The Fiver | Excellent or decidedly average debut seasons as Chelsea manager

The Fiver | Excellent or decidedly average debut seasons as Chelsea manager

MIXED MESSAGES

It could be argued that Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has had an excellent debut season, defying sceptics by ensuring a top-four finish in the Premier League, taking his side to an FA Cup final and making the last 16 of Big Cup, all while hamstrung by a one-window transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard last summer. It could also be argued that Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has has a decidedly average debut season, doing a worse job than his unpopular predecessor by taking his team from third to fourth in the Premier League while shipping goals at an alarming rate, winning no trophies and suffering a humiliating exit from Big Cup at the hands of Bayern Munich despite the wealth of talent – including 19 internationals and a raft of young graduates from the club’s youth academy – at his disposal.

The truth is almost certainly somewhere in between. Lampard has made a half-decent fist of his first season, but has been left with plenty to think about after seeing his team get dismantled with stereotypically ruthless Teutonic efficiency by arguably the best team in Europe across two legs of their Big Cup knockout tie. The damage was done in the first leg, as a defence as hapless as theirs was never going to keep a clean sheet while going all-out to score the four goals they needed at the Allianz Arena on Saturday night.

Instead, Bayern scored the four goals, booking their place in the quarter-finals against Lionel Messi and 10 other blokes, who saw off Napoli without looking particularly impressive. “It’s a good exercise for us to go up against Bayern and their [Big Cup] experience, with a lot of our players having debut seasons,” cheered Lampard. “When you match our Big Cup appearances compared to theirs, I saw lots of good things in the team and also some of the bad we have seen this season. We had individual errors that gave them goals and at this level that will finish you off. I can see where I want us to go and I know we’ll be back.”

For now, FLC’s players will be going on their holidays. Their Manchester City counterparts will enjoy no such leisure time this week, however, as they have a quarter-final against Lyon to prepare for following the smitings of Real Madrid and Juventus, respectively. “We spoke about our families and I wished him all the best,” said Pep Guardiola, upon being asked what he and Zinedine Zidane discussed at great length during their chat following the game. “He was one of my idols when I was a player. I played against him in the national team with France and I suffered a lot. He was one of the greatest and as a human being he is an example and I like how he can represent our profession like he does.” Meanwhile back in Madrid, a Welshman presumably cackled loudly.

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Join Rob Smyth from 8pm BST for hot MBM coverage of Manchester United 3-1 FC Copenhagen in Big Vase’s quarter-finals.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“[The] choice is based on the belief that [he] has what it takes to lead from his debut on the bench an expert and talented squad to pursue new successes” – 10 days after appointing winery owner and former player Andrea Pirlo as their U-23 manager, Juventus promote him even further after telling Maurizio Sarri to do one.

Meritocracy, earlier.

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RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Weekly will be in this general vicinity.

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: Nicola Sturgeon (Friday’s Quote of the Day). Surely it was political hyperbole about Aberdeen players in that bar? ‘High-profile players’ in Aberdeen? Sounds like a Trumpism to me” – James Boyle.

“From the impressively clear photos of the naked German boar-chaser, you don’t think that it’s Weird Uncle Fiver – but you ‘can’t be sure’ (Friday’s last line). Pray, what more do you would you want to see?” – Mike Wilner.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … James Boyle.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Borussia Dortmund insist Jadon Sancho isn’t going anywhere, not least to Manchester United. “He will play for us next season,” bartered club suit Michael Zorc. “The decision is definitive. I believe that answers all questions.”

Fun and games with tax dept: the number of footballers investigated by HMRC rose dramatically in the tax year 2019-20, going up from 87 to 246 individuals, according to research by the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young.

Carlos Tévez, 59, has signed a new one-year contract with Boca Juniors. He plans to win a second Copa Libertadores with the club, but only if Neil Warnock doesn’t mind.

A man wearing a mask with a cartoon Carlos Tévez in Buenos Aires.

USA! USA!! USA!!! World Cup winner Sam Mewis is now a Manchester City Women player.

Olympiakos defender Kostas Tsimikas has flown to the UK to complete his medical and a £11.75m move to Liverpool.

Cedric Itten, Pope’s Newc O’Rangers’ new striker, made his debut in Sunday’s win over St Mirren, and his new manager is pleased. “From what I���ve seen in the opening two or three training sessions, I think he’s going to be a big player for us,” roared $tevie Mbe, once he gets “used to the style”. The Fiver has no doubt he’ll be teaming v-neck jumpers with shirt and tie in no time.

Marseille assistant coach Ricardo Carvalho thinks José Mourinho still has it. “You have to accept the way Mourinho works,” tooted the former Chelsea man. “He knows his own way and he has been successful every year. I think it’s more a question of time in the beginning and then he will get results.” Because if there’s one thing Mourinho’s career proves …

And a new study by boffins at Reading University has revealed that playing matches without fans had a minimal effect on home advantage, but did correspond with officials showing fewer yellow cards to away teams.

STILL WANT MORE?

Yordan Letchkov’s pate and Borislav Mihaylov’s syrup take centre stage as Daniel Harris remembers the rest of the world’s feelings when Bulgaria beat Germany at the 1994 World Cup in the latest edition of Golden Goal.

Letchkov!

It’s Bayern’s to lose, according to human-brain-in-a-jar Jonathan Wilson’s Big Cup quarter-finals tie-by-tie analysis and verdicts.

Lyon have a new homegrown hero in Maxence Caqueret, writes Eric Devin.

“It’s beyond the model”: have Liverpool exposed the limits of xG? Paul MacInnes gets out his abacus and talks to the laptop gurus.

“We created this for people to fall back in love with football.” Andy Hunter hears from the people behind Bury AFC.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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