Lam­pard ap­peals to Premier League for de­layed start to sea­son

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Matt Law foot­ball news cor­re­spon­dent

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

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