Listed at a possibly generous 5’4” (163cm), tiny Tariq Lamptey’s tall task was to inject some pace and impetus into a listless Chelsea attack that was lumbering through a second half with plenty of possession but (once again) fairly little cutting edge. Losing 1-0 and looking for hope, Chelsea needed a spark, and Lamptey duly delivered.
It took barely five minutes for the 19-year-old to go on a classic marauding run, outside-in from his right back position, and put a wonderful reverse ball through for Tammy Abraham. Abraham would have to wait for his goal another 20 minutes or so, but Lamptey had successfully introduced himself to those who had not been watching him in the Academy ranks the previous decade. He had already made a very good interception to stop an Arsenal counter-attack before any of that even happened, and remained a strong contributor at both ends as Chelsea mounted a comeback to win from a losing position for the first time all season.
Afterwards, Lampard paid tribute to the young man from nearby Hillingdon, who made his former youth coaches, Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, look like smart assistants to the head coach.
“Tariq Lamptey is a credit to Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, because when we sat and analysed the last two days and we knew Cesar Azpilicueta had a small injury and Reece James is injured then we are looking at options for a right-back or right wing-back. They said believe in him, trust in him, because they did and I listened to that. We felt it was the right time to bring him into the game and he was a catalyst because we were getting down the sides and he gave us a little bit more of an edge.
“He has pace, a low centre of gravity and can go by people. He wants to work on his end product but my question to Jody when he came on was has he got the confidence and the personality to deal with this. It is a tough game to come on with the responsibility to try to turn it, and Jody said yeah, no problem, and when he drove inside and slipped Tammy in for a shot, it was a great example of someone coming on a bit fearless and sometimes you get that with youth.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
Lamptey had made the bench in the Carabao Cup fourth round loss against Manchester United in late October, but he got one step further this time, becoming the seventh (7th!) debutant already for Frank Lampard’s youth revolution. He joins ... deep breath ... Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour, Reece James, Marc Guehi, Tino Anjorin, and Ian Maatsen in that regard. (Both Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori debuted under Guus Hiddink, while Hudson-Odoi did so under Conte.)
For the 19-year-old Lamptey, it was obviously a fantastic occasion, and one that he’s been working towards.
“My heart was racing. This is the moment me and my family have been waiting for since I joined the club at the age of 8. Frank [Lampard] said to me to just be you, to play your normal game, and go out and enjoy it.
“I’ve waited a long time for my debut, and I’m just grateful for the coach for giving me this chance and everyone that helped me. I just thought, you know I’m out here, don’t be afraid of anything, just play my natural game, and everything will come.
“There’s no better game to come into. What a game! [Celebrating with the fans at the end] was an unbelievable experience and an amazing feeling to have. I can’t even put it into words. I’m still buzzing.
“Hopefully [we’ll see more of me]. I’m going to keep working hard, training hard, trying to get even better, and hopefully this is only the start.
-Tariq Lamptey; source: Chelsea TV
Depending on how Reece James’ ankle is doing, Lamptey could be set for further action next weekend as well, when Chelsea host Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round. He’s certainly earned another look after Sunday’s senior debut.
BONUS: Lamptey highlights from the youth team.