Chelsea’s injury crisis had been going on for so long, it had become part of the norm. Despite missing several key players since the laws few weeks of last season, the conversation had moved on to other topics surrounding the team, such as the youth revolution, the transfer ban, or the recent stuttering form.
But for the first time since taking over in the summer, Frank Lampard practically has a fully fit squad. Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains out just as he has been the past six months, but otherwise everyone’s available.
“Ruben’s making good progress which is really positive, but he’s nowhere near contention for matchplay yet. Other than that, we’re all pretty good. Ross, Tomori and Giroud are fine. We’ve got a fit squad. Nice selection problems I suppose.”
More players mean different problems of course. Everyone wants to play, but not everyone can — and certainly not everyone should — even amid the usual cruelty of the hectic English football scheduling over the holidays.
But more players should also create more competition on the training ground, especially if Lampard sticks to his oft-espoused value of meritocracy. Hard work behind the scenes should be rewarded with minutes in the limelight.
“A lot of people are fit; we have decent numbers and a competitive squad – they are showing that in training. I have to choose what I feel is right.
“Off the back of a negative result last week and the edginess that brings, players are trying to push to show they want to play in this big game. It makes it difficult.
“But the rules are always the same: it’s what you do day in, day out that gets you back in that team. It’s not just every Saturday or every matchday, it’s every training session and how you are around the group.”
And the players have had more time than usual to show their edginess and determination, with Chelsea getting a rare midweek off (thanks to our early exit from the League Cup). While we’ve had a few other commitments, such as the annual hospital visit, the players will have had every chance to rest, recover, and get ready for Sunday.
“At the beginning of the week there was some much-needed rest. I don’t like to call upon tiredness as an excuse, but the last performance at home where we didn’t show the edge we normally have been, we were maybe looking at a bit of tiredness.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a week to work, and it means can do things more physical and more active. It feels valuable. We’ve worked on the training ground more than speak too much. It’s been a busy week with Christmas responsibilities, but we have focused completely on training and we’ll have meetings in the build-up to the game.”
“We have a good spirit and a good group. Questions obviously start to be asked of yourselves in-house when you get some difficult results. It’s important to be upfront and honest with each other.
“I see a positive group in training, a team training hard, a group that are together. That’s all I can ask for. Now of course we need the results to turn back a little back because the last few I am not happy with.”
And speaking of Sunday, it doesn’t get much bigger than this derby, especially with the added spectre of José Mourinho and a spot in the top-four on the line. But Lampard’s keeping the focus on the pitch, which is where the game will be ultimately decided.
“I’ll always have respect for him, but the bigger thing is Chelsea Tottenham, and what that rivalry means, what it should mean to our players and us.
“That’s the beauty of football, its rivalries, what you feel about your club. What our fans will demand on Sunday is that we show on the pitch what they will feel during the game, which is absolute passion for winning.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all.