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Lampard: Chelsea kids getting chance is ‘long time coming’

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While Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic was detailing his frustrations to our Joe Prince-Wright near the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, his manager was unwittingly showcasing why the American 21-year-old is up against it.

An unused sub for fourth time in five matches, Pulisic told NBC Sports Soccer, “It is not going to be easy here, but it was never going to be easy.”

It never was, but it sure has grown even more difficult than anticipated due to Lampard’s unique position.

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Taking over a club on a transfer ban and with a wealth of young English players in the fold, the legendary England midfielder is being lauded at every turn for using those young bucks on the Premier League pitch.

Remember, this has been amongst the top talking points in English football circles for some time, on a much bigger scale than it is in the United States, where analysts and USMNT supporters beg MLS clubs to “play their kids.” Just as New York Red Bulls having success with Academy talent is celebrated here, Chelsea is now challenging for a Top Four place with its youngsters on a globally-lauded scale.

This is a buffet dinner for pro-England pundits who’ve long declared the league a bit too foreign.

For Lampard, one of these youngsters is Mason Mount, who was at his side at Derby County last season as the first-year manager nearly led his team to the Premier League. Mount’s incandescent start to life at Chelsea has Lampard grinning ear-to-ear, likely validating years of, “Well, if I ever manage Chelsea.”

“It is great for the club and a long time coming,” Lampard said after Chelsea beat Brighton 2-0 on Saturday. “The work is done in the academy. The mentality is great. They want to play for this club. At the moment they are earning it and setting a level for others. I have complete confidence in the lads. They are there on merit. Whatever game they take it on board and long may it continue.”

Remember that Lampard’s time with the Three Lions was also a major source of controversy, as managers struggled to find the right fit between him and fellow generational midfielder Steven Gerrard.

Lampard knows what nurturing English talent means to individual clubs as well as the national team. He’s seen rivals Manchester United hailed for always having an Academy graduate in the 18, and heard the criticism of his beloved Chelsea for sending so many young English players on loan. It also probably didn’t help things when he came to MLS and was often criticized for his performances despite metrics saying he was well above average, but that’s a minor qualm.

Then, there’s this:

Not great, Bob. Not great.

Not only is Pulisic behind Mount and wonder boy Callum Hudson-Odoi, he’s also contending with two club heroes. Willian is one appearance away from 300 in a Chelsea shirt, more than a handful of those coming when he was a teammate of his now manager. Pedro was never Lampard’s teammate, but is closing in on 200 appearances in the shirt and has won the league and Europa League.

And here’s the thing, Lampard does rate Pulisic. He just thinks he’s not in the mix yet. The problem is that he sees two other youngsters as very much in the thick of his present and his future.

Lampard has called Mount “the cataylst for us getting in front with his sharpness. He was brilliant for me at Derby. I did not expect this level but he he is improving daily.”

He’s said Hudson-Odoi “can be central to this team and for England.”

Leaving aside Hudson-Odoi, who has just returned from a long-term injury, here are what the numbers say when comparing the other four wingers.

Whoscored.com/PlayerComparison

In this small sample size, Lampard is choosing the best producing player in Mount. He has more trust in Willian than Pedro which, while debatable, is at least understandable. And Chelsea is in the midst of an easy stretch of fixtures which won’t demand much chopping and changing if the current first-choice players handle their business.

Pulisic’s career resume and production are far superior to Mount and a notch above Hudson-Odoi, but he’s also the stranger in town and you’d be foolish to say that doesn’t matter. Look at the Chelsea stints of Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne, the latter of which lasted exactly a half season before a loan to Wolfsburg saw him immediately start to redeliver the goods.

That’s a possibility here, if we’re honest. This could just be a place of good club, decent move, wrong time. If Pulisic had gone to Manchester United, for example, he might’ve seen the same path as Daniel James: An injury to Anthony Martial and non-performing Jesse Lingard opened the door wide for the youngster. At Chelsea he’s in a young team with a lot of good wingers. The good news is that there are a lot of matches through Cups and Europe for him to showcase himself to both Lampard and the world. There could be a quick loan, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. He’s still the player we’ve seen torture CONCACAF and he’s only going to improve.

Here’s the other thing, though: It’s only been a dozen games and this could simply be down to form. Look at the above stats again; What’s bringing Pulisic down is his giveaways (times dispossessed) and bad controls per game. In the case of the latter, he’s even or better than Pedro and Mount. The difference is that Mount is producing goals.

The other thing is that Lille on Wednesday and Saints next Sunday. His chances will come, though they just won’t be in the quantity or quality (See: Town, Grimsby) as American fans would like. C’est la vie.

It’s also something to keep in mind from those quick to obliterate Pulisic’s move to Chelsea, which came when there was a different manager in charge of the team to boot. This is what happens at top clubs, and is why plenty of magnificent players take time to adapt to a new league, and that’s if they ever do; Henrikh Mkhitaryan had 23 goals and 32 assists in his final season at Dortmund, and combined for 22 and 24 between Arsenal and Manchester United. Just one example, but you get it.

The kid is going to be fine, and there’s a good chance he’ll be fine at Chelsea. But nothing that happens over the next three months is going to stop Pulisic from shining at the USMNT level. Heck, it may lead to a fresh, inspired Pulisic running all over CONCACAF in the Nations League and beyond.

But right now, he needs to weather a storm which is going to blow stronger and harder as a storyline one nation has always wanted runs straight into the one our nation has desperately sought for the United States’ best product yet.

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, team news, odds

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

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Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

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When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool have center back Joe Gomez back fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip and captain Jordan Henderson is also not fit to feature. Thiago Alcantara is not in the squad due to an minor injury, while new signing Diogo Jota is on the bench.

Arsenal have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which is a big boost. Gabriel, Bukayo Saka, Dani Ceballos and Sead Kolasinac all drop to the bench as Tierney, Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and David Luiz start. Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Scott Parker makes three changes as Tom Cairney, Tim Ream and Bobby Decordova-Reid start.

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)

Villa are unchanged from the team which beat Sheffield United last time out.


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Transfer news: Kante to Man United; Dest to Barcelona

Kante to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news N’Golo Kante to Manchester United is reported, while USMNT right back Sergino Dest to Barcelona is almost complete.

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Let’s take a look at some of the latest juicy rumors as we’re in the final week of the transfer window.


Kante to Manchester United couldn’t really happen… could it!?

N’Golo Kante is still among the finest holding midfielders in the world, which is why this report from the Daily Mirror seems particularly outlandish.

That said, Kante, 29, has been linked with a move away from Chelsea for most of this transfer window as the French central midfielder continues to be a man in demand. Per the report, Kante would have to take a pay-cut on his $385,000 per week wages.

Frank Lampard and Chelsea know that Kante’s value is extremely high, on and off the pitch, right now and they will also know his value may be at its peak. At times over the last 12 months he hasn’t quite been himself but he’s still been consistently excellent.

Is it time for Chelsea to cash in on Kante to help offset their incredible $300 million spending spree this summer?

Pretty much everyone who watches Chelsea knows this would be a bad idea. If you think Chelsea’s defending has been bad, think how bad it will be without Kante plugging as many gaps as he can in front of the defense. Chelsea fans everywhere are shuddering right now.

Kante to Manchester United would make sense for the Red Devils who still look badly imbalanced and need a destructive holding midfielder to get their dangerous attacking quartet of Rashford, Greenwood, Martial and Fernandes in the game more.

We would all be extremely surprised if Chelsea sell Kante to a direct rival, but stranger things have happened.

Sergino Dest to Barcelona almost complete

USMNT right back Sergino Dest to Barcelona is edging closer as the Dutch-American defender is said to have agreed personal terms with Barca.

Dest, 19, was chased by both Bayern Munich and Barcelona but his chosen the latter after Ajax agreed a $26.7 million fee with Barcelona.

Per a report from Sky Italy, Dest has agreed a five-year contract at Barcelona and will travel to Spain to complete the deal.

With Nelson Semedo sold to Wolves, Barcelona need a new right back and new head coach Ronald Koeman looks set to make Dest the first signing he has chosen. While manager of the Dutch national team Koeman wanted Dest to switch allegiances from the USMNT but he stuck with the nation he has played for throughout his youth international career despite being born in the Netherlands.

Dest will get plenty of opportunities to play at Barcelona and it will be intriguing to track his development.

Chelsea issue Pulisic injury update; Mendy debut?

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Pulisic injury update has arrived, as the USMNT star is edging ever closer to a return to action for Chelsea.

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The American winger, 22, injured his hamstring in the FA Cup final at the start of August and recently suffered a small setback as he tried to be ready for Chelsea’s opening game of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s League Cup fourth round clash at London rivals Tottenham on Tuesday, Frank Lampard has the latest Pulisic injury update as new signing Hakim Ziyech is on a similar path.

“Mendy and Chilwell are in the squad for tomorrow,” Lampard said. “They’re fit and we will see whether they start or not. Ziyech and Pulisic are not far away. They are still in their recovery stage so it’s too early for them both.”

It seems like Pulisic could be in line to play his first Premier League minutes of the season when Chelsea host Crystal Palace on Saturday (watch live, 7:30am ET).

This is good news for Chelsea and the USMNT, but also shows that Lampard is being cautious when it comes to the USMNT winger, just like he said he would be when asked last week.

“There’s always a concern about a player’s fitness when the history says there’s been some injuries. Last season we did have them with Christian, I was questioned many times on him, when he did and didn’t play,” Lampard said.  “Of course, when you look at a player with his recent record, you’re trying to find the right balance of getting the best out of him, which we saw in big periods last year, and making sure you don’t overcook him and leave him susceptible to injury.

“Particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance. It’s a fine line. We’re working on that and Christian’s also very open to that. He wants to play, he’s so hungry to play and he’s very nearly fit now, but it’s certainly something we have to manage with him this season. We’ve all seen the talent and it’s something we want to get right. I’m not saying it’s a fundamental, chronic issue because it’s not, but we want to get as many minutes out of Christian – the really great Christian that we saw lots of last season – on the pitch.”

Pulisic was given the No. 10 jersey over the offseason and Lampard is counting on him to repeat his incredible form during ‘Project Restart’ as he ripped opposition defenses apart.

With Kai Havertz and Timo Werner settling in, plus Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount all scoring in the comeback 3-3 draw at West Brom on Saturday, Lampard has a lot of attackng options. Pulisic should be his first-choice winger, though.

Focusing on his new first-choice goalkeeper, it seems like that will be new signing Edouard Mendy.

Lampard has been very impressed with the Senegalese goalkeeper during his first few days as a Chelsea player and he could make his debut against Tottenham.

“The early signs and the interactions as a man and also on the training pitch have been very positive,” Lampard said. “He’s settled in very well in those few days and we’ve made him very welcome. It’s competition, we know that. He’s a good goalkeeper, we know a lot about him, and we will see how we go.”

Chelsea are getting players back to full fitness and with Mendy set to make his debut and Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell now up to speed and Ziyech on the way, Lampard is close to having all of his new signings playing together for the first time.

That, plus the eagerly-awaited arrival of Pulisic, is great news for Chelsea.