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Lampard on tactical systems vs. principles, and keeping things positive at Chelsea

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To a certain extent, the central question of professional sports has always been, “What have you done for me lately?” After all, the ultimate aim of any sport is to compete and to win. And in most cases, there can only be one winner. There will be far more losers than winners, and in turn, far more unhappy fans than happy fans.

But in this modern world of ours, in the era of hot takes and zero-second reactions, it seems that negativity is at an all-time high. And it continues to rise nearly every single day. Everyone’s a critic, as the old saying goes, but especially on the Internet — which is spilling over into the “real” world at ever increasing rates.

Perhaps all that is a bit overdramatic. It is “just” sports, after all, and the world has much bigger issues to deal with. But in our little bubble, this is a serious problem, and one that new Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has had to face already.

After just one match, the opening day defeat at Old Trafford, Lampard had to call out the “lazy criticisms” in the media, for example — some of the strongest of which was ironically coming from the mouth of José Mourinho, who used to wage war against the industry he now represents as a pundit for Sky Sports.

Lampard would much rather focus on the positives.

“The last thing I want to be is negative. I want us to be competitive this year and we still have a strong squad. We have to be a bit patient because those other factors are there. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go out there with that competitive head on and challenge in everything that we do. My job is to focus on the task at hand.”

”It is very easy to be negative after losing 4-0 but there were a lot of good signs during the game against Manchester United. As for the performance against Liverpool, I think we were the better team against one of the best teams in the world and probably deserved to win on general play. This is something we should be proud of.

”We need to use that. Hopefully, it will give us confidence about what’s ahead. What I have felt in the six weeks that I have been here is that the players are a good group and they have a lot of spirit. We saw that against Liverpool in the dressing room and on the pitch. That is what you want to see as a manager because it gives you the chance to work.”

After a transfer-banned summer where Chelsea got objectively weaker, but also younger and hopefully more promising, it’s that desire and determination to work and improve that will decide whether we end up fulfilling our short- and long-term goals.

At the same time we must have patience. There will be stumbling blocks, even if everything develops ideally. Knee-jerk reactions will not do anyone any good. Lasting change must be implemented slowly and gradually to truly take hold.

Liverpool v Chelsea: UEFA Super Cup Previews Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Lampard of course has his own tactical ideas, and those may or may not differ greatly from those who came before him. They themselves may change and evolve from game to game, season to season. But at the heart of them all are a set of principles that are immovable. The principles do not change, even if the strategies do.

“I certainly won’t be changing things for change’s sake but where there are ideas that are different, I have to be strong in those and stick to what I believe will take the club forwards on the pitch. The players have to come along with that because we want to be successful and that takes a lot of hard work and being together as a group.”

“I think as a manager you do have to have a clear idea of how you want to play. The principle has to be there but it needs to be something that constantly evolves. Having an idea does not have to mean that the actual system has to stay the same.

”The ideas that we work on in training relate to how we react, how we win the ball back, our work ethic and the general principles that are most important to me. The system is what you work on within that and this can change depending on who you are playing against, your own strengths and how your team evolves.

”That is something we are assessing day in and day out so I want us to be flexible on those terms. We have different ways we can play even within games. It needs to be changeable, it needs work on the training ground and it needs buy-in from the players.

”The reason we lost the game against Manchester United was not because of where our line was on the pitch, it was because of individual mistakes in turning the ball over and not following a runner at the right time. Those are the little details that you have to be on top of constantly. We reflect on it, we watch the videos back and we look to improve.”

Those principles are precisely the sort of principles that built Frank Lampard into the legendary player that he was, at his peak the best midfielder in the world, and Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Chelsea - Britannia Stadium Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

The hope is that he can instill them properly into the willing young minds of Chelsea’s next generation, who at the same time are now entrusted with keeping the club competitive enough at the upper end of the English and the European game. That certainly will not be an easy task, and we should have no delusions of grandeur. At the same time, we have to believe that if the attitude and the work ethic is there, we will reap our proper rewards — unlike in the first two games of the season.

“The best ethic that my dad ever gave me was that you have to work, work and work to improve in every second that you get and in every training session that you get. That work ethic is the main thing I will try to instill in this team. I like to work hard. I have never had any fears about it. I liked to come to the training ground early in the morning and I don’t mind staying late either. It’s not a problem for me.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Sky Sports

So, after a year’s sabbatical of supposed “fun”, we are back to work, work, work.

Let’s get to work then, shall we?

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