Monday 19 March 2018

Lampard hails Chelsea's mix of new boys and old guard

Chelsea 3 Norwich 1

Steve Tongu at Stamford Bridge

For the first time since 2006, September will dawn without Chelsea sitting on top of the Premier League. Normally faster away than Usain Bolt (who was just too quick off the blocks yesterday), they have been sluggish not so much in gathering points as in the manner of it.

A difficult opening game at Stoke has been followed by laboured home victories against West Brom and now newly promoted Norwich.

Andre Villas-Boas, keen to win stylishly, has been reduced to praising tenacity, commitment and desire; all worthy attributes but not why Roman Abramovich shelled out on an extravagant compensation fee and wages.

Patience is required all round. The owner, having bought himself a pet centre-forward in January, has backed his new manager all the way in pursuit of Luka Modric and a crop of younger players.

Juan Mata from Valencia and Anderlecht's Romelu Lukaku produced impressive late cameos on Saturday, after which Chelsea announced the arrival of the Mexican U-20 international midfielder Ulises Davila.


Yet the spine of the team remains an experienced one and as one of the old guard, Didier Drogba, was being checked out for concussion in hospital on Saturday evening, another, Frank Lampard, was dispensing some worldly wisdom on the stuttering start and the need to hasten slowly.

"Last year we flew out of the blocks and were winning 6-0 (twice) and then we blew up," Lampard said. "It might be quite nice for people not to talk about us and talk about the fact that other teams have spent more than us. There's certainly room for us to improve."

Despite admiring the new talent, he is also keen to stress the continuing value of his own generation: "Of course it's exciting for us to see top players like Mata and Lukaku coming in. They bring a freshness and a different angle to the team.

"But people talk too much about age. You can't buy experience. We are introducing youth with the signings we've made and some of the players we have here already. I know for a fact the manager won't be scared to throw them in. Age is something people throw at you when you have a bad result."

Playing in the centre of midfield, Lampard set up Jose Bosingwa for his beautifully struck opening goal, then converted a crucial penalty after John Ruddy had been sent off for bringing down Ramires.

In between times, Hilario's rush of blood allowed Norwich an equaliser lobbed in by Grant Holt, but Mata's confident start was rounded off by a goal in added time. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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