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Giroud fit but Kanté still out as Lampard looks to the players to drag Chelsea out of this hole

Tactics, schmactics

Chelsea Training and Press Conference
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive; ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ aliiiiiiiiiiveeeeee
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Frank Lampard’s pre-match press conference on Friday featured plenty of noteworthy moments and answers, but at no point did we actually get to hear any team news or injury updates. Fortunately, someone at the Chelsea official website was thinking on their feet and quickly conjured a “Rehab Report” (with capital Rs and even a logo!), which featured the following update from the Chelsea boss.

“Olivier is fit. He trained with us today and he’s fine for the weekend.

“N’Golo on the other hand is not fit and won’t be available. He’s working outside on his own with the physios at the moment and we hope to have him back as soon as possible. We will have to see with N’Golo, as we don’t want to rush him, but we hope to have him back by next week.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC

Unsurprisingly, Kanté’s latest small hamstring injury is proving not very small once again, though it’s good to hear that Giroud’s back after being a late scratch for the midweek match at Leicester. Presumably, he will get a run-out against Sunday’s Championship opposition, just as he did against Fulham (recently of the Championship) last weekend, when Lampard evidently opted for a lineup full of experience and leadership (and then was saved by youth).

Then again, the qualities that Lampard’s trying to find in his players right now are something a bit more tangible.

“I knew that there will be tough times and things that you can’t control like you did as a player. I love the job and I love the fact that if there are tough times and you can fight your way out of them and I mean the players as well, because we are not firing, it’s the best feeling in football. It would make this talented squad.

“But at the same time fight is an important word in football so there’s no doubt now we have to put some things to one side now. It’s not going to be 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 that will win us the games we need to win in the short term, it’ll be the passion and the desire and the togetherness of the team.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Evening Standard

To be sure, Lampard’s not wrong. Not completely anyway. One of my favorite quotes about managers is one usually attributed to Giovanni Trapattoni. “A good manager can make a team 10 percent better, a bad manager can make that same team 30 percent worse.” And that certainly leaves plenty of room for the players themselves.

But Lampard’s unilateral dismissal of the tactical (and therefore coaching) side of the equation is self-defeating, and not just in the short-term, and puts him suspiciously close to the 30 per cent side of the truism. Managers tend to talk up their own contributions; Lampard’s doing the opposite. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.

Lampard’s emphasis on passion is also ironic given that the recent manager we equate with passion (sorry, “pashun”) more so than any other engineered a massive turnaround with a bold tactical switch. Antonio Conte loved the words (and the qualities of) work, fight, passion, (paying great) attention — even more so than the current man in charge — but he was also a man of clear tactical ideas and systems.

And sure, being wedded to a fault to certain patterns isn’t necessarily great either (as we saw with Conte later on) but telling players just to run about a bit (well, a lot) with their hearts on their sleeves an expecting results is discouragingly Redknappian. (And that may explain a lot, but that’s perhaps an examination for another day.)

“Players will always make you a good or bad or in between manager. So you have to have a buy in from the dressing room.

“My opinion is football is whatever percent tactics but much bigger percentage of environment and drive and positivity and desire and all those things that create the basics of football so that’s important.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London

Well, let’s hope we can find the percentages needed, or some such.

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