Frank Lampard spoke exclusively to talkSPORT on Wednesday following Chelsea’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Ajax.
The Blues boss reflected on the dramatic night of Champions League action at Stamford Bridge, telling Jim White he always believed his side would recover from 4-1 down.
Plus, he explained how he is getting the best out of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, expressed his delight at the return of ‘world class’ N’Golo Kante, and explained why he won’t rush into making new signings if the club’s transfer ban is overturned.
Here’s the highlights of the interview…
HAVE YOU RECOVERED?
“Just about, just about. It was actually quite difficult doing all the media bits after the game because of what had gone on in the game. Analysing and recalling it all is not easy.
“The overriding feeling is being proud of the spirit of the team. I felt like the lads on the pitch could turn the game, but it is up to them to do it.
“Even the stadium… I felt the support and atmosphere was kind of special.
“I know we didn’t get the win we wanted in the end, but from 4-1 down to get it to 4-4 was something special.”
WHAT HE SAID AT HALF-TIME WITH CHELSEA 3-1 DOWN
“In the first half there were moments that went against us – the two own goals – and then a bit of bad decisions from us, so there were moments that were definitely on us.
“But other than that I just felt we were quite dangerous; Christian Pulisic was getting in dangerous areas and Willian is always a danger, so I felt like if we moved the ball like we have recently, with more quality, it was there for us.
“I didn’t want to give the lads a negative feel as their heads were down a bit, so I just wanted them to feel they could believe because even after last night we still had two more games left.
“So it was just one of those to try and lift them. But as I said, it was the boys who actually went out there and changed the tone of the game.”
WHY IT’S A GREAT LEARNING CURVE FOR CHELSEA
“At the minute we are in a pretty good place. Everyone asks about the youth and the young players, but I think the balance we have of the young players but also the Azpilicuetas and Jorginhos who the crowd are reacting to at the minute, they are the leaders of it.
“When you start to feel things turn on the night, that is what it is all about. The whole crowd and stadium was electric and we were pushing.
“It was a great little sign on the learning curve that we are on to a degree of what we can do when we are all together.”
WHY JORGINGHO AND KOVACIC ARE PLAYING SO WELL THIS SEASON
“The credit has to go to them both, and all the other players who are doing well at the moment.
“It is all on them and all I and the staff do – I always mention the staff because you work so hard with them – when you come in fresh you try to bring in new ideas and implement them on the training ground and then it is up to the players.
“In terms of those two I’ve just tried to give them the freedom to find a pass. Particularly with Kovacic, for instance, he’s got that ability to go past people in midfield which is pretty rare. So they can take players out of action in the central areas and be expansive when they can be.
“The rest is down to them. They’ve got great character and they do drive the team from central areas.
“You see that with Jorginho; he is always pushing people on and talking, and that is huge for you.”
WHAT HE THOUGHT OF THE FANS WHO LEFT EARLY AGAINST AJAX
“One of them was probably my dad! He’s always shooting off early because of traffic and if the game changes we have to have a conversation later on.
“Listen, I get it with some people, especially on an evening when some people have to go to work.
“But the people who stayed – I’ve spoken to my friends and the game and fans – they thought it was a special evening.
“I was just a bit disappointed we didn’t get the extra goal. We had the one chalked off, but even after that I thought we were going to push and get it.
“We were unlucky in the end not to win the game.”
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THE RETURN OF N’GOLO KANTE
“Firstly, he is a fantastic player and one of the players when I came in I was so excited to work with, because I have loved him from afar as a Chelsea fan.
“I will need him, because he is world class – there is no doubt about it.
“His attributes and what he brings can’t be talked down just because we are in a good moment at the minute.
“It is brilliant for us that he is back.
“We have had to be a bit careful with him because he had a difficult start to the season. He had a lot of niggles because he’s been used to amazin effect a lot in four years and it was maybe time just to take a little bit of a back step.
“But hopefully he is going to be massive for us.”
WHY KANTE, KOVACIC AND JORGINHO CAN PLAY TOGETHER
“One thing we have done this year is try to be adaptable, which means sometimes there are changes in personnel or the shape of the team.
“There is not one of them midfielders that you can say ‘Ok, he is just a number ten or can only do that’. They can all do a lot. So in terms of how they rotate and work together, that is something we always work on and whoever I pick there when they are all fit you like to think they will give you a good performance.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF CHELSEA’S TRANSFER BAN IS OVERTURNED IN JANUARY
“I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
“I am very happy with what I’ve got, but it is something we would always look to as Chelsea.
“Can we improve in areas and only do business if we can improve and it feels it is the right thing for the group.
“Not just personnel wise, but in the balance and the way we are going.
“I will look at that one, but at the moment I can’t ask for any more. It’s nice that what happens at the appeal is really down the list of my priorities at the minute, the real priority is going game to game and trying to improve all the time.”
CAN YOU TAKE CHELSEA TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL?
“We are far too far away from that to say it.
“What I will say is that even after last night I was still very level headed and was thinking that Valencia is a tough game and we need to go there and try and get something.
“The two games we’ve got now are massive for us to get through the group.
“The last thing I would do is shout about getting too far down the competition.
“But, having said that, we do need to remain confident and believe in ourselves, and we’ve seen other teams who can get deep in the competition by being on a run at the right time and doing the right thing.
“So there is lots and lots of work that needs to be done, but things like last night are little parts of the story.
“There are things we must learn – we can’t give sloppy goals away and can’t have sleepy moments to give them the lead – but if we correct those things then in the long term I hope there is far we can go with this group.”
ON HIS FIRST SEASON AS CHELSEA MANAGER
“I am loving it. It is a huge thing of pride for me; everyone knows how I feel about the club.
“I am working hard, all the staff are working hard, and the players are working hard, and I want it to be a success.
“During the process you can’t always appreciate how much you are loving it because you are working daily. But genuinely, I am.
“I want us to get better and better, I want us to be a success and Palace is another game we want to win.”