Frank Lampard was in the mood for a scrap on Friday and it is a desire to fight, rather than formations or tactics, that he believes will ultimately decide whether Chelsea can pull themselves out of their current slump and relieve the pressure on his shoulders.
The Chelsea head coach rounded on one journalist, accusing him of “confirmation bias” in his analysis of where he has felt Lampard has been getting it wrong. In Lampard’s view, short-term fixes will be found in hard work and determination, rather than on a tactics chalkboard.
And Lampard will not be calling up any of his old managers or former team-mates to help fight his corner, as the 42-year-old insists on defending himself in what constitutes the biggest battle of his coaching career so far.
Chelsea face a crucial three-game spell, starting against Luton Town in the FA Cup on Sunday and in which they play successive home Premier League games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley.
Come through them unscathed and Lampard will undoubtedly live to fight another day, but he also knows that any heavy blow could prove fatal following a run of five defeats in eight Premier League games.
“Fight is an important word in football, so there’s no doubt we have to put some things to one side now,” said Lampard. “It’s not going to be 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 that will win us the games we need to win in the short term, it’ll be the passion and the desire, and the togetherness of the team.”
Striker Olivier Giroud is available for the Luton game after missing the defeat to Leicester City, but N’Golo Kante remains out. Amid the criticism he has faced, Lampard also retains the support of a large section of supporters, some of whom paid for a banner backing him, and the club fanzine cfcuk have appealed to the board to remain patient.
“I’m a fighter first and foremost,” said Lampard. “It’s how I managed to make a career out of the game as a player. When I packed up, I could have easily stayed in the media or come out of football altogether.
“I didn’t need to get back in. I got back in with a desire to be successful. I didn’t have blinkers on. I knew that there will be tough times and things that you can’t control like you did as a player.
“I love the job and I love the fact that if there are tough times you can fight your way out of them, and I mean the players as well, because we are not firing. It (fighting back) is the best feeling in football, the best feeling you can possibly have.
“As a player here, I always wondered, as I wanted to be a manager, ‘what do tough times look and feel like? How does the responsibility differ as a manager to a player?’ And it’s fine. It is what it is. You have to go into it wanting to handle pressure, wanting to handle success by being humble about it at all times.
“That’s why I am maybe a bit short with some of my answers to some people today. I know that some of the talk is nonsense, it’s only the action that matters, so all that I will control is what’s in front of me.”
Lampard was not spiky for his entire press conference, but was firm with his answers. Asked if he had called any of his former managers such as Carlo Ancelotti or Jose Mourinho for advice or help, Lampard replied: “No, I haven’t gone calling, I don’t like to do that. I like to experience things myself, I’ve got tight knit staff around me and family I speak to, but I haven’t gone outside of that.”
Other than facing criticism over recent results and performances, questions have been raised in some quarters over whether or not Lampard and his coaching staff are too young and inexperienced to become a success at Chelsea.
“This is a funny one because I think when we’re winning games and unbeaten it’s a great thing, it’s exciting and young,” said Lampard. “When you’re not winning games, then you’re too young and inexperienced.
“A while ago, I spoke to a really, really experienced and massively successful manager who’s retired now and he told me that people talk about experience, and it’s the most overtalked thing in management. He felt that he became a worse manager as he got older, as he started to second guess and overthink things, and all the experiences he’d had kind of went over the top of each other.
“Some managers have great success at a young age, some less so and it takes them time. Everyone’s path is different.”
As well as fighting his own corner, Lampard defended Chelsea’s biggest summer signing Kai Havertz, who has so far struggled to live up to his £62 million price tag.
“I can officially say from working with Kai that desire is absolutely not part of the issue,” said Lampard. “Is he as confident right now, at this minute, as he can be or will be? No because he is having a tough moment, as are other members of the squad.
“I could make lots of comparisons to players that were here at a similar age to Kai – Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah, who went away and took time and came back, and now they are absolute Premier League legends. There clearly has to be a period of time with young players who come to this League, where people have to give them time, patience and sometimes a little bit of wriggle room.
“I know him well, he’s a good lad and my job is to coach him like I coach the young players that came through last year in this team and made real names for themselves, to keep improving him. And now is the time to give him confidence and show my support for him and he’s got my absolute support.”
Fikayo Tomori has joined AC Milan on loan until the end of the season. The deal includes an option for the Italians to buy the Chelsea defender for £25m, plus a further £5m in bonuses.