Frank Lampard returned to his beloved Chelsea last week in the capacity of caretaker manager. Lampard, who was dismissed as manager of the club in January 2021, will be looking to rebuild his managerial reputation after being sacked by Everton earlier this season and Lampard’s former teammate Glen Johnson believes that the club’s all-time leading goalscorer is a smart appointment by the Chelsea hierarchy. Glen spoke to Betfred regarding who he’d like to take the job on a permanent basis, Mason Mount to Liverpool rumours and where Virgil van Dijk ranks amongst the greatest centre-backs of the Premier League era.
Your former teammate Frank Lampard has taken over as caretaker manager of Chelsea. What have you made of the appointment of Frank?
“They clearly wanted a replacement to come in quickly and there’s not many people who’re going to know more about the club than Lamps. For the club, it’s clearly a short-term solution and I do believe it’s a clever appointment. For Lamps, it’s new owners and if he starts getting some decent results and the owners start liking the way the players are playing under him, then he could throw his name into the hat for the role on a permanent basis. He’s got another bite of the cherry.”
Your former teammate Xabi Alonso is reportedly a shock contender for the job at Stamford Bridge. Back when you played with him, did you envision that he would be a highly regarded manager in the future?
“In terms of his ability and football knowledge, then yes. He was an amazing footballer but when it comes to players that you expect to be successful managers in the future, then he wouldn’t necessarily be your number one prediction. He’s very intelligent and calculated, but he’s very quiet. When we played together, he was quiet and led by example rather than screaming and shouting. He’s got different leadership skills and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s doing well as a manager in Germany.”
Who do you want as the next permanent manager of Chelsea?
“Even though I don’t know whether this could be a reality, personally I’d like to see Zinedine Zidane come in. He’s a massive name in the game, there isn’t much he hasn’t done in the game as a player or manager and I just believe he’s the type of name that would excite the players and the fans. I believe the players need a manager that’s going to walk in and grab their attention. Chelsea’s dressing room is full of big players and the club needs a manager that’s going to demand respect from them from day one. A top ex-footballer will do that.”
Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho, three managers that have all won the Premier League with Chelsea, have all been tipped with potential returns to the club. How would you feel about any of those three managers returning to Stamford Bridge?
“I wouldn’t be opposed to any of those three names coming in. Managers of their calibre are hard to find. They’ve been there, done it and worked with these sorts of players before. For whatever reason they were sacked by Chelsea, but that happens to bloody everyone. It would be a new era for any of those managers as they won’t be working with the same players or the same owners. I wouldn’t be against Chelsea appointing any of those three managers.”
The last time that Chelsea had a season without European football, they won the title under Antonio Conte in 2016-17 and won the Premier League. Do you believe that Chelsea could benefit from no European football next season?
“Potentially, but you don’t know what impact missing out on the Champions League will have on the player’s morale. Having less games over the course of the season can be both a positive and a negative. They could be frustrated watching other players participating in the Champions League and they will believe they should be playing in it too. It did of course help when they won the Premier League in 2017, but that Chelsea team is a very different one to the team they have now. The players will be gutted to not be playing in Europe, but once reality kicks in and they realise they’re going to have to play less games, then they’re going to only really have the Premier League to focus on.”
You’ve previously stated that Mason Mount would be interested in a move to Liverpool. Now the likelihood is that Mason will depart Chelsea in the summer, with Liverpool being installed as the bookmaker’s favourites to sign the England international. Would you guarantee that Mason would be a success at Anfield and why do you believe Mason would be so adamant to want to leave Chelsea?
“I can’t use the word guarantee, but I’d struggle to pick many reasons why Mason wouldn’t be a success at Liverpool. I really like him and he’s a player that would love working under Jürgen Klopp.
“If Mason wants to leave Chelsea, then I can only believe the reason would be down to a lack of gametime and being overlooked, as he’s been unable to find the form he’s shown over recent years. He could soon be overlooked for England too if things continue like this for him. He’s also struggled with injuries as well to be fair to him, but he still may need to find a new challenge elsewhere. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone to be able to work that little bit harder. If Mason wants to sign for Liverpool, then I believe he would be a really good signing.”
Chelsea are reportedly open to selling Mateo Kovačić this summer. His contract expires in the summer of 2024, so Chelsea could be forced to sell the Croatian international for less than they’d ideally like. He’s linked with moves to both Manchester based Premier League clubs, as well as Liverpool, but in your opinion, which of those three clubs would he be best suited to?
“I do believe he would be a massive loss to Chelsea. He’s the sort of player that goes unnoticed because he does all the ugly stuff, but he does it really well and other players around him play better as he’s prepared to do the dirty work that needs doing.
“I’m not surprised that many of the top clubs are linked with him and right now, I believe that out of the three suitors mentioned that Liverpool would need him most. He’s got bags of energy, charges around breaking up play and with Liverpool’s midfielders getting older, he could come in and slot in there very well.”
Former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reportedly wants to reunite with Kai Havertz at Bayern Munich. Do you believe he would be a big miss for the club if he was to depart?
“He’s obviously a good player, but I don’t believe he’d be greatly missed. I don’t believe he suits the way Chelsea play and if you use the 0-0 against Liverpool recently as an example, the team intends to play quickly, but as soon as Kai picks up the ball, the tempo slows down. He must have caused about fifteen big groans from the crowd as he kept on slowing the play down.
“He’s obviously scored a huge goal in a Champions League winning final for Chelsea, which was brilliant, but sadly I believe that the team are better when Kai doesn’t start.”
Chelsea evidently need to debloat their squad this summer. If you were the manager, would Havertz be one of the players you’re selling?
“Yes he would. The club reportedly needs to raise funds and Kai will still be worth a lot of money. I sadly don’t know if he has the ability to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but if he makes a move to a league that has a slower style of play, then he’ll be excellent there, no doubt about it. Sometimes players find it hard to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.”
According to reports in Spain, Manchester United want to sign Chelsea loanee João Félix this summer, after impressing in the Premier League since his arrival in January. Do Chelsea need to do everything in their power to stop this happening?
“He’s certainly won me over more in the last few games. He showed against Liverpool that he’s clearly a class player and normally I don’t like to see clubs go all-out to sign one player, but João is a gamechanger. He’s got eyes in the back of his head and he’s a proper, proper footballer.
“The need to sign him will be even greater if one of the club’s main rivals came in for him. I don’t like to see clubs break the bank for players and you should only do that if the player is going to be the last piece of the puzzle, but Chelsea’s team are miles away from that. In that sense, João is probably a luxury they don’t need, but as he’s currently at the club on loan and they have the opportunity to sign him, then they should do what they need to do to keep him, especially if a Premier League rival such as Manchester United comes in for him.”
Considering Barcelona’s financial predicament, and with the club reportedly under pressure to raise significant funds this summer, Raphinha could be on the market this summer. He’s currently being linked with moves to both Arsenal and Chelsea, and in your opinion, would he be a guaranteed success for either of those clubs considering his success in the Premier League with Leeds United?
“He would be a low-risk signing. His performances in the Premier League are the reason why he got the move to Barcelona in the first place and he’s a really, really good footballer that knows the league well. You’d like to see him back over here at one of the big clubs and he wouldn’t represent a huge risk for any Premier League clubs that are after him.”
How concerned have you been by Virgil van Dijk’s performances this season? Is he no longer indispensable for Liverpool?
“It’s concerning. Virgil was possibly the first name on the teamsheet for a long, long time, but he’s miles away from that sort of status at the moment. However, you don’t become a bad player overnight and I’m sure he will bounce back. By his standard, his performances have been concerning and I don’t believe he’s irreplaceable at the moment and I don’t believe anybody else in that team is. They’re all fighting for their places, but it’s just uncertain whether they have many other players that can come in, make a difference and perform better.”
On the back of Jamie Carragher’s claims that Virgil van Dijk is a ‘miles better’ defender than former Manchester United centre-back Nemanja Vidić was, where for you does Van Dijk rank amongst the best defenders in the Premier League era?
“On his day, it’s hard to claim that many defenders are, or were, better than Virgil. [Nemanja] Vidić was a top defender, but he was more of an out-and-out defender. He wasn’t brilliant on the ball, but he could win it back for fun and just play it to his teammates who were better at distributing the ball. That’s what he was good at.
“Virgil is completely different. He makes defending look so easy as he’s always in the right position. He’s not just a big lump, he’s super composed and really good with his feet. On top of that, he’s an excellent defender and I don’t believe there have been many defenders in the Premier League era who have been better than Virgil. He’s definitely one of the best centre-backs of all-time.”
The Athletic have recently claimed that Liverpool are unlikely to sign Jude Bellingham this summer considering the financial firepower that other interested clubs have. How big a blow is this to Liverpool? If Jude wants to sign for Liverpool over any other club, then do you believe he will be able to engineer a move to Anfield?
“Liverpool’s league position is going against them. If Jude is available, then we all know that all the top teams are going to want him. It hurts me to say it, but if every team wants him, then why would he sign for a team that’s potentially going to finish eighth in the Premier League this season? Even if Liverpool finish fifth, they’ve still not qualified for the Champions League. He’s going to have offers from teams that have won their domestic league and will be contenders to win the Champions League. Those will be the clubs that Jude will want to play for. He won’t care about the possibility of Liverpool challenging again in three years time because that’s three years of his career gone. He will want a move where he can win trophies immediately. The further Liverpool fall away from the top four, then I believe it becomes even more unlikely that they’ll be able to compete for the signing of Jude.”
According to the Independent, Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher has been identified as a top target for Liverpool this summer. As a former player of both clubs involved, we wanted to ask for your thoughts on this potential transfer.
“He certainly has potential and he has a lot to learn. He’s capable of eventually being good enough to play for Liverpool, but I don’t think he’s quite there yet. He can certainly kick on under a good manager and you can understand why Liverpool are in the market for him. He’s not getting a lot of gametime for Chelsea and he’s going to want to go and play, so Liverpool may be able to get him for relatively cheap. I think he would bite Liverpool’s arm off to get that opportunity if I’m being honest.”
Barcelona and France winger Ousmane Dembélé is also being linked with a move to Anfield. He’s additionally linked with moves to Chelsea, Manchester United and PSG, and if there’s any truth to the rumours that he has a £44 million release clause in his contract, which will be active in June and July this summer, then should Liverpool seriously consider pursuing this transfer?
“Yes, definitely. Nowadays, £44 million is considered quite cheap for a player that’s playing for a top team, represents one of the best international teams and has won a number of trophies, including a World Cup winners medal. If he really is available for that price then Liverpool should do all they can to sign him, but they won’t be the only club in for him, that’s for sure.”
Liverpool are said to have joined Chelsea and Manchester United in the race to sign Napoli’s Victor Osimhen. He is one of world football’s most sought after strikers and in your opinion, do Liverpool need him less than the other two clubs mentioned? Would he be the ideal striking solution for Chelsea this summer?
“I believe Liverpool needs a new striker and so do Chelsea and Manchester United. He’s currently the top goalscorer in Serie A with 21 goals, so the guy clearly knows how to finish and be in the right positions. I’ve seen him be compared to Didier [Drogba], so if he’s anything like him, then you’re signing a fantastic player.
“All the top teams need a main striker, so you can understand why so many clubs are interested in him. I think he would suit Liverpool down to the ground.”
You’ve previously told us that you believe that Declan Rice will not join Arsenal this summer. Since you claimed this, the reports linking Declan with a move to the Emirates continue to persist, but Manchester United remain interested. If you were to make a prediction, then where do you believe Declan will be playing his club football next season?
“It’s a tough one because since I initially predicted that he wouldn’t go to Arsenal, they’ve continued to move on strongly in the Premier League. They’re showing that they’re not a flash in the pan and proving that they’re a bloody good side. I initially thought if Arsenal were to win the Premier League this season, that they’d still struggle to compete in the years that followed, but recently they’ve proved to me that they can win by dominating teams and win whilst playing ugly. That’s what title winning teams do. I believe they will now be competing over a longer period of time than I initially thought.
“I always used to think that Chelsea would be the favourites to sign Declan because I thought that they’d bounce back this summer by spending loads of money, but obviously they may not. Depending on what Arsenal’s plans and ambitions are over the next few years, then you can understand why they will be near the top of the list when it comes to signing the best players. The best players are going to want to go to a team that’s won their domestic league and Arsenal are going to be an even more desirable destination for players if they’re able to clinch the Premier League title.”
Which team do you believe will win the Premier League title this season?
“Arsenal. They’ve shown that they can win in every way possible and proved that they can battle and scrap, which is something I didn’t know they were capable of doing. Although I don’t expect Manchester City to slow down, I don’t expect Arsenal to slow down either with eight games to go.
“They will be disappointed they blew a 2-0 lead at Anfield but a couple of years ago, they wouldn’t have even looked like scoring two goals away at Liverpool. They would have probably lost. They’ll probably look at the point as a bad point, but there’s no such thing as a bad point when you’re playing away at Anfield. Only good teams can put themselves in a good position at Anfield.”
Which two other clubs do you believe will join Arsenal and Manchester City in the top four at the end of the season?
“Newcastle United and Manchester United. Newcastle have done brilliantly this season, but in regards to Manchester United, I don’t believe they’re a much better side than Liverpool or Chelsea, they’re just not as hot and cold as them. Chelsea and Liverpool have not shown any promise that they can go on a run of four or five games unbeaten.”
Which three teams do you believe will be relegated at the end of the Premier League season?
“I believe West Ham will do enough to stay out of danger. I think Southampton are the clear favourites to go down and I believe Everton and Nottingham Forest will be relegated alongside them. I think Leicester City have a lot more to give than they’re giving so if Dean Smith can get them going, then they should have enough firepower to stay up.”
Can Frank Lampard win the Champions League with Chelsea? If not, then who do you believe will win the competition?
“If Chelsea can get past Real Madrid, then they will have a hell of a lot of confidence. Unfortunately for them, there’s a number of better teams still in the competition. I do believe that Manchester City have a chance of winning the Champions League this season, but most teams left in the competition are good enough to win it on their day. If I had a gun to my head then I’d say that Manchester City or Bayern Munich will win the Champions League this season.”