Villas-Boas frank over Lampard’s future role
The humour at football clubs can be barbed but, said Andre Villas-Boas yesterday, there were no gags about open goals made at the expense of Fernando Torres in training at Cobham.
“There's nothing to joke about,” he said. “We don't joke about negative results against a Premier League contender.”
Nor, it can be assumed, were ageist quips being made to Frank Lampard. So startling was Torres' Old Trafford miss the humiliation suffered by Lampard in being substituted at half-time largely slipped under the radar.
Yet, coupled with similar treatment at international level, it further added to a sense that a very good career may be drawing to a close.
Not so, said Villas-Boas. Asked if Lampard (pictured) could adapt his game, he said: “Of course he could, but I do not like where the question is going. It suggests he has a problem with age and is slowing. That is not so. The decision was purely tactical.
“I felt we needed to change formation and bring in a No 10 (the second-striker role). I felt Juan Mata in that position could offer us something.” That, he indicated, meant playing 4-2-1-3 with two holding midfielders, which left no room for 33-year-old Lampard.
“The substitution was not because Lamps was playing badly, he wasn't. He had an important impact.
“Players of this stature don't have to prove anything to anybody. He is a fantastic player. He will be a key player for the rest of the season.”
Nevertheless the feeling that Villas-Boas is changing the guard will be present again tonight when he fields a youthful side in the Carling Cup against Fulham.
“This is an opportunity for us to give our best young talents experience,” he said.
“It is important for them to get the feeling of competition. Arsenal have been doing this for years and I think it has been useful for the talent.”
The approach, Villas-Boas, admitted, was dictated by Roman Abramovich. “The owner wants to promote talent,” he said.
Chelsea have not produced a player of their own since John Terry came through but there are high hopes for Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand, who will play tonight. New signings Oriol Romeo and Romelu Lukaku should also start. It will not all be youngsters. Didier Drogba will make his return from suffering concussion against Norwich last month.
Meanwhile, Villas-Boas has complained to Mike Riley, who oversees referees in his position as manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, about the officiating at Old Trafford on Sunday.
“I am very unhappy with the poor performance from the referees which had a decisive role in the result,” he said. “You expect the linesman to do his job.”