Chelsea are never too far away from Palpable Discord, and the fact that we’ve had a relatively turbulence-free 6-7 months despite the rather, to be generous, mixed results is a testament to the respect and love for Frank Lampard. It’s hard to think of any other former player, manager, divine being who could’ve pulled this off.
But things could get darker before the dawn yet. There’s unrest brewing, whether that be in the stands or in the squad. It certainly doesn’t take long for the media to start running with stories of “tension” and “conflict”, and some of Lampard’s decisions lately have made it even easier.
Chief among those is the dropping of Kepa Arrizabalaga, which was widely expected to happen, and then when it happened (after Lampard defended the goalkeeper in public), started to get played up as Lampard hurting Chelsea’s bottom line. In the game of media, sometimes you lose or you lose.
Lampard, for his part, insists that there is no issue at the club with his decision to drop the club’s record signing.
“I’m absolutely together with all the club and the board, because we all want the best and I’m paid to make decisions. So with form I have to consider the goalkeeper position.
“Recently it’s just changed, but that’s nothing final. All Kepa needs to do is train and show a great attitude, as I demand from all the players. Things can obviously change but all I want is the best for the team.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Reuters
That said, Lampard’s decision to persist with Caballero in goal doesn’t really seem to have much benefit for us.
The veteran goalkeeper, the oldest player in the Premier League, hasn’t really proven to be an upgrade over Kepa — outside of maybe one save against Jamie Vardy — and there doesn’t seem to be any long-term benefit in continuing to start him. He’s given up goals and (not) made saves at the same rate as the younger player, if not worse, underlining the idea that the team’s problems in conceding goals are more complicated than just who starts between the sticks.
If the idea was to give Kepa a wake-up call, we’ve surely accomplished that already. And if the idea is to eventually get rid of Kepa, burying him on the bench will not do much good for his transfer prospects.
Every time squad selection questions come up, Lampard’s go-to answer is that they have to show their quality and attitude in training. But it’s hard to imagine that Kepa’s training levels have dropped so drastically in the last few weeks that he can no longer claim a spot ahead of Caballero — either he’s been terrible in training forever (so why was he starting before?) or that line is about as meaningless as many of Lampard’s critics imagine it to be.