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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.”

Everton’s Gbamin undergoes surgery, out 3 months

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Everton’s lack of scoring prowess has stolen the headlines as Marco Silva‘s men have wasted a wonderful opportunity to start the season off in style.

But it’s been easy to forget that the Toffees have been without the man they bought to help offset the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye, perhaps their best player two years running, in the form of Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

[ MORE: Pogba, De Gea out ]

The Ivorian cost a reported $30 million this summer when he arrived from Mainz, and Everton won his only start before an injury sent him to the sidelines.

Gbamin has not suitably improved, and is now set for another three months on the sidelines thanks to surgery on his hamstring.

It’s a sock to the gut for a team already wallowing in misfortune. Now sitting 18th, as close to 20th as they are to 10th, it’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse for a team that held so much promise.

Everton hosts West Ham to kickoff the Premier League weekend at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday.

Pogba, De Gea ruled out for Man United v. Liverpool

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According to our partners at Sky Sports, Manchester United’s David De Gea and Paul Pogba will not play against Liverpool this Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

This is far from ideal for a United side already low in confidence after a dreadful start to the season.

De Gea injured his groin while on international duty with Spain on Tuesday as he injured an abductor while kicking a ball against Sweden in a EURO 2020 qualifier. He is expected to have a full assessment in Manchester on Thursday but isn’t expected to be available to play against Liverpool.

As for Pogba, he suffered a reoccurrence of his foot injury before the international break and has been training in Dubai on his own during the past week to try and speed up his recovery.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already been without Pogba, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for large chunks of the season so far, as Man United sit in 12th place in the Premier League table.

“No chance,” Solskjaer said of Pogba’s availability for the weekend. “Paul had an injury, then came back, worked really hard, played a couple of games. Maybe played through the pain barrier. We had a scan after the Arsenal game and he needed a few weeks rest in the boot. Hopefully he won’t be too long but he won’t make this game, no.”

Not having their star goalkeeper and central midfielder available for this clash with bitter rivals Liverpool is another huge setback for Solskjaer, as Sergio Romero and Fred will likely start in their place.

Martial, Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are all expected to miss the game against Liverpool too as Solskjaer will at least have a valid excuse if the Premier League leaders give United a hiding on Sunday.

Bulgaria’s coach apologizes to England; Popov slams racists

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Bulgaria’s coach Krasimir Balakov has apologized to the England national team after they were subjected to racist chants during their EURO 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday.

Balakov was previously bullish about racism in Bulgaria, stating before the game that England had a bigger problem with racism than Bulgaria.

Initially after the game he said he didn’t hear any racist abuse and during the match he got into a heated debate with Jordan Henderson about why the game was halted for a second time.

In a post on Facebook, Balakov apaolgized to the England players and offered his views on the racist incidents plaguing Bulgarian soccer as three of their EURO 2020 home qualifiers have now seen racist abuse from their home fans.

“I condemn unconditionally all forms of racism as unacceptable behavior that contradicts normal human relationships. I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and nobody should ever be subjected, Balakov said. “I trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different backgrounds and never judged anyone about the color of their skin. In addition, I have always actively participated in all initiatives involving unprivileged people or the needy.”

“My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria had no problems with racism are based on the fact that the local championship has not seen such a problem on a large scale. There may have been isolated cases, but it’s definitely not something you see in the stadium. The majority of football fans do not take part in such chants, and I believe that was also the case in the game against England. One thing I would like to say very clearly is that as the stadium in Sofia has reported cases of racial discrimination, I sincerely apologize to the English footballers and those who feel offended.”

That is what Balakov should have said right after the game.

The cynics out there may also say he is only issuing this apology now after Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borissov, asked for the president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign.

Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA England boss Gareth Southgate sharing his concerns over previous racist incidents in Bulgaria, resigned on Tuesday.

After Bulgaria’s goalkeeper said England’s players “overreacted” in regards to the racist abuse hurled their way, their captain, Ivelin Popov, handled himself remarkably well throughout this sorry situation for Bulgaria.

Popov was seen remonstrating with home fans at half time in order to get them to stop the abuse, and he was praised by Marcus Rashford and others for his reaction.

“Of course I feel embarrassed. We are 11 v 11, it doesn’t matter your color, it’s no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football, everybody and only we, if we are together, can we stop these bad things,” Popov said. “It was important that I spoke like this because it’s a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game.

“We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody. But when you start to speak to them, afterwards they understand. I think in the second half was better.”

Sergio Aguero unhurt after car crash

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Manchester City and Argentina star Sergio Aguero has escaped a car crash unscathed.

Aguero, 31, was involved in the incident on Wednesday morning but didn’t need to go to hospital and instead reported for training as usual with Man City.

Photos showed Aguero’s Range Rover badly damaged, as he posted photos of his car on his own Instagram page later on Wednesday.

The reigning Premier League champions head to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as they aim to momentarily reduce Liverpool’s eight-point lead atop the table.

Aguero will likely be leading City’s line at Palace, as the Argentine striker has been in sensational form this season (even if City’s defensive line hasn’t) with eight goals in the opening eight games of the PL campaign.

Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer was previously involved in a car crash in Amsterdam in 2017, something which Pep Guardiola didn’t seem too pleased about at the time as Aguero had travelled to the Netherlands to attend a music concert.

This incident was a minor one and City will be thankful that Aguero is fine and able to lead what they hope is a very successful few months to put themselves back in contention for a third-straight Premier League title.