Callum Hudson-Odoi

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Pulisic impressing Lampard with early preseason start

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Christian Pulisic has already shown his dedication to new club Chelsea by joining the club’s preseason tour of Japan earlier than expected, and it has made an impression on new manager Frank Lampard.

The USMNT star linked up with the squad just over a week after the Gold Cup final loss to Mexico, cutting short a vacation with his family to get as much time with his new Blues teammates and coaching staff as possible before the upcoming Premier League season. That has seen Lampard sing his praises, an important step in earning playing time amid a crowded but wide-open first-team Blues squad.

“Christian joins us on Tuesday when we get there,” Lampard said of Pulisic’s plans to join up with the squad in Japan, where they are headed after topping St. Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin, Ireland. “He is flying in separately as he has had short break but fair play, he wanted to get there quickly which I appreciate.”

“It is a huge move for him to a big club and he is a top young player who will only go one way. It was important we start the season as well as we can. I know we have injuries but we will need him. I have not met him, I have spoken to him, but it is a good impression.”

It’s a good thing that Pulisic is looking to make a mark on his new boss, because his competition is doing the same. Willian, who picked up a knock in the Copa America and did not play in the final against Peru, was not expected to make the trip to Japan at all, but is now set to link up with the squad.

Pulisic has been hard at work even during his post-Gold Cup week off, with his father posting a video of them training together on Twitter.

Chelsea is preparing for life without Eden Hazard, and Pulisic is certainly a big part of that. He will compete for time with Willian, Pedro, Lucas Piazon, and the currently injured Callum Hudson-Odoi, although the latter is potentially departing with Bayern Munich heavily interested.

Should Chelsea risk not selling Hudson-Odoi?

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With Chelsea likely unable to sign any new players this summer, the club’s biggest decision before the close of the European transfer windows in early September is whether it can hold onto one of its rising stars.

It took Maurizio Sarri months, but he finally moved Callum Hudson-Odoi into his Premier League starting XI, and it appeared to pay dividends, despite Bayern Munich reportedly hot on Hudson-Odoi’s tail. Unfortunately for Hudson-Odoi, he suffered a season-ending injury in mid-April, an Achilles tear that could keep him out from 9-12 months or more.

[READ: USMNT’s Novakovich scores for Reading]

However, the injury hasn’t deterred Bayern, which is reportedly raising its offer for Hudson-Odoi to $56.6 million, more than $12 million above the club’s last reported bid on January 31.

For a Chelsea club that isn’t spending like it used to, that’s quite a bit of money to bring in for a player who is rehabbing a very serious injury, and for all they know, won’t find the game-changing speed again, though there’s every chance he can make a full recovery.

In addition, it’s a decent sum and likely one of the best offers Chelsea may get while it have a chance. Hudson-Odoi is entering the final 12 months of his contract. Sarri urged him to stay at Chelsea, and Lampard has said in press conferences that he plans to meet with Hudson-Odoi to try and convince him to remain at Stamford Bridge. However, Lampard will have to wait a few weeks, as Hudson-Odoi is recovering at Chelsea’s practice facility in Cobham, south of London, and the club is heading out soon to Japan for preseason training.

By the time Lampard comes back in late July, will it be too late to convince Hudson-Odoi to stay, that he can have a Jadon Sancho-like impact in England as well? Or will Bayern have turned his head again?

It’s a big question for Chelsea, and they have to judge what his potential future value is and whether Bayern passes that. Due to the injury, it’s fair to say that Chelsea won’t expect too much productivity out of Hudson-Odoi this season, but in the future, if he returns to his previous speed and form, he could be a key member of the squad.

Perhaps Chelsea can let Hudson-Odoi leave and include a buy-back clause after one or two seasons, allowing Chelsea to re-purchase Hudson-Odoi at a spot lower than his market value.

But either way, Chelsea has a massive decision to make in the next 40 or so days, as Callum Hudson-Odoi’s future remains in the balance.

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.”

Derby owner: ‘Frank and Chelsea need to have time’

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Derby County owner Mel Morris says the club has begun the search for a new manager under the assumption that Chelsea will reach an arrangement with current boss Frank Lampard, who it has excused from preseason training camp.

The Chelsea legend was instantly linked with the club opening when Maurizio Sarri left Stamford Bridge to begin life at Juventus.

[ MORE: 3 things from USMNT’s win ]

Morris told TalkSport.com that he figured Lampard’s time at Chelsea would be a short one, just not a single year.

“As we’ve said before, when Frank and I first met we discussed this very eventuality, the only difference is the timing of this,” Morris said. “My belief at this point in time is that Frank and Chelsea need to have the time to finalise the transaction between them.”

Morris has been frustrated with Chelsea’s hiring process, though he’s a little calmer now as the situation has become clearer.

“You could say they’ve had plenty of time, but in fairness Frank was away on vacation – and a well-deserved one after a pretty tough season – and he didn’t come back until Friday, so I think that has been a big factor.”

Chelsea’s love for Lampard and its understanding regarding the club’s transfer ban will give it an extra level of patience for the young manager, but the club’s usual lack of patience with management is notable.

Lampard will not have Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi on long-term injuries, and Eden Hazard has left the club. Christian Pulisic returns from loan while Mateo Kovacic‘s loan was made permanent.

Transfer rumor roundup: Griezmann leaving Atleti, but not Madrid?

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A brief roundup of all the major transfer rumors sweeping their way across Europe and around the world, including the Premier League…

[ MORE: Friday’s transfer rumor roundup | Thursday | Wednesday ]

Perhaps Antoine Griezmann overplayed his hand six weeks ago when he took the curious step of announcing to the world that he would be leaving Atletico Madrid this summer. His next club was expected to be revealed in pretty short order, but still we wait. Not only has no transfer been announced, but the rumors that once linked Griezmann with a move to Barcelona have gone totally quiet.

So, here’s one of the best attackers in the world, stuck in no man’s land essentially without a club for the upcoming season. It’s a terrible predicament for the player to be in, but also the club whose prized asset appears to be depreciating in value — with no leverage whatsoever, don’t forget — by the day.

According to a report from French newspaper L’Equipe, Atleti are growing so desperate that they recently held preliminary talks over doing the unthinkable: selling Griezmann to Real Madrid. Additional talks are expected to be held in the not-so-distant future.

If the 28-year-old remains an Atleti player beyond this coming week, his release clause will increase by more than $90 million, from $136 million to $227 million.


Bayern Munich’s pursuit of Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi shows no signs of slowing up, despite the 18-year-old attacker suffering a ruptured achilles in April.

Having already had a bid — or bids — rejected by the Blues, Bayern made another offer for Hudson-Odoi. That bid, believed to have been just over $32 million, was also rejected, according to a report from the Guardian.

Bayern’s previous bids were all reportedly north of $40 million, but they see an opportunity to sign one of the world’s brightest attacking prospects for a cut-rate fee as he has just 12 months remaining on his current contract.

Hudson-Odoi is reportedly targeting a return to the field in September, at which point he will very quickly be asked to take on a significant load of minutes for the Blues who won’t be making any signings this season due to their two-window transfer ban.