Jerry Mancini spoke to Mark Worrall, author and publisher for Chelsea FC related books. He has written books such as Chelsea Here Chelsea There, ‘Blue Murder: ‘Chelsea Till I Die’ and Chelsea Football Fanzine.
How would you rate Frank Lampard’s first season with Chelsea? Additionally, why is Lampard struggling to coach defense?
“A very solid 7/10 for Super Frank. [A] victory in the FA Cup Final would have pushed it to 9/10. Achieving [a] top four [position in the English Premier League] in spite of having lost Eden Hazard and not being able to sign new players was commendable.
“Defence issues were there from day one. Frank permed every option available to him as far as centre-back pairings and 3 at the back was concerned without ever achieving consistency. Clearly there is the need for a quality centre-back to be added to the squad and a left-back. Goalkeeper has also been an issue which has led to a crisis of confidence on several occasions. I’d like to believe it’s a personnel issue rather than a coaching issue…. We will find out next season, if the squad is improved in this area.”
Willian left Chelsea after seven seasons to join Arsenal. Did you feel this was the right move by Chelsea and the player? Also, how do you view his time with the Blues?
“I love the bones of Willian. He hates Tottenham of course! Joking aside, every Chelsea manager he played for rated him and there were always offers coming in for him. I think he found it hard to be constantly in Eden Hazard’s shadow, but his contribution and work rate were top notch.
“The move to Arsenal, is proof that at 32 he’s not a spent force. Personally, I don’t like to see Blues players move to rival Premier League clubs, especially London clubs. Was it the right move for Chelsea? I think so. I’m not sure he would have got much in the way of game time next season the way the team looks to be shaping up with new players.”
Chelsea shocked many with the signing of Timo Werner. How do you see the German fitting into Lampard’s plans this upcoming season?
“If [he is] playing through the middle, [Timo] Werner will hopefully be the man to consistently convert the chances that Chelsea create down the flanks. There is flexibility though and he can play left-wing with Tammy [Abraham] as centre forward. Either way, he’s going to be one of the first names on Super Frank’s team-sheet and if he stays injury-free then a 50+ appearances season beckons.”
Which area should Chelsea focus on the most in this transfer market window?
“Goalkeeper needs to be addressed and one centre-back – I actually think left-back is less of an issue for now while Kai Havertz is a luxury signing. It looks like [Roman] Abramovich is motivated to spend, spend, spend and so it’s a question of finding the right players and getting the deals over the line.”
Chelsea have been very active in the transfer market. They have acquired Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and look close to signing Ben Chillwell and Kai Havertz. Which players do you believe will not benefit from all these players joining Chelsea?
“There’s quite a list, but avoiding the obvious ones who will be sold or loaned I do wonder how much game-time the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy and perhaps also [Christian] Pulisic and [Mason] Mount will get over the course of the season.”
Do you think César Azpilicueta is the best captain in Chelsea’s history?
“Short answer, no. César Azpilicueta is a terrific ambassador for the Club and a loyal, dependable and versatile defender… but he is nowhere near John Terry in terms of providing do-or-die leadership on the pitch.”
What has been the downfall to Kepa’s career and do you see the Spaniard in goal next season for Chelsea?
“Kepa’s downfall started with his player-manager escapade at Wembley in the 2019 League Cup Final v Man City. He then allowed personal issues to cloud his game (girlfriend trouble). Having a shaky defence in front of him hasn’t given him confidence and that’s a two-way street. Being dropped for the latter stages of the 2019/20 campaign spoke volumes about how much the manager trusts him – he doesn’t
“Without the benefit of a decent pre-season to see if he can be trusted with a better defence in front of him (assuming new signings) I don’t see how Lampard can re-evaluate him and, on that basis, I can’t see him getting a game. That said, if Chelsea don’t sign another goalkeeper and something happens to Willy Caballero there may be no option other than to play him.”
Lastly, how do you see Chelsea finishing this season and do you think they will progress this upcoming year?
“Progress will largely depend on fixing the defensive problems that plagued Chelsea in 2019/20. Do that, and with exciting new attacking talent already on board and the promise of more to come then the Blues could give Liverpool and Man City a run for their money in the Premier League.
“Realistically, going one better and winning the FA Cup this time around looks like the best option of silverware with the League Cup as a back-up… or why not win both? The new season is all about finding the right formula team wise, do that and we should be seriously challenging for top honours including the Champions League within the next couple of years.”