Jose Mourinho’s ability to dominate the news agenda appears more enduring than his managerial abilities.
The – once? – Special One was the main attraction in the Sky Sports studio on Sunday when former charges Manchester United and Chelsea rounded off opening weekend in the Premier League.
After a bright start for debutant Frank Lampard’s youthful Blues dissolved into a mistake-strewn 4-0 hammering, Mourinho’s, understandable, queries centred on whether there was “a possibility to play with more know-how”.
The current Chelsea boss’ acid glare and cutting response when these words were put to him post-match spoke volumes about why the likes of untested midfielder Mason Mount and striker Tammy Abraham started at Old Trafford.
And rather than retreat to the familiarity of relative veterans like Marcos Alonso and Olivier Giroud for Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool, this vehement stance hints that the club’s all-time record scorer’s selection policy draws from an innate coaching philosophy, instead of the practicalities of a suffocating two-window transfer ban.
Lampard lent on youngsters during Derby County’s narrow promotion miss from the Championship last term. He will continue to do so now he’s in charge at the club he triumphantly represented from 2001-14.
This belief, anathema to the immediacy espoused by men like Mourinho who’ve also manned the dugout during Roman Abramovich’s 13-year ownership, should lead to imminent chances for Fikayo Tomori.
If ‘Super Frank’ remains typically assured, it may even come against the likes of Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah and Brazil No9 Roberto Firmino at Istanbul’s Vodafone Park.
Put frankly, France centre-back Kurt Zouma was wretched at Old Trafford. Confidence gained on loan at Everton ebbed away with clumsy passes and a pivotal foul on Marcus Rashford to force the opener from the penalty spot.
Even 29-year-old captain Cesar Azpilicueta was burned away by the England forward for the third, plus negligent about Anthony Martial’s positioning for the second.
With David Luiz now permanently across London at Arsenal and a temporary stint of his own at Goodison Park ended by that move, Tomori’s time is now.
The 21-year-old certainly has the pedigree for it.
Junior honours include the 2017 Under-20 World Cup and 2018 Toulon Tournament with England. Successive FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League doubles were claimed at the Blues from 2014-16.
A second season of regular first-team football witnessed him be named as Derby’s Player of the Year for 2018/19, ahead of contemporary Mount.
With the Rams, he sat in the top three per game for tackles game (2.3), blocks (0.8) and clearances (3.9). His 4,062 minutes was also the second-most recorded.
Tomori, at this stage, remains largely untainted by the defensive fragility that has defined the early months of Lampard’s reign. Chelsea conceded 11 goals in seven pre-season fixtures, but the Canada-born prospect started only two of them (although one of these was a 4-3 victory against Championship strugglers Reading).
He was an unused substitute in Manchester. Provided ringside seats to witness the mauling that ensued.
The hasty return of Germany’s Antonio Rudiger and continued development of Denmark’s Andreas Christensen provide longer-term hurdles. Opportunity has, however, always been the insurmountable obstacle for Chelsea’s premium prospects, rather than talent alone.
Tomiri’s timely rise alongside Lampard has removed this blockade. Now, comes the moment to flourish.
Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker’s injury will keep him out for “the next few weeks”, manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed.
The 26-year-old Brazilian damaged a calf during the first half of Friday night’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Norwich and while the club has put no timescale on his recovery, Klopp is expecting to have to do without the Champions League winner for some time.
Klopp, whose side meet Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, told the club’s official website: “[It’s] Not too cool. It’s a calf injury, which takes him obviously out for a while.
“I don’t want to make now [an] exact prognosis on when he will be back, but it will not be Wednesday for sure, so then we have to see. It takes a while, it takes a couple of weeks for sure, and we have to see.
“I saw already like ‘six weeks’ and stuff like this, but Ali was not a lot injured in his career, so I would like to wait a little bit to see how he develops in that process now, but he is not in for the next few weeks.”
Jürgen Klopp has confirmed @Alissonbecker will be sidelined for ‘the next few weeks’ due to the calf injury he sustained on Friday.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 12, 2019
Brazil international Alisson was replaced by summer signing Adrian six minutes before the break in the Norwich game with his side already leading 3-0.
The Spaniard played the remainder of the match and was beaten by Teemu Pukki as the Reds ran out 4-1 winners.
The Spaniard is in pole position to keep his place for the Super Cup clash with Premier League rivals and Europa League winners Chelsea in Istanbul, with Irish youngster Caoimhin Kelleher next in line following Simon Mignolet’s departure for Club Brugge.
Alisson’s loss for an extended period would represent a blow to the club he joined from Roma in a £65million switch last summer.
The South American played a key role in Liverpool’s title charge, which came up just short, and their European triumph as the decision to invest heavily in a problem position paid off handsomely.
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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has staunchly defended homegrown pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount after criticism from Jose Mourinho in the wake of their 4-0 hammering at Manchester United.
Former Blues boss Mourinho, speaking in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, questioned the wisdom of including Mount and Abraham in the starting XI as Frank Lampard’s tenure as Chelsea head coach began in ignominious fashion.
Mourinho’s reasoning centred on the duo’s lack of top-flight experience when the likes of N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso were left on the bench on Sunday afternoon.
Azpilicueta said: “If they are here it is because they deserve to be. They are fighting in every training session. We trust in them.
“All the boys, they train to play for the Chelsea first team since they were young and now we have a massive opportunity to create a fantastic group, to learn from every game.
“Obviously everyone would like to start in a better way but we have to face the reality and become stronger from it.”
Abraham and Mount started brightly at Old Trafford, the former rattling the post, and Chelsea were perhaps unfortunate to be trailing at the break following Marcus Rashford’s penalty.
However, the visitors unravelled once Anthony Martial had doubled United’s advantage after the hour mark, with further strikes from Rashford and substitute Daniel James adding gloss to the scoreline.
Azpilicueta has called on Chelsea to quickly draw a line under what happened on the opening weekend of the Premier League season ahead of a trip to Istanbul to face domestic rivals Liverpool in Wednesday’s Super Cup final.
The Spanish defender added: “We know that Chelsea always fights for everything. When you don’t win, the questions around get more and more but we have to cope with it.
“We know that playing for Chelsea requires your best effort in every game so we have to learn from the game.
“We know that we can improve. We have to face it, take the responsibility and move forward. We have a trophy to fight for on Wednesday against a good team and we have to be ready for it.”
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