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Five things Lampard should focus on at Chelsea

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Frank Lampard has returned home to take charge of Chelsea, but what should be his top priorities at Stamford Bridge?

Super Frank no doubt has a longggg to-do list…

Lampard, 41, knows he will be given a little extra time compared to most given his legendary status as their all-time leading goalscorer and winning every trophy possible during his glittering 13-year career in west London.

But he must hit the ground running at his former club as Chelsea negotiate a 12-month transfer ban, the loss of Eden Hazard and all the while try to challenge for trophies domestically and in Europe, while at the very least finish in the Premier League’s top four.

Here’s a look at what Lampard should focus on.


Use club legend status sparingly

Lampard is called Super Frank by everyone connected with Chelsea for a reason. He won every major trophy possible during his incredible career at Stamford Bridge and nobody has scored more goals than him in the famous blue shirt.

He knows that he can’t rely on his legendary status as a player. And he shouldn’t if he wants to be successful.

“My playing career is over. I am now in a position to work really hard to be successful in,” Lampard said. “I don’t want to take credit for my playing career. It should last five minutes. I should be judged on what I do here going forward.”

That is the correct way to approach this. At times Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been a little too keen to bring up past achievements at United and relate them to his current role as the head coach. Lampard shouldn’t make that same mistake. His legendary status at Chelsea will be intact however his stint as manager turns out, but he must be careful to not harp on about the glory years too much.


Replace Hazard’s influence

Lampard has said it will be a team approach in replacing Hazard’s goals and assists, as the Belgian star departed for Real Madrid earlier this summer.

Willian, Pedro, Christian Pulisic, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be tasked with creating and scoring more goals, while Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham will both be key as the central striker to making this Hazard-less Chelsea attack tick. That is the right approach to take for Chelsea. Hazard scored 16 times in the PL last season, but Willian and Pedro scored just 11 PL goals combined. They have to do better, and others have to step up too.

Chelsea’s new manager was right to state that losing Hazard is a blow but he didn’t seem overly bothered about something that happened when he wasn’t at the club and he couldn’t control. Let’s hope Lampard doesn’t start rolling out the ‘well, we lost Hazard over the summer’ line when Chelsea have a few poor results in December…


Promote youth team players sensibly

There is a strong feeling that Lampard will usher in plenty of young players right away, but that could be a bad move.

Chelsea still have a lot of very talented experience players. N’Golo Kante, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Willian are key members of this squad and it should remain that way. But under Lampard the likes of Mason Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Fikayo Tomori will all be given chances to develop into first team players.

“Part of my job now is to develop the great young players we have here,” Lampard has noted.

But he knows that he needs his entire squad, many of whom he played with like Luiz, Azpilicueta and Willian, to buy-in to what he’s doing right away if this is going to go well in Year One.

“I want players that whether you are 18 years of age or 32 years of age, you feel like Chelsea is your club,” Lampard said. “My idea is to work with the best squad and to get the most out of them and be as competitive as we can be.”

Promoting youngsters for the sake of it helps nobody. Doing it sensibly while still being brave enough to chuck them in at the deep end must be Lampard’s mindset. He knows that his squad will be stretched to the limits and youngsters will play a big role this season, even if they don’t play the starring roles many expect.


Be strong enough to implement his philosophy

Lampard has played with some of the players he now manages and that does create an odd dynamic.

It is something which could get in the way of him being brave enough to stamp his authority on the dressing room. Yes, what he has achieved as a player will earn him plenty of respect from Chelsea’s squad but after a few poor results we will see what kind of character he is as a head coach. And we all know Chelsea’s dressing room is extremely strong when it comes to trying to impact the future of a manager.

With the experience of just one year as a manager, Lampard has to be strong enough to stand his ground and stick to his playing philosophy, as he did at Derby with a flexible 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond formations.

Asked during his opening press conference about his relative inexperience in management, Lampard gave a quite brilliant answer.

“I presumed that question would come quite early,” Lampard said. “I thought about it a lot. It’s an obvious question and I understand. In one year in management, you get the Chelsea job which doesn’t come around very often. Football is littered with stories of inexperienced managers who do spectacularly well and some who don’t, as well as experienced managers who do well or don’t. What I do believe in is that I played under a lot of fantastic managers and tried to glean whatever I could from them, and that stands me in good stead. I know a lot about this club but I have to prove it. I believe in myself and I have to show I am ready to manage this club. Be it with one year experience or 10 years of experience.”


Keep expectations realistic

Lampard said Chelsea should be “there or thereabouts” in terms of winning the Premier League title and although he says the board haven’t set a minimum target of finishing in the top four, he knows that it is expected.

Keeping realism is key for Lampard this season.

“There are variables, we know about the transfer ban and that Man City and Liverpool pulled away last year. We all have to be realistic about that,” Lampard said. “We should never stop trying to be there, as Chelsea, we are working to try to be there. It is important we start this season competitive and wanting to win.”

At Chelsea it has always been important to be successful and win trophies, and even if you are able to do that it wouldn’t guarantee you a long-term job.

With other factors impacting Lampard’s first few years in charge, he will get a little extra leeway. Even if he doesn’t want it.

“I am a realist. The last thing I want to do is ask for any favors going into something,” Lampard said. “As a manager you understand very quickly that you have to be successful.”

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

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Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM