David Luiz’s sudden departure — cue the Max Richter music — remains as confusing as it was 48 hours ago. Though Chelsea bossman Frank Lampard has moved to explain it purely in footballing terms, the narrative of player power (and thus Lampard moving against it) has been unavoidable. Right or wrong, it’s an easy one to apply after all, especially given our recent history and the role that Lampard himself has played in it.
It was a question that came up at the very start of Lampard’s tenure, and it was question that came up yesterday, in both the on-camera and off-cameras segments of the pre-match press conference. In the latter portion, Lampard once again emphasized that it was a choice made rather than forced, motivated by footballing concerns and realities.
“It was purely football decisions on both sides. Not just the way I was thinking, but the way David was thinking. And at 32, I was that 32-year-old. I left here at 35-ish. It was slightly different, for me, but I wanted honesty and respect. It went both ways. We are also big characters, so when we do talk, then it is serious. We don’t beat around the bush, we got to the point pretty quickly and that was it.
”We have four centre-halves. Three full internationals, one is an under-21 international who I worked with last year. We have other players in defensive areas. It is an area of the pitch where I am very interested to see players stand up and play. To make that shirt their own as everyone has to in every position. I am very comfortable with the squad we have got and that’s not a slant on David at all. I know all of David’s qualities. He has got great qualities as a footballer and as a person. It is just a decision we came to.”
A decision arrived at by mutual agreement doesn’t make for a very juicy headlines however. Those would prefer notions of Lampard “flexing” his muscles to root out the big bad player power, or David Luiz going on “strike” to force his way out after realizing that he wasn’t a guaranteed starter. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between all those extremes.
Having been a player, Lampard certainly understands where David Luiz was coming from, but Lampard, the manager, has to keep the bigger picture in mind, too.
“He didn’t want to be untouchable, and I should make that clear. I’m never surprised by players. The huge difference between being a player and a manager is that, as a player, you can be very selfish and not worry about anyone else too much.
”When you are a manager, your responsibility is 25 players and more, everyone around the building. So never expect a conversation to go the way you think it might go. Also, when you are dealing with top-level sportspeople, they are driven and I accept that. We are all driven in different ways.
“I used to hate being subbed, I used to hate being dropped. I was terrible. I wouldn’t want to manage myself in certain ways! But as a manager, you have to understand that you have to have these conversations and so I’m never surprised by what any player does, they just try to get the best out of the situations for the club you are working for.”
Sounds like David Luiz decided it was time to go, and Lampard wasn’t putting up any major roadblocks. The timing of the whole thing still lends itself to speculation and over-analysis, not to mention David’s barely two-month-old two-year contract extension for which Chelsea broke club rules we didn’t break even for the likes Terry and Lampard previously, but at the end of the day, the move fits the theme of the summer. Out with the old, in with the young.
“I would never have gone out to make any form of a mark. I think it would have been naive to try to flex my muscles or my power. I don’t need to do that. I just play it as I see it, daily. I watch how the players train, I watch how the players react in the dressing room, how the spirit is. And then I have to make decisions. And I have to try and create a squad that is in the image of what I want.
”And I wasn’t saying David wasn’t part of that, but I have to make lots of decisions every day and they are not all about trying to show power, they are just trying to do it my way because the last thing I want to do is look back on these times and go, ‘I wish I had done that differently and I didn’t quite do it’.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
A squad made in Lampard’s image just got even more Lampardier. It sounds like we all got what we wanted.