Frank Lampard has lauded West Ham midfielder Declan Rice ahead of their clash against Chelsea on Monday (start time, 3pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), as he’s called for more ‘aggression’ from his side after back-to-back defeats.
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Chelsea have been linked with a $100 million move for Rice, 21, for much of the last 12 months as the defensive midfielder has been in sensational form for the Hammers and England.
Rice was released by Chelsea’s academy as a teenager and most of his close friends (Mason Mount et al.) are now playing for Lampard in the first team at Stamford Bridge, and there is a lot of love for the former Chelsea youngster.
“He’s a fantastic player for West Ham and England so fair play, because his journey there after leaving Chelsea and going to West Ham is a good story to hear,” Lampard said. “There are lots of stories like that and it shows the player’s strength of character. In terms of from our end, I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘regret’ – our academy is one of the best in the world and you look at our first team now with the players that we have produced who are in and around that squad.
“It’s not easy. It’s not an exact science to pick players but the academy staff do brilliantly here. Declan Rice has given himself personal credit for having the great start to the career that he’s had at West Ham.”
Lampard talking glowingly about Declan Rice will fuel further talk about a move for the England international in the upcoming transfer windows, as his defensive capabilities would add plenty to Chelsea’s defensive areas both in midfield and possibly at center back.
But the immediate focus for the Chelsea boss will be getting the Blues back on track after successive defeats saw them slip down the table.
More ‘aggression’ needed from Chelsea
Lampard suffered defeats on both occasions he faced his former team West Ham last season, and after losses at Everton and Wolves heading into this game, Chelsea have gone from being top of the table (momentarily) to sitting in eighth place and are nine points off leaders Liverpool.
How can they get back on track?
“There were some similarities [in the two defeats],” Lampard said. “Everton were more aggressive than us in the early part of the game and then very well organised to stop us creating like we normally do. With Wolves, I did not feel that aggression in the game but we did not add aggression after.
“We had a couple of days off which I think was important. I thought we looked tired in the Wolves game in the end. I felt two days off and a reboot was important. We then had three days into West Ham. Of course when you lose two matches, with the expectation, players will take two defeats as a bad thing and they need to react. It is about making sure we remember the good things we were doing before those two games and getting back to the basic rules of football.”
Rice will certainly give West Ham’s midfield plenty of aggression and Lampard will be urging his team to at the very least match the desire of the Hammers.
Chelsea have a lot of pressure on them after a summer of big spending, as Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have struggled a little in recent months. These next few weeks feel pivotal in deciding which way the season will go for Chelsea.