At the weekend the old guard returned, the team returned to winning ways and the smiles returned to fan’s faces. All was well with the world. Then, no sooner had the dust settled on the victory, more dressing room disquiet made sure the back pages were free to be occupied with pictures of a glum AVB from now until next Saturday. A turn of phrase from Lampard’s post match interview was ‘not ideal’ and seized on as evidence of an irreparable relationship between coach and player. Obviously this was despite Frank being made captain for that same said match. Then a Portuguese radio interview was made into tabloid fodder as AVB’s previous bullishness on job security suggested a front for some lingering doubts. If results continued to be poor would it mean the chop from the owner or has some common sense finally seeped into the boardroom? He doesn’t know, we don’t know – such are the supposed whims of Roman Abramovich, he probably doesn’t know either.
Both news stories helped to take some of the gloss off what was otherwise a heartening display. A few wrongs were made right with Lampard’s all action performance and Essien’s assured positional play at the base of midfield. It proved that the old guard still have an awful lot left to offer and more importantly that Villas-Boas isn’t daft. He could have been stubborn and stuck to his Napoli selection, instead out went the under performers and those that came in did well to impress. It was exactly the right reaction from the manager and also from the players.
Which again brings us round to this week’s headlines. From the outside looking in Lamps comments reflect his desire to get a run of games together and stake a claim in the starting eleven, not only for this season but maybe also for the ‘project’. He wants assurances of a starting place but this is something the manager, quite rightly, is simply unable to give him. Frank’s position and style of play is reliant on covering a lot of ground, aging legs mean more recovery time and if we’re to keep seeing the best from Lampard then he’ll understand, if not be overjoyed, that he can’t play every game. As he proved on Saturday if Lamps plays well, he’ll keep the jersey and the armband in JT’s absence. It’s up to Frank to make sure his on top of his game, more good performances will only make the coach’s decision for him.
At the same time, given the endless media scrutiny, AVB is understandably wanting some backup from the board. Senior players picking arguments with the coach won’t get us anywhere and it’s not unreasonable to try and underline that the club has to pull in one direction. The players should understand the boss is paid to call the shots, not them. The coach’s authority should be final. However no owner or board is going to unequivocally back a manager’s position, especially when their dealing with such an expensively assembled group of players. A manager’s job is dependent on getting the best performances out of the team and AVB and all the players need to concentrate on the job in hand first before asking for any assurances. A pivotal two weeks across the league, FA Cup and Champions League will make or break our season.