Chelsea legend Frank Lampard spoke to TalkSPORT ahead of the game between two of his English former clubs: the London Blues and Manchester City.
The New York City FC midfielder was surprised that he could properly follow the Premier League while in the USA:
“We get more games on TV here than in the UK,” he says over the phone from his New York home. “When I first got here, I wasn’t sure if I liked watching it. It was kind of fresh because I’d just finished, but as I’ve been here longer I’ve watched more.
“How would I sum up this season? A one-off. Refreshing. Just a crazy season.”
LEICESTER ON TOP – “We all have our teams – I’ve got Chelsea strong in my heart, and a bit of Manchester City – but no one can say they haven’t been excited by the idea of a team like Leicester doing what they look like doing. Big teams have underperformed and Leicester are the fairytale. I thought they would be caught. But with the big results they’ve pulled off and the consistency they’re playing with, plus the lack of games left, I think it’s pretty much theirs. The only thing that can stop them now is the nerves that can come when a team isn’t used to being in that position. But they look like they’re enjoying it. There’s a difference between feeling pressure in a negative way and enjoying it, and at the moment the whole place is buzzing. Watching on TV you can feel the atmosphere. That might carry them over the line.”
RANIERI – “I’ve always followed Claudio Ranieri’s career because he was a huge turning point in mine when he took me to Chelsea. Leicester was a difficult job, though. I know he’s a good manager and a man who galvanises players, but I wasn’t sure what he had to work with there. He and every player have exceeded themselves. In recent weeks, when the pressure could have been tough for the players, he’s taken it off them with a smile and the way he behaves. It’s not just down to him, though. The players have come out of nowhere to look like world-beaters. Some are in their international teams now, when they were nowhere near them at the start of the season. They’re the ones who go out there and do it consistently, so credit to them.”
RELEGATION BATTLE – “In recent years we’ve seen so-called big clubs, who believe they can’t go down, getting relegated. That’s when a club has to take a look at itself from top to bottom – from players to recruitment, owners and managers… Aston Villa have looked completely disjointed this season. In previous years they’ve consistently been at the higher end of the league, but now they look like one of the worst Premier League clubs we’ve seen.”
GUARDIOLA TO CITY – “When a club announces a new manager is coming in at the end of the season, it shouldn’t have any impact on the players. But history says it does affect teams. Manchester City will be the club that asks: ‘Was that the right time to announce it [Pep Guardiola’s signing]? They dropped from a title-winning position afterwards. When Chelsea announced that Antonio Conte was coming in they didn’t have much to lose, so for them it was wise to lay their cards on the table.”
CONTE TO CHELSEA – “Conte has a big job to do. There’s been a transition at Chelsea that looked like it was going in a good direction, but it’s gone in a completely negative one. They shouldn’t be where they are now. You can see Conte is going to take the bull by the horns and try to imprint his style and technique on the club. He might need to bring in players who will respond to that. There will be a change of personnel at Chelsea.”
CHELSEA SEASON – “Chelsea’s players have underperformed. Important players, too – ones who were at a really high level last year. I don’t know if that’s because of issues they have with the club, the manager; if it’s just form, or injuries. The players have to look at themselves and ask: ‘How can so many underperform to that level?’ You can have bad seasons, but you shouldn’t have a bad one where you finish in the bottom half. The big test is how they come back, because Chelsea can’t afford to be out of the top four for two years consecutively.”
JOHN TERRY’s FUTURE – “I imagined finishing my career at Chelsea, and I know John would have, too. But you do have moments when you wonder where your career is going, and I found that period difficult at the end of my time at Chelsea. It’s now the choice that John makes. If he doesn’t stay, where does he go? For me it’s been an amazing experience to go to Manchester and New York, even when I didn’t expect it. And it might be the same for John if it does go that way. But it’s a difficult situation – you’ve got a family and you’re wondering where you’re going to live. You go from being very stable and at a club you love to having to take in all these other variables. So it is not an easy time. John will be going through all that now.”