Frank Lampard has spent a lot of time this season being asked about and discussing the younger members of his squad, but ahead of tonight’s big match against Manchester City, he has spoken about two of the more senior players.
One of them, 31-year-old Willian, made news this week when he, along with Pedro, signed a short-term contract extension that ensures he will be at Chelsea until the end of the campaign.
The other, N’Golo Kante, who is two years younger than the Brazilian, was back in impressive action in the win against Aston Villa at the weekend having recovered fully from injury during the lockdown.
On the subject of Willian, Lampard has been asked about a perceived negative reaction to the player by some on social media. The boss responded.
‘In terms of social media, I remember at the back end of my playing career I had a couple of months of viewing what fans thought of me, Chelsea or outside, and it kind of stopped me wanting to look at it again,’ Lampard said.
‘If you were to view social media, you would never pick a team, you would change it every two seconds, and I suppose that is the beauty of football in a way, in that everyone has opinions.
‘My opinion is the important one here at the moment at the club and I get to see what players are like day to day, how they train day to day, so when you make a selection, people might comment on it from the outside but they don’t see what you see.
‘I place huge value on training and how players behave and work in training in the week. I knew Willian had it as a player because I played with him, and we have all seen it on the pitch this year – his work ethic off the ball and his creation and work on the ball. We saw it against Aston Villa as well.
‘Generally as far as I see it, Chelsea fans hold him in a real high regard. It is difficult in the modern day to take a view on what social media says all over the world. People who are in the club know the value of him and no matter what happens at the end of the season, he has been a fantastic servant for the club.’
As well as his on-pitch performances, Lampard has valued what Willian has been able to bring to a dressing room with a young average age, confirming that the more junior squad members look up to their experienced colleague.
‘He has played at every level and at a high level himself,’ Lampard explains.
‘He has a great character about him and he has certainly shown his work ethic by how he has trained and played. It is important when you have a lot of young players that they have people to look up to from within. He is not a shouter and a screamer but he has set an example by working. I am very thankful for having him in the squad this year.’
The boss has made his admiration for N’Golo Kante clear on many occasions and at the weekend he brought him back into the team as the deepest of three midfield players, where he was able break up a lot of the Aston Villa play.
‘N’Golo’s has generally played as one of two [midfielders], or in recent times as one of the more offensive ones, ahead of one deep-lying midfield player,’ the boss explained.
He has the attributes to do both, or all roles. That is one of the beauties of the way he plays, and what he did was a lot of winning the ball back – so quick into the tackle and so quick into the press, covering lots of ground, and also very good on the ball.
‘I think people can underestimate how good he is [with the ball], how quickly he can move with it and pass the ball. I have no problem with playing him in different positions. It is something we have worked on a little and it gives me good options to have different types of attributes in that position at times.’