Frank Lampard has a couple big decisions to make for the starting lineup in tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Arsenal, including and perhaps most crucially, at goalkeeper.
After a brief resurgence just before the coronavirus hit, Kepa Arrizabalaga’s form has once again cratered, and he found himself dropped for the second time as Willy Caballero got the nod in last weekend’s Premier League finale. The first time Kepa was dropped, it took him nearly a month to get back into contention. Considering that Caballero was already our “Cup goalkeeper”, it would seem likely that he’ll be starting tomorrow as well.
Lampard didn’t quite confirm that in this morning’s press conference, but he sure hinted at it by talking up the contributions of players from the bench and urging those who might not get to play tomorrow to still support the team.
“Yes [goalkeeper is a] difficult [decision], because we have competition in the squad. And as you’ve seen through the season at times I’ve had to change it, I’ve felt the need to change it.
“And I always do it with the idea that can we win a game, can we be as strong as we can be, with considerations of what opposition are in front of us. And in big games like this it becomes slightly more difficult because I know how much players want to be involved in these games.
“But we have to be a strong squad, we have to be together on it, whatever the XI and people on the bench. Because in the last period for us, people on the bench have made a huge differences in certain games.
“We have to feel like we’re all together, and if we win it, it means a collective thing for us. So difficult for me, it will be difficult for players to take, but then we go in positive and try to win as a group.”
Meanwhile, there’s the question of Willian and not just because he missed last weekend’s match with an unspecified injury. The veteran winger is not under contract for next season, and is only playing on a temporary contract as it is. While recent reports spoke of a potential breakthrough between Willian and Chelsea on a contract extension, Willian’s agent was quick to play down any such suggestions not long after.
For Lampard however, there is no question about Willian’s commitment to the cause, regardless of where his future might lie next month, next season, and beyond.
“Yeah [I expect him to give everything], because I have known Willian for several years as a player and as a coach, and if everyone wants to see the mentality of him then it’s been shown since the restart. He has been fantastic for us, fantastic this season and has shown the right attitude and I would expect nothing less than he has shown already. That is Willian for you.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Lampard has been a vocal proponent of Willian all season, and if Willian’s fit, we should certainly expect him to be starting.
Incidentally, Willian didn’t start the FA Cup final against Arsenal three years ago, nor did he start last year’s Europa League final. And he started just one of the two legs against the Gunners in the 2017-18 League Cup semifinal, and he got injured after just 30 minutes!