Frank Lampard has a radical idea for Chelsea’s trigger-happy hierarchy: give the next manager some time.
The Premier League club has been speed-dating coaches since Jose Mourinho left Stamford Bridge in September, 2007. Current interim boss Rafael Benitez is the seventh man to follow the Portuguese – and Benitez is out at the end of the season. He replaced Roberto Di Matteo last November, only six months after the Italian brought the club its first Champions League title. Speculation has it that Mourinho, presently at Real Madrid, is a candidate to make a dramatic return to London.
“Whatever the situation, it would be nice if a manager could come in and have a good crack at some consistency and stay in the job. We all understand we’ve had some interim managers and the fans and the club would probably be happier if we could get a manager who could stay for more than half a season, or for some period of time,” Lampard told reporters yesterday.
The 34-year-old midfielder weighed his words carefully – of course, he wasn’t about to deliver a stinging rebuke directly to owner Roman Abramovich, the decision-maker. Especially when the future of the possible MLS target remains uncertain despite yet another impressive season that leaves him two goals behind Bobby Tambling’s club record of 202.
Lampard has been a Chelsea player since 2001, a model of consistency and stability, but he is out of contract in the summer and the club seems uninterested in opening discussions before the end of the season. He has scored 12 Premier League goals in 2012-13 despite starting only 18 games. The fans would love him to stay, but like John Terry, the one-time mainstay is slowly being eased out of the line-up as Chelsea build around younger, faster players.
“The manager has changed the team around. I’ve only played a few games since [scoring against] West Ham [on March 17] and the manager put me in a deeper role,” Lampard said. So deep he’s often not even on the pitch: Benitez left him out of the high-profile FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City last Sunday. But should Mourinho come back to Chelsea, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t want Lampard to stay, since he was such a crucial part of the club’s Premier League title-winning teams in 2005 and 2006.
Chelsea face Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow – it’s a return to his old club for Benitez, who spent six years on Merseyside and won the Champions League in 2005, his first season there.
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.
“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”
There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).
We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.