Frank Lampard has set his sights on capping an impressive first season as Chelsea manager by leading the Blues to FA Cup glory against Arsenal on Saturday.
Lampard enjoyed four FA Cup final victories as a Chelsea player, but getting his hands on the first trophy of his nascent managerial career would be an even more significant moment for the 42-year-old.
Having led Chelsea into next season’s Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League, Lampard heads to Wembley surfing a wave of positivity.
It is a testament to Lampard’s acumen that, in just his second season as a manager, he has Chelsea positioned as an emerging force just 12 months after the club was in turmoil.
When Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge in June 2019 after one season as boss of second tier Derby, he carried the good wishes of supporters who idolised him during his glittering 13-year spell with the club.
But there were many pundits who doubted whether Lampard was the right man to get Chelsea back on track following the turbulent reign of Maurizio Sarri.
The taciturn Sarri fell out with several of Chelsea’s stars, alienating them with his monotonous training regime and inflexible tactics.
Fixing the fractures in Chelsea’s dressing room wasn’t the only problem facing Lampard, who also had to deal with the club’s transfer ban last summer and the sale of Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.
Even for an experienced boss, it would have been a daunting situation, but Lampard has risen to the challenge.
“There were a lot of unknowns when I came in, could we move forward without Eden Hazard? We knew we had lost a massive player,” Lampard said.
“We’ve a real spirit within the group now and it’s a real team effort now.”
With his hands tied by the transfer embargo, Lampard was compelled to give some of the club’s youngsters a chance to prove their worth.
That they responded so tenaciously and with such verve was a tribute to Lampard’s influence.
The energy and optimism provided by Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Fikayo Tomori gave the entire club a jolt of adrenaline.
A swaggering 5-2 win at Wolves in September served notice that Lampard and his young prodigies wouldn’t be out of their depth, while a mature 1-0 Champions League win at Ajax showed they could handle Europe’s elite.
Lampard’s midas touch hasn’t been restricted to the young guns.
He coaxed consistency from Willian and brought Olivier Giroud back into the fold after the French striker had appeared set to leave in January.
Exiled in the first half of the season, Giroud’s prolific form since the coronavirus hiatus – seven goals in 10 matches in all competitions – played a key role in Chelsea holding onto their top four berth.
“What we’ve done this season is take the opportunity to bring in the younger players and improve the existing players,” Lampard said.
At a club where owner Roman Abramovich dispenses with managers in ruthless fashion, Lampard showed he wasn’t intimidated by twice dropping error-prone goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga despite the club’s fears it could harm his future transfer value.
Lampard’s furious response to perceived antagonism from Liverpool’s coaching staff during their recent clash at Anfield was another sign he isn’t to be trifled with.
While Chelsea’s progress under Lampard has been undeniable, they still lost 12 times in the league for only the second time since Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
Unable to fix Chelsea’s defensive frailties and often frustrated by their lack of cutting edge, Lampard has been busy in the transfer market and more new signings are on the way.
Lampard needs Leipzig striker Timo Werner and Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech to hit the ground running next season.
He has also been linked with Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson, West Ham’s Declan Rice and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz as he tries to bridge the 33-point gap to Liverpool.
“The challenge now is to see what more we can do next season,” Lampard said. (AFP)
Juventus sacks its manager, Maurizio Sarri
Juventus have sacked its manager, Maurizio Sarri after just one year in charge, following Champions League defeat by Lyon.
Sarri came into the round-of-16 second leg under growing pressure over his tactics, style of play and his relationships with individual players, despite recently winning the Serie A title.
The 61years-old was brought in last summer to replace Max Allegri, who left to take some time away from football.
Maurizio Sarri was able to keep up the Juventus tradition of winning Serie A, leading the club to their ninth title in a row, but like so many before him he fell short in Europe.
Juventus were dumped out of the Champions League last-16 by Lyon on Friday evening with club president Andrea Agnelli saying they would take a few days to “evaluate” their options.
Meanwhile, former Juventus midfielder Zinedine Zidane is being linked to his old club. Zidane’s Real Madrid side were knocked out of the Champions League as well on Friday night but after the match Zidane said he will stay in Spain until it’s taken out of his hands.
“I am here. I am the Real Madrid coach unless something happens.” The Frenchman said after the defeat to Manchester City.
Mauricio Pochettino, who has been out of work since being sacked by Tottenham Hotspur in the autumn, is also being mentioned as a possible option.
Aside from those two reports are also saying that the club will consider Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi, Italian national team manager Roberto Mancini and the club’s former midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was recently hired as the team’s U-23 coach.
Man City Sign Bournemouth Defender Ake In £40m Deal
Manchester City have completed the signing of Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake in a deal worth an initial £40 million ($53m).
Ake has signed a five-year deal and becomes Pep Guardiola’s second major signing of the summer following the £21m ($27m) capture of Valencia winger Ferran Torres.
The deal represents a club-record transfer fee for Bournemouth, who could receive a further £1m ($1.3m) in add-ons for the Netherlands international.
Goal reported last week that the two clubs had agreed terms, and the 25-year-old has since returned from an end-of-season break to complete his medical and sign his new contract in Manchester.
Ake started his career at Chelsea, and the west London club did have a buy-back option, but it is understood that they were put off by the fee despite Frank Lampard considering him as a viable option.
“City have been the best side in England over the course of the last decade,” Ake told City’s official website.
“Coming here is a dream for me. This is a top side full of world-class players. Everywhere you look in this squad there are big names with international pedigree.
“Pep is a manager admired across the world – what he’s done in the game speaks for itself. The success he’s had is unbelievable and the style of football he plays really appeals to me.
“I know I’m going to have to work hard to get into the side, but that’s what I’m here to do. I’ll do whatever I can to make an impact and help the team win silverware.”
City have been in the hunt for a new central defender since the exit of captain Vincent Kompany in June 2019. They were interested in Harry Maguire but balked at the asking price for the England international, who eventually joined Manchester United in an £80m ($97m) deal last year.
Despite Bournemouth’s relegation to the Championship, Ake’s reputation has soared since he left Stamford Bridge in 2017. As well as being a homegrown player, he has experience of playing regularly in a back-three and can also provide cover at left-back. (Goal)
It Was An Honour To Play With David Silva — Kolo Toure
It was an honour to play alongside David Silva, according to former Manchester City defender Kolo Toure – who marvelled at how the Spain playmaker combined with his brother Yaya.
Silva will bring down the curtain on a 10-year City career when they conclude their 2019-20 campaign this month.
Friday’s Champions League last-16 encounter with Real Madrid, for which Pep Guardiola’s side hold a 2-1 advantage, could prove his final game in sky blue.
Silva won the first of his four Premier League titles in 2011-12, Toure’s penultimate season at the Etihad Stadium before joining Liverpool, while the pair featured in the 2011 FA Cup run that concluded with City ending a 35-year trophy drought.
“We called him El Maestro,” the former Arsenal centre-back told Stats Perform News. “He’s a fantastic player, technically unbelievable. I loved to play with him, especially with Yaya.
“All you had to do was pass them the ball. Yaya would come next to you, to get the ball, then Yaya would see David ahead and send the ball up quickly and the attack was on.”
Toure remarked upon how the diminutive Silva’s capacity to sharply read the game helped him to negotiate the physical demands of the Premier League.
“David doesn’t go to fight, he looks for gaps, for space to play between lines to help players,” he explained. “He doesn’t look for fights, he doesn’t need that. He just looks to help players. It was an honour to play with him.” (Goal)
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