8:31 AM ET
Author Jan Darkeespen.com
Dark, who launched the network’s games during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, is ESPN’s most important voice of football in the United States. He has played in the Barclays Premier League and Champions League since 1982 and has one of the most famous football voices in the world.
Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s manager, must feel like one of those Hollywood movie moguls who put the cast of stars together to clean up all the Oscars.
But what if these titles get bad reviews or if the story is not convincing and the script is made of wood?
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Lampard – a man in the director’s chair trying to shoot a happy ending, demanded by the Russian owner Roman Abramovich. He got £215 million back – a clear statement from the Russian tycoon that he’s fed up with Liverpool and the city of Manchester, the dominant fist in the Premier League. He expects results – and that increases the pressure on Lampard to succeed.
As Chelsea’s top scorer, the agile and attractive manager has benefited from a large bank loan from the Stamford Bridge supporters. His first season as head coach went pretty well with four top spots and a place in the finals of the English Cup.
It’s different now. Rising costs raise expectations. The stock call will be mandatory, just like a silver coin.
Chelsea is in 10th place with two wins against Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, with concerns about 3-3 draws against West Bromwich Albion and Southampton and a good 0-0 draw against Manchester United. The only defeat came home to the Liverpool League champions.
The team fought back from a Champions League draw last week against Seville before winning 4-0 in Krasnodar (Russia, Abramovich in the hall) on Wednesday. They will probably enter the knockout phase, but they want to do better than the 7-1 defeat of Bavaria in Munich in the 16th minute.
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Despite Chelsea beating Krasnodar 4-0, Steve Nichol called on Frank Lampard’s team to take more control of the game.
A big advantage for Lampard is that he managed to get three clean sheets in a row, which seemed almost impossible two weeks ago.
Lampard finally solved the problem and the experienced Thiago Silva, 36 years old, became a great organizer of this rather unstable defense. He was particularly impressive at the destruction of Manchester United in Old Trafford. Maintaining Brazil’s international standard and managing the season will be crucial for Chelsea’s season.
Edward Mundy came from Rennes Stadium to solve the goalkeeper problem. So far he has admitted only one goal in five games and seems much more protected by the back line than the productive Kep Arrizabalaga.
And England installed Ben Chilwell safely, despite his grumpy ankle.
Moreover, the director is so ashamed of his wealth that it can be difficult to satisfy everyone or to decide which of the four out of eight candidates will actually make it to the starting grid.
Timo Werner, who has been so productive at RB Leipzig, has scored four goals in nine games and seems to play an important and distinctive role. He is fast and predatory, but not the usual number 9, such as Olivier Giroude (five out of six goals at the end of last season), who scored few goals, and Tammy Abraham, who usually sat on the bench, although he scored the most goals last season.
The young German player Kai Havertz has elegantly drifted off and has already scored four goals. Sometimes he looked a little light, lost and scored a goal against Southampton. But like his managers, he will score for Lampard in midfield, just as he did for Peter Bos of Bayer Leverkusen. Havertz looks like Mason Mount, who can now fight for as much playtime as his rich talent deserves. Is the style of Havertz and Mount too similar for them to play together?
Lampard, with its large mould, faces other dilemmas. Christian Pulisik is probably in pole position at the beginning because of his tight races and his ability to create something out of nothing. Hakim Ziec, Ajax Amsterdam player of the year for the past three seasons, has regained his form and scored his first start and first goal at Krasnodar. His ability to throw chances with a stick with his left leg turned to the right will be a tempting option for Lampard.
What remains is Callum Hudson-Ode, the winged young man whom Bayern Munich once aspired to. In most Premier League clubs it would be an automatic choice, but not in this one.
These are the best players, some of which have come at a high cost. They want and expect to play, but not all conditions are in place to do so. The ego will be bruised. Lampard should turn this team into a gel and avoid unsatisfactory media coverage of dissatisfied players. In the age of social networks, it is not easy. We need to improve, and we will. I believe in these players, he said.
The personal assumption is that Lampard is a lucky general, capable of making things work, and that he has too many qualities to fail. He’ll also know what price he’s likely to pay if he fails.