard.
‘Man United are a very good team, we played them enough last year to know that, and I’m not concerned with what might have happened in games before.
‘There’s been an uncertainty within life and the game which has brought about the unpredictability we have seen in the early stage of the season, but we only have to focus on ourselves.
‘We have belief in this squad. We will see how things level out as the season goes on. I don’t want to predict how it might look like when we are this early into the season.’
Lampard was asked if this fixture still feels like a really big one
‘It certainly does, as it should do. We played them a lot last year. They are a quality team with quality individuals and quality organisation, and we saw that in Paris in midweek.
‘Everything is very close in the league at the moment, so it’s an opportunity to get some hard-earned points, but it will be very tough.
‘Of course the games against teams around you are great for confidence if you can play well and get a result, but over the course of a season there’s a lot more to it. There are points you can grind out which we were not so strong at last season at home. That affected our league position, but when you come up against a big competitor it is great to win the game.’
Lampard considered the significance on the midweek shutout against Sevilla
‘A clean sheet always gives confidence. That’s great, but it’s very simplistic to look at games and say ‘that game you conceded so these things are all wrong’ and ‘that game because it was a clean sheet these things are all right’.
‘My job is to constantly analyse what was good and what was bad. Some parts of that game off the ball were not as good as I wanted them to be. Our defending in the box and our resilience certainly was. That really pleased me.
‘We were really good as those finer details off the ball last year, in terms of when we set how hard we worked to win it back, the pressure we put on teams. That wasn’t how we were conceding goals, we were conceding goals in other ways we were very aware of.
‘I’m happy with the clean sheet and we keep going.’
Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy spoke to the media yesterday about some of their difficult times in football, and Lampard explained why their stories can help the dressing room
‘When I look at the squad I want to help grow the ideas of leaders and personalities within the group. Over the course of a long, difficult season there will be moments when you rely on them to help you in tough times, and to push the good times along.
‘You can’t get on in any elite sport without people with personality and character in the team. I have seen that in Hakim and Edu Mendy as soon as they came through the door.
‘Hakim has confidence about him, his fitness is coming individually, he still needs a bit of time to get his match fitness now his injury is cleared up, but both of those will be great additiosn on that front. I encourage personality and communication between the players, we need more of that.’
Ziyech has come off the bench the last couple of games after the injury he suffered in pre-season
‘It’s been very difficult to integrate him. We have a bubble here at Cobham so we can’t play against the Under-23s or bring over a lot of kids to replicate 11 v 11 games on big-sized pitches, which is generally where you would want someone to be working when they’ve not played for five or six months off.
‘We miss that and we have to find the right way to give Hakim and others in the squad minutes as quickly as we can.’