Having already used up one of the sport’s biggest and most consistent pricks in week one, time to make a desperate change of course to try and prevent this feature burning out within a month…
So who’s this week’s prick then?
Former Chelsea midfielder turned Chelsea manager turned concocter of irrelevant and, crucially, fictitious alternative realities where all is well, Frankie ‘Frank’ Lampard.
What’s he done?
Lost 2-0 at home to Liverpool. Now clearly that’s not enough to make any manager Prick of the Week. Losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool is a current occupational hazard for all Premier League managers. It could literally happen to anyone. Fair enough.
But what is not acceptable is Lampard’s insistence on imagining in his head an alternative reality where Chelsea didn’t lose 2-0 at home to Liverpool and presenting this as some kind of evidence of anything.
“If we don’t make that mistake for the second goal and you score the penalty,” Lampard mused, apparently in the genuine belief that he was making a valid point, “it’s 1-1.”
No. No it is not.
There are many problems here. First and most obviously, Kepa – bless him – did make that mistake for the second goal and Jorginho did not score the penalty. These, in the words of another to have sat in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat, are facts. Lampard’s alternative facts are really of no value here.
And also, Kepa mistakes are now as predictable and frequent as government U-turns. If you’re going to point at one incident and say “Gah, if only that one thing hadn’t happened” then at the very, very least, that one incident needs to be something that happens quite rarely.
But even that’s not really the issue – and this is where what I’ve really decided to do is to pick on Lampard’s flawed yet throwaway reaction to a disappointing defeat in order to rant on about a bugbear of my own because the secret is that this week and every week the prick is actually me for writing a column called Prick of the Week. Surprise!
Anyway. The point is that even if we allow Lampard to alter real-world match events to his liking, you’re only opening up a whole new set of problems. On the most basic, fundamental level, if the mistake that leads to the second goal doesn’t happen THEN NOTHING ELSE THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN THE GAME NOW HAPPENS. THERE IS NO PENALTY FOR JORGINHO TO MISS. The game goes off on a whole other timeline where Liverpool might even end up winning 5-0. That mistake might have been the best possible thing that could happen for Chelsea in that moment. I mean, it probably wasn’t, but we simply don’t know, because the match where he doesn’t make that mistake does not exist in our dimension (I would also contend that the match where Kepa doesn’t make a mistake doesn’t exist in any dimension, but let’s try and keep our focus).
Once you change one event, you cannot pretend that anything else carries on as before. You don’t even have to get into the whole butterfly effect, or the difference in mindset caused by the change in scoreline; Kepa successfully hoofing that ball clear is already a different event to a goal and a kick-off.
This is all very obvious, yet Lampard is far from alone in indulging this admittedly seductive delusion. How many times have you heard it said of a player who misses three chances that “he could have had a hat-trick today!” even though scoring the first chance wipes the other chances from existence? I refuse to accept that Frank Lampard, an intelligent man with all his GCSEs and A-Levels and whatnot, does not know and understand this. He must have seen Back to the Future. He must know. Ergo, a prick.
Lampard always comes across as a reasonable enough human being, but he is also a Tory. Therefore in order to sleep at night he must presumably be well used to imagining fictitious alternative realities where everything is okay.
Interestingly, it also turns out that Lampard is mildly obsessed with the idea of the “reality check”. This suggests the possibility of a fascinating and constant struggle to distinguish real life from the alternatives he has imagined in his brain.
We – and Frank himself – all seem to be worried that Lampard is living in a fantasy world. pic.twitter.com/ezydyKyf3I
— Huw Davies (@thehuwdavies) September 21, 2020
Kepa’s efforts would be enough to send anyone off into the soothing reverie of an alternative reality where your ludicrously expensive goalkeeper doesn’t keep f***ing sh*t up constantly.
So what happens next?
Signing another goalkeeper should mean less Kepa for the foreseeable, and therefore perhaps a lurch back into our reality and a return to Frankie focusing more on his great managerial strengths such as the genuinely iconic Lampardian Transition.
Relatively quiet spell for the great man after starting the season with a bang, although we were surely 10 minutes away from something truly spectacular on Thursday night and he did substitute Tanguy Ndombele literally immediately after he had helped set up the equaliser against Southampton. A placeholder, though: All the talk is that Gareth Bale’s blockbuster return is very much Daniel Levy’s big idea so any hint of that not going to plan or, worse still, Levy failing to also bring in the players Mourinho has actually asked for should generate some A1 prickery over the coming weeks and months. Plus the latest Carabao Cup confusion can only fuel the fixture list whining that looks sure to be Mourinho’s Plan A this term, while the Dele Alli Situation now appears to be perfectly primed for nonsense.
Mike Dean and Slaven Bilic, the now total collapse of the handball law, Ollie Holt’s deliberately disingenuous implication that Spurs’ reluctance to play against a covid-riddled Leyton Orient is just yet another big-club flex.
Prick of the Week Hall of Fame
No. 1: Jose Mourinho