You may well have noticed Frank Lampard’s dedication to revealing what he told his players at half-time in his post-match interviews. This almost always happens when Chelsea, or whichever team he’s somehow managing at the time, stage a comeback through his pearls of wisdom, which he clearly deemed unworthy of mention, say, *before* the games.
We’ve found ten instances of Lampard, almost always unprompted, offering us a glimpse behind the curtain at a dressing-room of buzzwords where the tactics board sits idle in the corner.
September 28 2019: Chelsea 2-0 Brighton
Half-time score: Chelsea 0-0 Brighton
“The performance pleased me. My message to the players at half-time was not to get despondent, not to get flat or sloppy, which we did in moments in the first half. The key was to keep playing at pace because we were creating a lot.”
Lampard’s first home win as Chelsea manager after draws with Leicester and Sheffield United, and defeat to Liverpool. Sorry, don’t get despondent, flat or sloppy? Are you writing this down?
We’ve gone hard, early and we’re being facetious – you could imagine most managers saying similar and “play at pace” was a decent message for the Chelsea players at this point, as the build-up was awfully slow.
November 5 2019: Chelsea 4-4 Ajax
Half-time score: Chelsea 1-3 Ajax
“I said to the lads at half-time – I’m not trying to say how clever I am – but I said, ‘I think we’re going to draw this at least 3-3, could be 4-4, could be 4-3 and we could win it. It’s up to us.'”
Well hold on Frank, we’re not sure how we can be expected to listen to that and not come to the conclusion that you are really bloody clever. You mean to say your message to the players was that they could draw or win a game they were losing, and of the three likeliest scorelines you put forward to make that a reality, one of them was the actual result? Genius.
December 29 2019: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Half-time score: Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea
“For me the main thing in the first half-hour was not the tactics, it was the spirit and the fight. I said my piece, it was pretty firm, you can’t come here and have nothing about you. Win, lose or draw, I was not so bothered in terms of how I saw the second half coming. It was a case of can we show something here lads, because we have to. We are Chelsea and we can’t roll up and not feel like the 3,000 fans who have travelled across London to watch the game.”
Here we are, the first recorded instance (or at least the first we just found on Google) of Lampard claiming a poor performance had nothing to do with tactics and everything to do with passion. It worked this time, but we have to assume that on the dozens of occasions in which his sides didn’t turn a game around in the second half, they required more than a man beating the badge on his chest in front of them.
“You say I was decisive…” (we have to take him at his word here, but the reporter may well have said nothing of the sort) “…but I could have made the change after 10 minutes, and not just Emerson coming off, any of the players could to change it slightly. It is hard to convey a message with your voice on the sidelines with this sort of atmosphere so sometimes it has to be a gesture.”
*man beats badge on chest*.
January 3 2021: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City
Half-time score: Chelsea 0-3 Manchester City
“I said to the players at half-time, I’ve sat there and had those days. I sat there, had those days and lifted a trophy at the end of the year.”
‘Ok yeah, here’s a guy who won it all but also had some fallow times,’ the players must have been thinking. ‘Makes him seem human, doesn’t it? He’s no different from us. Probably going to tell us about a game in 2011-12 when they finished sixth in the league but ended up winning the Champions League. That would be the perfect example.’
“I remember getting beat at Middlesbrough 2-0 or 3-0, [Mark] Viduka and Yakubu up front, and we were sat in the dressing room pretty demoralised. But we bounced back because we had a spirit in the dressing room, we had a quality of player.”
Lampard was referring to the 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough in 2006, at which point Chelsea were 12 points clear in the Premier League having won 21 of their 26 games in Jose Mourinho’s second season. At half-time against Manchester City in 2021, Chelsea were eighth after seven wins from 17 games. Lampard was sacked two weeks later.
But, to be fair, four months after that Chelsea did win the Champions League. Just not with Frank.
March 3 2022: Everton 2-0 Boreham Wood
Half-time score: Everton 0-0 Boreham Wood
“In terms of the game, it was comfortable in the end. We were slow in the first half, which is interesting for me because this type of game needs an injection of tempo and pace with the level we normally play at. We were below that.”
Playing fast and loose with the word ‘interesting’ there but no other particular problems, and fair f***s to Lampard, he then actually gave his players credit for the half-time turnaround rather than his customary method of throwing them under the bus.
“But we addressed it at half time, the players did, and we were sharper in the second half.”
May 19 2022: Everton 3-2 Crystal Palace
Half-time score: Everton 0-2 Crystal Palace
“Part of managing is acting,” Lampard mused. “You hide your inner thoughts. I’m thinking, because the game wasn’t going our way, the second goal was so bad for us.”
Just wonderful. But the game deserved some Brentian quotes from Lampard, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 85th-minute header securing an astonishing comeback along with Everton’s Premier League safety.
“It was like ‘OK, we’ve changed to 4-3-3. We are going to change Dele – bring on Dele for legs and energy. Can you get nearer the front men?'”
Credit where it’s due, some actual tactics worked brilliantly, but we will caveat that by questioning why Everton were 2-0 down at home to a mid-table Premier League side very much on the beach.
April 8 2023: Wolves 1-0 Chelsea
Half-time score: Wolves 1-0 Chelsea
“First half I thought we were slightly off the pace whereas Wolves were more aggressive, fighting for their Premier League status and I felt they had more aggression in their game.”
Lampard’s first game back and also, coincidentally, the first time this season in which Chelsea appeared not to have a scooby what they were doing. They couldn’t score under Graham Potter, but they at least had a pattern of play. They were God-awful against Wolves and no amount of “aggression” would have made up for the lack of tactics.
“I told the lads that at half-time and second half I felt we corrected that slightly. We created more chances and looked the team more likely to score, but of course by this stage we were 1-0 down and had work to do.”
That’s Lampard apparently suggesting it’s unreasonable to expect Chelsea to score when they’re 1-0 down, which to be fair is about right.
May 2 2023: Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
Half-time score: Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea
Asked what led to Chelsea’s marginal improvement in the second half, Lampard literally said: “It was maybe things I said at half-time.”
Lovely stuff. Lampard didn’t explain what those things were, but categorically told us what he didn’t change, probably because you can’t change what is not actually there.
“Tactical no, because I got asked before this game about playing the back five against Brentford, or playing the back four, back five, these things don’t matter if you don’t do the basics right. We’ve got to do the basics a bit better.”
It’s a stone-cold classic from Lampard, who for some reason fails to see the link between his players’ ability to “do the basics” and them knowing where the f*** they’re supposed to be playing and what he wants them to do.
May 13 2023: Chelsea 2-2 Nottingham Forest
Half-time score: Chelsea 0-1 Nottingham Forest
“It was quite easy for me because it was nothing to do with tactics.” For the love of God. “It was our own problem of not being dynamic enough.” FFS.
“There wasn’t a rocket but I just said what needed to be said. Tactics are irrelevant if you aren’t fast at the top end.”
Anyone else feel like crying? Tactics. Are. Always. Relevant.