It’s been a fortnight of firefighting for Frank Lampard as the media attempted to pour gasoline over some recent questionable moments.
Firstly, it was Ross Barkley, who grabbed the ball in the 85th minute of the first Champions League group stage game against Valencia at Stamford Bridge, only to see his spot kick fly over the bar, and with it, any hope of salvaging a draw.
”When Ross Barkley is on the pitch he’s the penalty taker” claimed Lampard during his television interview after the game.
That quickly changed to “a penalty taker” by the time Lampard sat in front of the written press, but anybody with eyes could tell that Lampard was protecting his player.
The on the pitch ‘discussion’ between Jorginho, Willian and Barkley, was proof that this wasn’t a pre-meditated decision taken before the game.
Journalists saw a potential flash point between the Chelsea squad and wasted no time poking a stick into the open wound, but Lampard was firm, the issue was, as far as he was concerned, dealt with.
Proof of Lampard’s protection was shown in the Carabao Cup 7-1 thrashing of Grimsby, where Pedro took the spot kick (and scored) with Barkley on the pitch.
As did Jorginho in the 2-0 win against Brighton last weekend.
Barkley, clearly sensing an opportunity to further his chances in this Chelsea team, took a risk, but it back fired spectacularly, and as a result, it’s forced his manager to lie for him.
That’s not the only fire that Barkley has started, he was recently filmed on a night out being escorted to a cash point by the police, in order to pay a taxi driver for spilling chips in his cab.
As Lampard said he wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t supposed to as he was on a day off, but an England international should know better.
Yet again he forced his manager into publicly backing him for his own actions. This season is a make or break one for Barkley, and it seems at the moment its at breaking point.
The other current headache for Lampard is Christian Pulisic and his apparent lack of playing time.
Lampard has left the American out of his match day squad in the win over Brighton, favouring the experience of Pedro and Willian, alongside the young English talents of Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The winger is seen across the pond as their brightest star and his arrival at Chelsea and the Premier League has given the American fans hope that their seat at the footballing table can be justified.
American fans go to great lengths to support the team, but they still face criticism about knowing nothing about the game.
Having an American player at the club is a great opportunity to squash this criticism, but so far the £60m signing has failed to impress.
He seems to slight for the rigours of Premier League football and will, like lots of players, need time to adjust and develop physically.
Lampard, Jody Morris and Joe Edwards have a proven track record of developing young players and making them better, so the right thing for Pulisic would’ve been to put his head down, work hard and trust in his coaching staff.
Giving an interview to a American journalist claiming that Lampard hasn’t given him much instruction, seems a bad way to go about winning your coach over.
Even if that is true, it’s never wise to air your dirty laundry in public.
Yet again, Lampard is forced to answer questions, to hose down any potential fires.
Whilst in public Lampard has put his arm around his players, putting them before himself when answering questions, he’s shown his not afraid to mark his authority.
Both Barkley and Pulisic were dropped from the 18 in the Champions League win against Lille.
The message to both clear, unless you’re giving 100% to the club, for the manager, for your teammates and for yourself, then you won’t play.
Lampard is known for his friendly nature and is respected across the sport for his intelligence, attitude and demeanour, but sometimes when you’re the boss, you can’t always be liked.
And so far he’s shown he’s not afraid to make tough decisions to show any potential trouble makers that his word is final.
It’s as simple as that.
My team, my rules.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu