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.
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