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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.

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.”

Reports: Lampard to be confirmed as Chelsea manager Thursday

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It appears only the official club announcement on its website and multiple social media platforms is all that stands between Frank Lampard becoming Chelsea’s new manager.

Multiple outlets in England reported Wednesday evening that Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge late in the afternoon to put the finishing touches on his contract. He likely also took part in a photo shoot and interviews that are all expected to be released on Thursday. One report claimed that Lampard’s announcement as manager was delayed because Facebook and Instagram were experiencing technical difficulties on Wednesday, although it’s not clear that that was the the case.

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The move has seemed inevitable since Derby County officially granted Chelsea the right to speak with Lampard about the Blues open managerial position.

As Chelsea is about to kick off its preseason training, it’s been without a coach since Mid-June, when Maurizio Sarri left the club to take the Juventus job.

Lampard comes with just one season of managerial experience, his last season at Derby where he led them to the Championship Playoff Final, but he wasn’t able to see his side promoted to the Premier League.

The Guardian reports that Lampard has received assurances he will be given time to mold the squad to his liking, especially with an expected transfer ban to be in place this summer. The ban, issued by FIFA and currently being litigated in the Court for Arbitration of Sport, could potentially last through June 2020.

The hiring of Lampard is a big departure from the more recent trend of hiring experienced managers, with Sarri, Antonio Conte, Rafa Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti all bringing tears of experience with them.

However, Lampard’s preferred high-pressing style he displayed with Derby could fit with a younger Chelsea squad were expected to see this season, as older players like Willian and Pedro could leave entering the final years of their contracts.

Lampard will be given time and trust by the fans, but it remains to be seen how they’ll feel if Chelsea is sitting in tenth place after the first three months of the season, for example.

Brazil needs penalty kicks to oust 10-man Paraguay (video)

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Alisson Becker was the hero in penalty kicks after hosts Brazil failed to break down 10-man Paraguay at the Copa America on Thursday.

Paraguay eliminated Brazil from the 2011 and 2015 editions of the tournament in penalty kicks.

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Brazil outshot Paraguay 26-5, and will face the winners of Argentina and Venezuela in the semifinals.

Gatito Fernandez made 13 saves in the loss.

Fabian Balbuena’s 58th minute red card complicated the matter for Paraguay, but the underdogs held out for kicks.

Alisson saved the first penalty of the round, and Willian gave Brazil its advantage.

Roberto Firmino slapped a right-footed shot wide, but Derlis Gonzalez did the same and Brazil held on for a semifinal spot.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: United nearing Wan-Bissaka capture, way off on Lukaku sale

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Manchester United has understandably been busy this summer, and while they have yet to secure any players officially, they have been linked with countless potential targets. One player the Red Devils have been connected with for weeks is Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and it appears they are coming ever closer to completing a deal.

The 21-year-old, on duty with the England youth side at the U-21 Euros, is nearing a switch to Old Trafford according to multiple reports in England. The Daily Mail says the two sides have agreed on a deal worth roughly $54 million, significant as just last week there were reports that Crystal Palace had thus far rejected Manchester United’s approach worth $44 million alongside a massive add-on total.

The early elimination of the England U-21 side from the European tournament could see this deal get done sooner than expected, as the youngster will be making his way home earlier than the side had hoped.


While Wan-Bissaka is rumored to be on his way in, Romelu Lukaku is reportedly looking for a way out, although that may have hit a snag as Manchester United is apparently not ready to let the Belgian go for cheap.

According to reports in Italy, talks between Manchester United and Inter regarding Lukaku’s valuation have so far been unproductive, with the Premier League side asking for no less than $97 million while Inter is still a solid $28 million behind that total. With such a gap in price, it’s unlikely anything will get done soon, if at all.

The Italian club is looking to replace Mauro Icardi who is set to leave after a tumultuous season resulted in a breakdown in his relationship with the team. Lukaku has been unsuccessful in recapturing his blistering Everton form at Manchester United and could be the one to replace Icardi at Inter, but with three years left on his Red Devils contract the English side is not forced to let him go for a value below their price tag.

The reports suggest that Inter could include Icardi in a swap deal, but also say that could take some convincing as the Argentinian striker is not currently interested in moving to Old Trafford.


The Serie A striker merry-go-round continues as Lorenzo Insigne could be moving on from Napoli, and while he could potentially serve as an Icardi replacement if a Lukaku deal cannot be struck, but there’s also apparently significant competition from abroad.

Atletico Madrid is hoping to replace Antoine Griezmann with a top-level striker after the Frenchman departed the Spanish side for Barcelona. Insigne, who struggled with injuries and poor form through the second half of last season. According to Italian tabloid Corriere dello Sport, Napoli would be willing to let Insigne leave but not for less than $80 million.

Insigne scored 18 Serie A goals in the 2016/17 campaign for Napoli as the club challenged for the title and finished third, a point back of Roma and five behind Champions Juventus. However, he’s only managed to match that goal total across the next two seasons combined, bagging 10 goals last season and only three from the second week of November on. There are rumblings that Insigne

With rumors of a swoop for either Hirving Lozano or James Rodriguez, Napoli is clearly looking to bolster its attacking depth and Insigne could be a casualty of that transfer activity.


Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t purchased a single player in over a year, but that could be about to change.

While there’s nothing concrete yet from more reliable sources, tabloid reports in England suggest that Spurs is nearing a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke. The Premier League side has been linked with Clarke for months now, and the 18-year-old slowly gained more playing time as the Championship season plodded along.

Now, with Leeds missing out on promotion, it could be time for the 18-year-old to make the jump, as Spurs could be ready to pay $19 million for the York-born winger. With links to Fulham teenager Ryan Sessegnon over the last few months as well, it’s possible that Mauricio Pochettino could be looking to inject some youth into the side, especially on the flanks.