Did Frank Lampard deserve to get sacked by Chelsea?

The big news in the Premier League over the last few days has been the sacking of club legend Frank Lampard. Lampard was sacked after Chelsea fell to 9th place and the Chelsea board could seemingly take no more.

Lampard lasted 18 months in the job and one has to wonder have Chelsea made the right choice in sacking him, or have they reacted too quickly? After all in his debut season with the club in the dug out he did manage to qualify for the Champions League as the Blues finished in 4th place. He also guided the team to the FA Cup final, although they eventually lost to Arsenal.

This season Chelsea were brilliant in the Champions League group stage and qualified with ease for the knock out rounds in February where they will play Atletico Madrid. In the FA Cup they have made it to the fifth round this past weekend as they beat Luton 3-1, this was incidentally Lampard’s last game in charge of the club.

But it’s the league where the problems mount up for Lampard’s Chelsea side. The club spent big on players last summer over £200m was spent bringing in the likes of Ben Chilwell, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. Chilwell has been superb and fitted right into the club. Ziyech has looked quick but has also faced some injuries and Werner has looked lost, confused and puzzled. He has been a huge disappointment.

It has been reported that behind the scenes lies problems, players feel they are not being coached very well and Lampard isn’t up to the job. Of course it is one thing being a superb player for the club but quite another at managerial level. Perhaps the problem in this whole matter is that Lampard was not experienced enough to manage a club side like Chelsea?

One has to ask would Chelsea have appointed a manager who has only had 1 season with Championship side Derby County on his resume? Therein lies the answer as to why everything hasn’t turned out as Chelsea had hoped. It also goes to show that even though Lampard spent 14 seasons at Stamford Bridge and knows Chelsea inside and out, managing players who also may have had egos is a difficult task.

Chelsea do not give the best managers a chance if failure looks like it is creeping up, the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have been sacked in the past, so Lampard’s number looked up a few weeks ago. Though how odd is football sometimes because it was only 8 weeks ago that the Blues had gone 2 months unbeaten in all competitions and were challenging for the title.

Ultimately Lampard wasn’t able to get the best out of his players, but Chelsea are to blame too for going in for an unexperienced manager, their though process only concerned with the fact that he used to play for the club. New players coming into the team don’t care about the past when they were still teenagers, only the now and the relationship simply didn’t work out.

After spending huge sums though one has to wonder what Chelsea thought would happen this season. A league title? surely not. As any team who has bought so many impact players knows, it always takes some time for the players to gel and click by that time any league chance has gone. Did Chelsea really believe that they would fly past Liverpool and Manchester City, if so that seems like wishful thinking.

At the flipside of that the club were not expecting to be 11 points behind either. Chelsea are 5 points from 4th place and that would have been taking into account too.

Sadly for Lampard Covid-19 and the impact it has made on football hasn’t been taking into account. Chelsea may have won more games at home with fans and the players may have reacted more positively. The pandemic has turned football on its head and we have seen some interesting results to go along with that. There have also been more away wins than any other season, that can’t just be a coincidence.

In an ideal football world Lampard would have been given more time, perhaps until the end of the year if not end of this season. However, if as expected, he had lost the dressing room then there is only one solution for that and that was his sacking. One has to wonder what the future now holds for Lampard? And who knows maybe the club legend will return back in the dugout after gaining years of experience coaching elsewhere.

As for Chelsea they have brought in Thomas Tuchel the ex PSG coach and who knows what will happen there. Tuchel is a good character and of course with PSG had to put up with plenty of egos. But he hasn’t been in this position for a long time where his team are not challenging for honours so it will be fascinating to see how he takes to the job.

Also Tuchel being German might be able to train Timo Werner better and install some confidence in him, let’s see if Werner becomes the striker we all thought he would be in the Premier League.

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Premier League Game of the Week: Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United

Chelsea made it 9 games in all competitions without defeat as they demolished Sheffield United 4-1 at the weekend.

It was a huge win for Frank Lampard’s side who have now moved up to 5th place in the table with 15 points and are only three behind the current league leaders Leicester.

This was always going to be an important season for Chelsea where the pressure would be mounted on Lampard who was given a ‘pass’ in his debut season with the club. That pass was still justified as Lampard steered the club into Champions League qualification, but finishing 4th in the season without any trophies usually doesn’t cut it at the Blues anymore. Given funds to spend this summer, Chelsea will be expecting more and the early signs are looking good, for example with 20 goals scored already Chelsea have netted the most goals for a Premier League club.

As for the game you talk about pressure on Lampard but spare a thought for Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder. His side were a constant thorn in some of the big teams last season and pulled off some magnificent results along the way to finishing 9th with 54 points. But the Blades entered this game in the bottom three and had lost six times already with no wins.

The surprise of the match then was when the away side opened the scoring. David McGoldrick scored his 2nd goal of the campaign and from Chelsea’s perspective it looked incredibly hard to keep out. The ball was crossed in and an initial shot went wayward but fell to McGoldrick like a ball in a pinball machine and he slotted home before anyone could really react.

What happened next was the reaction that Chelsea showed which spoke volumes- they believed the goal was lucky and they played calm and assured football almost as if they knew if they stuck with their game plan they would get themselves back into it. Lampard had opted for an attacking 4-3-3 and that meant Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech were pushed up front. And 14 minutes after United had taken the lead it was 1-1 through Abraham who had connected onto a Mateo Kovacic pass.

Chelsea took the lead 11 minutes later through the impressive Ben Chilwell who has really fit straight into the side after his move from Leicester in the summer. Chilwell was the last man on the post to turn it in after a terrific pass from Ziyech. The half ended with Chelsea in front by 2-1 and the London club had 5 shots on target and almost 70% of possession.

As the 2nd half went on Chelsea dominated and the game never looked like going 2-2, this was confirmed in the 77th minute when another Ziyech assist set up Thiago Silva who glanced in his header to score his first goal for Chelsea, and it was a goal that effectively wrapped up the game at 3-1.

But Chelsea were not finished and just three minutes later they added a fourth through Timo Werner who smashed home an easy chance. The German international has started to show his qualities lately and that was his 4th goal of the league campaign.

 

The Blues had 11 goal attempts in the second half alone and one of their stand out players at the weekend was Ziyech and Lampard was full of praise for their new Moroccan signing. “He gives us a different style in terms of the left foot off the right side. It’s not something we’ve had much of in recent years. The ability to find the last pass or the last cross, to break teams down with a low block. We saw that today, we clearly saw that today.”

Chelsea’s leading pair of players in the fantasy rankings are Ben Chilwell and Kurt Zouma who have 24 points each.

Sheffield United are having a woeful season and that defeat has left the club at the bottom of the league. As for Chelsea though the sky looks like the limit. After spending big in the summer it seems that the team have really clicked now, and after the international break they will play Newcastle away from home where they will be going for their 10th unbeaten game in all competitions.

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Premier League: Best 11 Players of the Weekend: Matchday 7

Champions Liverpool are back in 1st place after their rivals Everton lost their 2nd game in a row. Tottenham have been in good form lately and have moved up to 2nd and Gareth Bale scored the winner for them in an emotional game for the celebrated Welshman.

Arsenal recorded a rare victory at Old Trafford and Manchester United are in 15th place and struggling. Presently the best form team in the Premier League is Southampton who have notched up 13 points from their last 15.

Let’s take a look at the in form players, did any of your players make the final cut at the weekend?

Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno- Arsenal 7pts

Arsenal recorded their first league win at Old Trafford in over 10 years and goalkeeper Bernd Leno was able to help keep a clean sheet even if Manchester United didn’t have too many chances on goal. A huge away win for the Gunners.

Defender: Kurt Zouma- Chelsea 9pts

Chelsea’s form is picking up and Kurt Zouma led a defence that kept a clean sheet in 3-0 win over hapless Burnley. Zouma scored the 2nd goal which in truth killed the game off as Chelsea eased to a victory soon after. Zouma has been outstanding for the club so far this season and has a total of 24 points already.

Defender: Kyle Walker- Manchester City 9pts

A perfect game for Kyle Walker who in defence kept a clean sheet as Manchester City beat Sheffield United 1-0 away from home. And that winning goal came from Walker himself.

Defender: Rayan Ait Nouri- Wolves 9pts

Rayan Ait Nouri was the unlikely player for Wolves who opened the scoring as the club beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at home. Ait Nouri also maintained the back line well and helped to earn extra points by keeping a clean sheet. He is valued at 5.5m.

Defender: Thiago Silva – Chelsea 5pts

With Chelsea conceding a few goals at the start of the campaign it is important to see this version of the club who have now gone their last 2 games with no goals conceded. A part of that reason is down to veteran Thiago Silva who, after missing the beginning of the season, is fitting well into his role with the Blues.

Midfielder: James Ward-Prowse- Southampton 9ts

James Ward-Prowse in on fire and the midfielder has made it into the best 11 team for the 2nd week in a row. He did get booked which lost him points, but he hit back by scoring 2 goals as Southampton won a thriller at Villa park beating Aston Villa 4-3.

Midfielder: Hakim Ziyech- Chelsea 8pts

Frank Lampard had been talking Hakim Ziyech up before this game and the player did not let him down as he scored his first goal for the club with the opening goal as Chelsea beat Burnley 3-0 away from home. Ziyech then assisted for Chelsea’s last goal in a man of the match winning performance from the former Ajax man.

Midfielder: Jack Grealish- Aston Villa 6pts

Aston Villa have lost 2 games in a row and they were defeated 4-3 against Southampton at the weekend. But Jack Grealish gave it his all. At 4-0 down he set up Tyrone Mings to pull one back and then scored in injury time as Villa tried to make an incredible comeback but time simply ran out. Still Grealish earned more points.

Midfielder: Daniel Podence- Wolves 6pts

Daniel Podence is valued at 7.5m and has 16pts so far this season and six of those points were earned at the weekend as he grabbed Wolves’ 2nd goal of the game and his first of the season as his club overcame Crystal Palace by winning 2-0.

Striker: Callum Wilson- Newcastle 7pts

Callum Wilson was too hot to handle for Everton as Newcastle beat them 2-1. Wilson has scored six goals this season already and he scored a brace at the weekend. He did lose points as he was booked early on.

Striker: Danny Ings- Southampton 4pts

Quite a few strikers finished the weekend with 4 points but Danny Ings gets the nod after working so hard as the Saints, the best in form side in the league went to Aston Villa and won 4-3, they were 4-0 up at one point. Ings got on the score sheet too and scored the 4th goal which would turn out to be the winning goal.

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Summer Shopping: Serie A’s Top Five Targets

With the year winding down to a close, most Serie A sides already have one eye on the summer transfer window. While this past season may not have gone to plan for most of Serie A’s elite, a majority of them are just a couple of additions away from being serious competitors. Here’s one player for each of the league’s top five. For brevity, Atalanta and Lazio among others have been excluded.

1) Juventus: Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

After yet another European failure, it’s time Juventus address their midfield issues once and for all. Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele is among world football’s hottest prospects in the middle of the park, and has demonstrated he’s ready to play for a bigger club. Just this season, NDombele went head-to-head with both Barcelona and Manchester City’s deep midfield ranks, and did not look one bit out of place.

Just recently, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas came out and said he’d willingly sell NDombele to Juventus ahead of other suitors, provided “his friend” Andrea Agnelli pays up. The Frenchman would slot in seamlessly alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, however, it remains to be seen if NDombele is a concrete target for Juventus.

2) Napoli: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) 

The Ajax midfielder may not get as much credit as his fellow compatriots Frenkie de Jong, and Matthijs de Ligt, but he’s proven to be just as important for them between the lines. van de Beek burst onto the scene this season, and emerged as a essential aspect to Erik ten Hag’s tactical schemes, roaming between the opposition’s lines at will, and getting himself into dangerous scoring positions. Outside of his crucial goals against Juventus and Tottenham, van de Beek is good with the ball at his feet like most Ajax graduates, and would slot in wonderfully into Napoli’s midfield.

Since Hamsik’s departure, the partenopei have lacked a driving force in the midfield, and van de Beek could prove to be exactly what’s needed. Alongside Fabian Ruiz, expect the Dutchman to wreck havoc. Napoli could also use a fullback, but that goes without saying.

3) Inter: Timothy Castagne (Atalanta)

Inter are one of the most well-rounded outfits in Serie A outside of Napoli and Juventus, and don’t require much tweaking this summer. With Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martinez up top, and the trio of de Vrij, Skriniar and Godin at the back, Inter are simply lacking a manager to put it all together. Should Antonio Conte arrive as it’s being reported, he will undoubtedly field a back three, with his traditional wing-backs in a 3-5-2 setup.

With both the back-line and strike partnership more or less sorted as well as the midfield, Inter could use another wingback as they are unlikely to redeem Vrsaljko or Cedric. Here’s where Atalanta’s Timothy Castagne comes in. The Dutchman has been a key element to Gasperini’s side over the years as a wing-back, and is a traditional Conte player. Castagne’s play is eerily reminiscent of a prime Stephan Lichtsteiner, however, blessed with more end-product. As a result, I expect him to become a priority for Marotta, whether or not Conte arrives.

4) Roma: Juan Musso (Udinese)

This past summer Roma tried replacing Alisson with Swedish international Robin Olsen, and Serie A journeyman Antonio Mirante. Neither have proven to be a long-term solution to the departed Brazilian, leaving the giallorossi without a reliable number one going into next season. Luckily, there are a number of up and coming shot-stoppers in Serie A that Roma could turn to.

While Alessio Cragno and Alfred Gomis are interesting options, Roma should look no further than Udinese’s Juan Musso. The Argentine has gone from strength to strength this season, and has made the number one spot his own in Friuli with a string of impressive performances. In the past, Roma have shown a propensity to take a risk on goalkeepers on the cusp, and should do the same with Musso. They won’t regret it.

5) Milan: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) 

Where to begin with Milan? The rossoneri could use a creative midfielder, a left winger and arguably another centre back. Ajax’s Ziyech checks off two of these boxes and should be made a priority in Milanello. With just a 25 million euro release clause, Ziyech is both cost-effective, and has the potential to become a world class player in the near future.

As he’s typically deployed as a ball dominating, out-and-out winger, his signing would take off some of the creative burden from the likes of Suso, Paqueta, and would even allow Calhanoglu to feature centrally more regularly. Not to mention, Ziyech has tormented elite opposition this season, be it in the Champions League or in the Eredivisie. Milan shouldn’t say no to his teammate David Neres either if Ziyech isn’t feasible.

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Ajax’s rollercoaster of a week

Erik Ten Hag

Every week seems to be an important one for Ajax at the moment, but this one was even more significant than most. It started in the Champions League and ended with an Eredivisie tie against NAC Breda which was made more significant by PSV’s result the day before.

Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Real Madrid was Ajax’s first knockout game in the competition since the 2004/05 season. They weren’t intimidated by the occasion at all though, as they dominated large periods of the play. They created chances as well, with Dušan Tadić hitting the post and Hakim Ziyech having a clear chance saved well by Thibaut Courtois.

Ajax were even the first to have the ball in the net, though it was ruled out for offside. A corner was sent into the box by Ziyech, Matthijs de Ligt won the initial header which popped up in front of Courtois. The Belgian stopper wasn’t able to catch the ball, as it his his shoulder and Nicolás Tagliafico was the first to react, heading it into the net. However, when VAR was used following the incident it was adjudged that Tadić had impeded Courtois from an offside position when the Argentine headed the ball in.

Despite being on top, Ajax hadn’t managed to get themselves on the score sheet and were punished for that on the hour mark. Vinicius Junior drove with the ball at his feet, worked his way into the box before cutting across both centre backs and laying the ball off to Karim Benzema who finished the move off clinically to make the score 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Ajax struck back in the 75th minute when David Neres was played in behind the Madrid defence and cut the ball back to Ziyech. When the ball reached the Moroccan he made no mistake, side footing the ball past Courtois. However, Real Madrid retook the lead in the 87th minute when Daniel Carvajal’s ball across goal was converted by Marco Asensio. There was some controversy with this though, as Lucas Vasquez appeared to foul Frenkie de Jong off the ball during the build up which wasn’t reviewed by VAR. This means that Ajax now go to Madrid with a deficit to make up.

Once the game was over Ajax’s thoughts will have turned to the Eredivisie despite their frustrations. That means keeping an eye on PSV’s results as well as getting wins of their own at the moment, as Ajax went into the week seven points behind the league leaders.

PSV’s match against Heerenveen was yesterday and gave Ajax plenty of encouragement. The leaders went two goals down for the second game in a row. However, PSV had equalised with a late goal last time out and did so again this time around. This time it was a 95th minute strike from substitute Donyell Malen which earned PSV a draw. Despite them managing to salvage a point, the result meant there was still an opportunity for Ajax to close the gap by two points.

Ajax had to be patient in today’s game, as they were frustrated by NAC Breda’s deep defensive line in the early stages, but they eventually won comfortably. They were gifted their opener in the 38th minute when Ziyech’s free kick was handled by Dorian Dervite in the penalty area. Tadić stepped up to take the penalty and converted it, even with Benjamin van Leer diving the correct way.

The game opened up for Ajax once the first goal went in and they ended up winning 5-0, as Tadić got another, Kasper Dolberg got on the score sheet and NAC Breda deflected two efforts in which were called as own goals.

Ajax will be hoping to close the gap even further when they face ADO Den Haag next Sunday.

Roma eye Ajax double-swoop

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After the arrivals of Ante Ćorić and Ivan Marcano, Roma sporting director Monchi is still hard at work to improve the Giallorossi this summer after a successful season. The latest chatter regarding potential arrivals in the Eternal City involve Ajax pair Justin Kluivert and Hakim Ziyech. The respective situations of the pair are unique, but nonetheless, Roma Continue reading

Five underrated young footballers every team should aim to buy

Olympique Lyon vs PSG

With Euro 2016 all but over, the summer transfer market will hit another gear. A couple of clubs have already registered some big moves, with the Premier League clubs’ spending topping €350 million after one week.

However, it doesn’t always require a bunch of cash to land a quality player. Therefore, let’s look at five underrated players every team should aim to buy.

Idrissa Gueye (Aston Villa)

In the summer of 2015, Leicester City were snubbed by Gueye, who opted to join Aston Villa. Consequently, the Foxes turned their attention to a player named N’Golo Kante, while Gueye was relegated with the Villains. However, the 26-year-old was a bright spot for Villa, making 35 Premier League appearances and registering similar stats to Kante.

Gueye made 3.2 tackles per game compared to Kante’s 3.7 and provided 4.1 interceptions comparted to Kante’s 4.6. On top, he proved to be a better passer, more successful dribbler and was better in aerial duels. With Villa relegated, Gueye could possibly be snapped up with a discount, after joining the club for €9m.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich)

Joining the senior squad of a top club like Bayern isn’t easy for an 18-year-old. Consequenlty, Hojbjerg was sent on loan the past two seasons, one at Augsburg and one at Schalke 04. The 20-year-old played a key part in Augsburg’s magical 2014/2015 season, when they finished fifth in the Bundesliga, and made 23 appearances for Schalke last season.

With his 3.7 tackles and interceptions per game, the Denmark international proved to be a steady midfield force, even at his young age. He was very highly rated by Pep Guardiola and even made 15 Bundesliga and three Champions League appearances for the German champions in his young career. Hojbjerg is hungry for a chance to shine…

Nabil Fekir (Olympique Lyon)

During the 2014/2015 season, not many players in Ligue 1 impressed more than Fekir. The 22-year-old provided 13 goals and 12 assists for Lyon, being able to play multiple positions upfront. Fekir even made his senior international debut in March 2015, netting his first goal for France in just his third cap.

However, Fekir suffered a painful knee injury in September 2015 and missed a great part of the season. he didn’t play a single game in Lyon’s Champions League campaign and only made his return in April, playing a total of 117 minutes in five appearances. This could have lowered his transfer value, because a player returning from injury is always a risk.

Hakim Ziyech (FC Twente)

Financially, Dutch club FC Twente are a mess and only avoided relegation because of it after winning an appeal against the KNVB’s decision. The fact that Twente didn’t relegate due to footballing reasons, has everything to do with their star player Hakim Ziyech.

The 23-year-old Moroccon provided 17 goals and 10 assists for his club last season in the Eredivisie. That made him responsible for 56 per cent of Twente’s 48 league goals. He made the most key passes of anyone in the Dutch top flight and completed the second-most dribbles. With Twente’s financial issues, Ziyech is primed to leave for a bigger club in need of some creativity.

Amadou Diawara (Bologna)

If you’re only 18 year old and you’re coming off a Serie A season in which you made a total of 34 appearances, there must be something great about you. That’s the story of Amadou Diawara. The Guinea midfielder played the full 90 minutes on 27 ocassions and was a key player in Bologna’s solid first season back in Italy’s top flight.

Diawara made 2.2 tackles per game, that’s the same level as Paul Pogba. Meanwhile, he registered 2.7 interceptions, beating veteran players like Lucas Biglia, Milan Badelj, and Daniele De Rossi. Like Swiss talent Breel Embolo, Diawara could make a big move soon, but considering his young age, the fee could be pretty low for a future superstar.