Frank Lampard’s tenure as caretaker boss got off to the worst possible start on Saturday as his Chelsea side suffered defeat to relegation-threatened Wolves.
Raheem Sterling will be at the heart of Frank Lampard’s efforts to breathe new life into Chelsea.
The caretaker boss has identified the England winger as one of the men he wants to stop the rot at Stamford Bridge. Sterling suffered a stop-start campaign due to a few minor injuries as a whirlwind of chaos ripped through the club.
But the striker showed enough in the first half to suggest his confidence wasn’t as battered as some of his colleagues – and Lampard quickly focused on that.
He said: “Raheem is a fantastic player. He was one of the best wingers in the world for a long time, sometimes, maybe in some people’s opinion, the best. I can’t remember how many times I referred to young wingers when I was here before at Chelsea, Derby – and Everton in fact.
“I said, ‘Look at Raheem Sterling and see why he scores 20 goals a season’ – so I have the highest feeling for him in that sense. In the last few days I’ve been talking to him a bit.
“We have to find the right team structure so it’s the best for the players and drive them and of course I’ve only been here a few days. I’ll talk to Raheem more as we go – I just think he’s a top player.
“It’s always 50-50 for me, getting the structure right for a player and then the player himself does his part – but Raheem has shown what a player he is.”
Chelsea are heading to the Champions League quarter-finals this week, with Real Madrid desperate for the type of form that will topple Los Blancos. The fabulous fightback against Borussia Dortmund already seems like a distant memory and their efforts at Molineux suggest there is a lot of work to be done to undo the damage.
Confidence is clearly at an all-time low, but Sterling has been the man on the biggest stages – he was one of England’s best players at Euro 2020. Could he still have that level of performance in him?
Lampard added: “Maybe… I haven’t watched every Chelsea game this season, sometimes I was obviously doing my thing, but he’s certainly a top player and an understanding of the game that he won’t mind. .
“Actually he’s been in games like this in the past so that’s something we’re obviously going to rely on because some elements of the team are maybe a bit younger. Raheem was there and did and has a production history at that level.
Lampard recognizes the romance of a club amid domestic troubles waking up to a hurrah. He was part of the team that lifted the Champions League 11 years ago after André Villas-Boas was sacked, leaving Roberto di Matteo to lead the Blues to ultimate glory.
But the 44-year-old is cunning enough to know that football doesn’t run on romance. He said, “I understand that. Wouldn’t we all like to see him again? But there is a lot to do.
“It’s partly because we parked the bus at the Nou Camp in the semi-finals and managed to hold on for our dear lives! There are so many things, fate at different times.
“But we had a huge desire and a great character and level of talent in this group that had been striving for years to win a Champions League – so you remember that.
“A team and a group will always go through difficult times to become great and we are actually in a different position where we are trying to put something together with great intention.
“So we’re not in that position but we have an opportunity against a fantastic team and we have to make the most of it. We know it’s going to be tough and I don’t think history has a big effect on that. – but I understand the romantic idea.
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