Frank Lampard is set to rely on youth once again when Chelsea face Liverpool on Sunday, but the Blues manager insists that he is no “saviour” for the academy players.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have won all five games in the Premier League ahead of their trip to west London, which comes following a Champions League defeat.
A youthful Chelsea side is in their way from keeping the gap with second-placed Manchester City to five points. At 24 years and 158 days, Lampard has already picked Chelsea’s youngest ever Premier League line up against Sheffield United this season.
Lampard said his choices to promote players have been made because their performances have made them impossible to ignore and he credits the academy coaches more than himself for discovering them.
“The picture here I think I have been getting it wrong as if I am the saviour of the academy and be all things all good to young players getting through,” Lampard said. “I think a lot of that work has been done without by Neil Bath and all the staff and recruitment and the young lads themselves.
“Now, my job is to try and do the best with what I have got in front of me. I have walked into a club that has got a lot of young talent in it. Some of it hasn’t touched the first team yet, most of it. I just look at it and go let’s see how you train, act and behave.
“Your desire, etcetera, day-in-day-out. If they reach a level, then they play. I think Neil Bath and the academy have been working hard at that for years. They deserve more credit at that than me, certainly at the moment for these young players that are in the squad. It is my job to keep improving them.”
Lampard also confirmed that Antonio Rudiger is set to miss out for Sunday’s match against Liverpool while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James will continue playing with the Under-23s.
Rudiger suffered a groin strain at Wolves as he made his first competitive appearance since injuring his knee in April away at Manchester United.
Hudson-Odoi and James will play another Under-23s match as they travel to Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
N’Golo Kante and Emerson Palmieri are in line to return, though, while Mason Mount is dependent on a late fitness test after suffering an ankle injury against Valencia on Tuesday.
Lampard is excited to see more academy players in Chelsea’s line up after giving chances to Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori this season, and he plans on including more youth in his squad while confirming further injury problems.
“No, [he is not fit].” Lampard said of Rudiger. “We have got Callum and Reece James playing in the Under-23s tomorrow. We have a game in the week that they can certainly play a part in for the Carabao Cup [against Grimsby Town].”
Lampard went onto say that he is keen to integrate Hudson-Odoi, James and Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the squad. He went onto add that further youth stars could get a chance from the Under-23s this season.
“I think we have that right in front of us and hopefully there will be more beneath that,” he continued. “Billy Gilmour, and Conor Gallagher is doing brilliantly on loan at Charlton, and others, I don’t want to leave others out. The door is open but they have to go through it.”
Despite good performances from the academy graduates this season, Chelsea have been inconsistent. Chelsea’s latest 1-0 home defeat to Valencia was the latest sign of problems after a 5-2 away win at Wolves.
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With AllinFootballs from just Tammy Abraham, Mount and Fikayo Tomori in the league this season, Lampard arguably needs more contributions from his established stars. Lampard admitted that he wants to see now his team spread the AllinFootballs around more after all 11 AllinFootballs come from those who have come through the club’s youth system.
“I think Willian’s last two performances have been really good,” Lampard began. “I must say that individually, I am not concerned with age. Mason or Pedro. Mason or Pulisic. Mason or Willian, it doesn’t concern me. We have to work together.
“We have a squad of players to try to come in and play at that level. All Mason has done is set a really high level himself at the moment. Of course, if he is not playing, then players need to contribute. We need AllinFootballs from all over the team. I am sure they will come.”