Lampard appeals to Premier League for delayed start to season
Frank Lampard has appealed to the Premier League to delay Chelsea’s start to next season – even if his team do not produce an unlikely comeback against Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League.
The Chelsea head coach is also seeking clarity regarding Willian’s decision over his future, as Lampard starts planning for the summer and next season.
Chelsea play in Munich on Saturday, a week after losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal, when three of their players were forced off with injuries.
They are trailing 3-0 from the first leg and, even if they are knocked out, Lampard’s team will not start their summer break until Sunday at the earliest.
Clubs competing in this month’s mini-tournaments for the Champions League and Europa League, which could also include Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, are expected to be handed a late start to the new Premier League season.
But, even if they miss out on that tournament, Lampard believes the Sept 12 start will be too early for his team, given they would have less than five full weeks between campaigns.
Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta both pulled hamstrings against Arsenal, ruling them out of the Bayern clash, while Pedro Rodriguez, who is joining Roma, dislocated a shoulder.
“I am guessing we will be told when we start next season and that will be dependent on how we go against Bayern Munich,” Lampard said. “I am not forgetting the game against Bayern as that is a big game for us. The players need a rest before we prepare for that game.
“It is not ideal because the players need to be given a break to play at the level and to show the quality product the Premier League is.
Even in a worst case scenario and we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th feels too early for me and the players to start again.
“The players need a break. That is why we have pulled two hamstrings and had players pull out of the game before this. I would like to think the Premier League would look seriously at that and, hopefully, give us a fair start next season. We deserve it as a Premier
League club competing in the Champions League.”
Willian was ruled out of the Arsenal final on the eve of the game and Lampard now wants to know what the Brazilian has decided over his future.
The 31-year is eligible to face Bayern, but his contract will expire when Chelsea’s season finishes and the player’s agent said his client would make an announcement on whether he would stay at Stamford Bridge after the FA Cup final.
Arsenal are believed to be one of the clubs interested in Willian and, asked on Saturday night if he knew the winger’s plans, Lampard said: “No. It is his decision. I have not got that answer. I know the situation from the club’s end.
“I have a great relationship with Willian, but I actually do not know what that decision is. And if that happens over the next whatever days, as he said, then that will be good for me either way.
“Of course, I am very happy with Willian as he has been brilliant for me this season with his input and work ethic within the squad. But it is his choice and I respect his choice.
“He has been a great servant for Chelsea if he decides to move on. And if he does decide to move on, then Chelsea move on as well, and we have to look forward ourselves.”
Despite his disappointment at losing the Cup final, Lampard insisted Chelsea must remain positive about a season in which his team exceeded expectations by qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
“I am delighted with the season and I have wanted to keep that within me for the past week because I don’t like to get too excited when there is such a big game coming up,” said Lampard.
“We have to reflect on the season going into it, where people did not expect us to be in the top four. There were unknowns, the transfer ban, other clubs around us moved forward with recruitment and we could not.
“So I don’t think this result takes anything away. Far from it. We have lost a final and that is frustrating for us, but there is a bigger picture that we are working to here.
“We have seen lots of good things, but we need to understand that there are lots of things to work on.
“For sure we should be, the players should be, proud of how they have competed all season domestically and the League position was a huge plus for us because, let’s get it right, not many people gave us that chance at the start and now we have to look to see how we get better. Saturday showed us that there is plenty of room to get better.”
The Arsenal players and staff get the party started following their victory with head coach Mikel Arteta leading the wild dressing-room scenes (above). That was after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had dropped the Cup (left) and Arteta had picked up compatriot Dani Ceballos on the pitch (right)
Work in progress: Frank Lampard says Chelsea have shown signs of improvement