Manchester City return to Premier League action on Saturday afternoon, and face the visit of former player Frank Lampard, who brings his Chelsea side to the North-West off the back of a remarkable run of form that has seen his side leapfrog the blues into third.
There’s plenty to discuss this week, including the effect of the transfer ban on Chelsea – a ban that was mooted to be struck on Manchester City. There’s also the rise of their youth products as a result, and a similarly impressive rise seen from Frank Lampard in his managerial career. Ahead of this weekend’s clash, we spoke to Matt Debono from Absolute Chelsea, to get his views on a range of talking points.
Hi Matt, Thanks for joining us ahead of the weekend’s fixture. It might difficult to say, but do you feel this Chelsea side would have performed so well without the implementation of the transfer ban that has allowed some of your brightest prospects to excel so far this campaign?
The answer is – you never know. It’s always been ‘what could’ve been’. Now we are starting to see the opportunities and chances to play in the first-team increase, and so far they are all taking their chances.
If Frank Lampard wasn’t at the helm during the embargo, I’m not sure this many youngsters would’ve been given the chances that they are getting. He was, and is, the perfect candidate for the job in the current conditions at Chelsea.
Manchester City and Chelsea don’t seem to have the best images in the eyes of opposition fans for reasons solely relating to the recent rise of our clubs, but do you feel your transfer ban and the subsequent rise of youth has improved the overall image of your club?
The opinion of other fans on us has, and never will bother me. Chelsea have thrived on being hated in football, and the longer it continues, the better. It’s been touted that Chelsea are becoming a ‘more likeable side’ under Lampard, but I and many others do not pay any attention to it.
We’ll keep winning. We’ll have the last laugh!
How big of a loss was Eden Hazard in the summer, and how has Pulisic started to life in the Premier League – is he the right man to replace such a high-profile figure at the club?
I don’t think comparisons should be made between Pulisic and Hazard at all. Everybody knows Hazard was a huge loss for Chelsea in the summer, it was inevitable – a figure who is irreplaceable. But we have turned from a team who heavily relied on one player to carry us through games when performances weren’t up to scratch, to a side who looks a threat both in midfield and in the forward lines.
For Pulisic, he’s got big boots to fill, but in other ways, he doesn’t. He’s had a mixed start to life in England. A promising start that then led to him being left out the side. But Frank Lampard has dealt with the situation perfectly. Five goals in his precious three Premier League games – he’s on fire. Whether he’s the right man to replace Hazard long-term, time will tell, but he’s on the right path, looks a threat and he’s only 21. From the outside looking in, it’s extremely promising.
How would you sum up Frank Lampard’s start to life at the Bridge?
Exhilarating. Exciting. Promising.
Frank Lampard has united Chelsea. From the path from the academy to the first-team, to the supporters. Last season was toxic at Chelsea. Supporters were divided. The optimism of reaching the first-team as an academy player were near on non-existent.
But Lampard’s made is enjoyable this season to watch. We have players on the pitch who know what it means to play for Chelsea, what it means to come through the ranks. This team is so relatable – more so than ever before. A manager who knows how to win, and he won’t allow any slip ups.
Everything about it seems perfect. There will be high and lows along the way, but the best is yet to come from Chelsea.
Looking specifically at this weekend’s clash, should Lampard stick with the successful partnership of Kovacic and Jorginho partnership, or should he opt for the irreplaceable Kante?
I’ll let Frank Lampard make the decision! It’s a huge dilemma, but a positive problem for Lampard to have.
With the form that the pair are in, it’s hard to find a case to drop them. Mount adds creativity in the midfield for Chelsea – his absence was noticeable against Manchester United in the first-half in the Carabao Cup defeat after he was benched. The off-the-ball work he does, the spaces he creates, and the goalscoring threat that he provides, he’s such a vital cog to this Chelsea side.
Kante is only just returning to full fitness, Jorginho comes back into the side following suspension. If a decision had to be made, Mount starts and leave Kante on the bench for this clash. But any decision of which three start, will be supported, due to the toughness of the call. A hard one to answer!
What is the mood amongst Chelsea fans going into this one? An impressive start to the campaign, but 17 goals conceded already!
It’s positive. Our away form this season has been superb, compared to our home form. Five wins from six on the road in the Premier League this season, since the opening day defeat, has given us momentum away from home. We’ve got nothing to lose at the Etihad at the weekend. A young side, against title-challengers.
The only question Chelsea have to answer is – can they secure a scalp against one of the big sides? Defeats to Manchester United twice and a narrow defeat to Liverpool – we need to start turning performances into results against the big sides. We’ve got one helluva chance on Saturday, but we have to be aware of the threat City pose. More so due to the nature of the exact fixture and result last time out – a result which won’t want to be repeated.
Chelsea starting XI and score prediction?
Arrizabalaga; James, Tomori, Zouma, Emerson; Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount; Pulisic, Abraham, Willian
Three key areas for Frank Lampard to have a selection headache: The option of an experienced defender in Cesar Azpilicueta or to go with the younger option of Reece James. The pace of City’s wingers could make Lampard’s mind up on this one.
The hardest of them all – Jorginho, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic have all thrived in N’Golo Kante’s absence. But now the Frenchman returns to the midfield, as Kovacic and Jorginho start to blossom a partnership, Lampard is likely to break it up.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea
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