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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.

Bale present for Real Madrid preseason training

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Real Madrid opened preseason training on Monday with some fresh new faces, including new signings Eden Hazard, Rodrygo and Luka Jovic.

Yet there was one person in attendance that some presumed wouldn’t have been around the club anymore: Gareth Bale.

[READ: Berhalter: USMNT lacked “some composure”]

The Wales international arrived at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training facility in the Spanish capital for the start of preseason training and first-day medical evaluations.

Bale heads into potentially his seventh season with Los Blancos, yet he’s in an interesting situation. The club doesn’t want him anymore, as coach Zinedine Zidane doesn’t trust Bale to execute his tactical plan week in, week out. And yet, with three years left on his contract, earning a reported $22.8 million per season, Bale sees no financial reason to leave.

That’s left Real Madrid stuck with a player it doesn’t want but one that it has to pay the wages of.

Tottenham has reportedly in the past reached out about potentially bring Bale back on loan, but with Real Madrid covering the wages, something Real Madrid has balked at.

Yet with Bale’s past season, scoring just eight goals in 29 La Liga games and again struggling at times with injuries, there’s few teams who would be willing to spend that kind of money on Bale. As such, the two sides are playing chicken, with Bale apparently ready to see out the rest of his contract, even if it means he’s a bit-part player or doesn’t play at all.

With the signings of Rodrygo and Hazard, as well as the emergence of Vinicius Jr., Bale is suddenly down to fourth in the depth chart as a winger, and falling fast. But he may not care. Even if he’s 33 when the contract runs out (he turns 30 on July 16), he can ride the pine in Madrid, earn enough money to make sure his great great grandchildren are well off, and perhaps retire into the sunset.

Of course, this does no good to the Wales National Team, which will lose its talisman and star player well before the end of his physical capacity to be a great player ends.

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.”

Frank Lampard takes charge of Chelsea

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Super Frank is home.

Chelsea officially unveiled Frank Lampard as their new manager on Thursday, with the legendary Blues midfielder signing a three-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri.

Lampard, 41, has only had one year in management since retiring in 2016 but the 2018-19 campaign was pretty successful as he led Derby County to the playoff final on a shoestring budget, where they lost 2-1 to Aston Villa to narrowly miss out on promotion to the Premier League.

Speaking about his return to the club where he spent 13 years, winning every trophy possible and becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer, Lampard was understandably chuffed.

“I am immensely proud to be returning to Chelsea as head coach,” Lampard said. “Everyone knows my love for this club and the history we have shared, however, my sole focus is on the job in hand and preparing for the season ahead. I am here to work hard, bring further success to the club and I cannot wait to get started.”

Lampard has a huge job on his hands to cement Chelsea’s place in the top four of the Premier League, as well as make a deep run back in the UEFA Champions League this season.

With a transfer ban for the next two windows currently in place pending their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it looks like Lampard will not have any new players to work with until the summer of 2020.

Plus, with Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid over the summer, Chelsea have lost their superstar who dragged them through games and won them trophies over the past seven years.

Lampard’s main aim will be to develop the young stars Chelsea have in abundance but have been loaned out in huge numbers recent years. With the transfer ban in place and Lampard having worked with a handful of these youngsters while they were on loan to him at Derby last season, he and his coaching staff (which includes former Chelsea U18 head coach Jody Morris) know all about these young stars.

And when you look at the players who are still at Chelsea, plus the arrival of Christian Pulisic, Lampard has plenty of top quality internationals to work with, but he will need time, at least two seasons, to turn Chelsea into title contenders again. Let’s see if his status as one of the greatest players in Chelsea’s history grants him a bit of extra slack from their notoriously ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.

Even though it may be extremely tough to finish above Liverpool or Manchester City this season, going toe-to-toe with Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United for third and fourth place is very doable.

A legend has returned to the bridge and it seems like Lampard will get the time he deserves to guide Chelsea through a tumultuous 12-month period coming up.

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.