Frank Lampard has vowed to rotate his squad as fixtures begin to pile up for Chelsea… so can Antonio Rudiger play his way back into his good books, and will Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson- Odoi get the game time they crave?
- Chelsea’s fixture schedule is beginning to build up in the run up to Christmas
- Frank Lampard has acknowledged that he needs to rotate his squad to cope
- It will give the players on the fringes of his squad the chance to make their mark
- Olivier Giroud has been warned over his Euro 2020 spot in the France squad
- Andreas Christensen has not appeared since the 3-3 draw with Southampton
Frank Lampard has moved this week to acknowledge the plethora of elite talent in his squad. In doing so, he has also acknowledged the problem he has in keeping every member of his squad happy.
This week, the discussion centralled around Callum Hudson-Odoi, how a player who had put in star performances against Newcastle United and Rennes could suddenly find himself out of the squad for the clash with Tottenham.
Keeping fringe players involved and positive is a difficult balancing act, and with a squad the size of the one found at Stamford Bridge, Lampard has a more intense job than most in keeping a sizeable number of hugely talented players happy.
Frank Lampard has vowed to rotate his squad during the busy festive period this month
What does work in the former England midfielder’s favour is the festive period of fixtures.
With domestic and European fixtures coming thick and fast, Lampard has the opportunity to give those on the fringes a chance to shine, putting the ball firmly in their court to seize it.
Speaking ahead of the Champions League clash with Sevilla, he told reporters: ‘Some players are training really well, knocking on the door and deserve an opportunity.
‘We’re not taking the game lightly. We want to win the group. I don’t expect to see a drop in level but there will be an opportunity for some players to get some minutes.’
With that in mind, Sportsmail takes a look at those players banging on the door, and whether minutes in December will be enough to keep them around come January.
Callum Hudson-Odoi must have been left scratching his head at the weekend. There was little more he could do to press home a case to be involved in the squad for Sunday’s huge clash with Tottenham.
Showing some promise during his cameo against Newcastle United in the Premier League, the England international took his chance against Rennes in the Champions League, opening the scoring for Lampard’s side in France.
Despite this though, there was no room for him in the squad for Sunday, and disappointment that his boss has since addressed.
‘It was difficult (to leave Hudson-Odoi out against Spurs),’ admitted the 42-year-old.
‘I’ve been really pleased with his training lately. His attitude and work ethic is bang on and that’s affected him scoring against Rennes, coming on at Newcastle when I thought he was bright and doing well with the England Under 21s.
Callum Hudson-Odoi was left out of the squad to face Tottenham after starring in Europe
‘I did speak to him because I want him to feel where he’s at — which is making progression and getting better. I want him to keep that progression going and if there are times when he’s not starting I want him to stay positive.’
The lack of game time causes a tricky problem for Lampard in handling one of the club’s most promising young talents.
Bayern Munich’s interest in the 20-year-old has been longstanding, and they failed again in the summer with a loan bid for him.
Hudson-Odoi has previously pushed for a move to the Bundesliga side, only to be convinced to stay amid promises of a progress plan. If he feels that progress is stalling, a move may yet be best for both parties.
Another who has struggled to come to terms with a lack of game time, Olivier Giroud is a talent that Chelsea dare not lose.
His lack of minutes doesn’t come down to his standing within Stamford Bridge – the Frenchman is highly regarded by all.
But with Timo Werner ahead of him, and Tammy Abraham also pushing to hold down the lone forward spot, the aging striker is finding opportunities hard to come by.
He is still making his mark when afforded the chance – his late winner against Rennes showcasing just how potent a force he still is.
This is something still recognised by his national team boss too, with Didier Deschamps suggesting last month that Giroud should attempt to seal more regular game time to ensure his spot in his Euro 2020 squad.
Olivier Giroud has been told by his France boss that he needs to secure more game time
Giroud himself is aware it is not the perfect situation, and is not adverse to a new challenge.
‘It’s worrying,’ he said while with France last month. ‘I thought I still had a role to play at Chelsea but my playing time is getting reduced a lot.
‘It’s going to have to change or a decision must be made. I am clear-headed about my situation: I will have to make a decision in January. I hope to make the right one, as I have always done.’
Juventus have been linked with the striker, although how much game time he would get alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata is up for debate. Closer to home, Tottenham and West Ham have also been mooted as a possible destination.
If Emerson Palmieri is to pick up any game time over the coming months, you feel it would only be to put the Italian in the shop window.
While some of his team-mates on the fringes of the squad have been dealt the odd start here and there, the left back has been feeding off the proverbial scraps.
Making just one league appearance, against Newcaslte last month, he has made Lampard’s matchday squad for a Premier League game just twice this season.
Emerson Palmieri has been linked with a move back to Italy after struggling for game time
He has appeared off the bench in two Champions League clashes, and did start the League Cup tie with Barnsley, however, it does not appear he holds any key role within the squad.
As such, links with moves back to Italy have already appeared ahead of January, with the Italy international linked with a move to champions Juventus.
It would not be a surprise if the 26-year-old’s time at Stamford Bridge came to an end next month.
Marcos Alonso has vanished into thin air when it comes to Frank Lampard’s plans.
The Spaniard’s name has not been seen near a Premier League teamsheet ever since his disastrous display in the 3-3 draw with West Brom at the beginning of the season.
Having started each of the first three matches, the fans’ favourite has failed to appear in any of the last seven, even as a named substitute.
Marcos Alonso has not appeared for Chelsea since the 3-3 draw with West Brom in September
It is different in Europe, where he was named as a replacement against Rennes both home and away, but still no time on the pitch was forthcoming.
It is similar to the situation last season, when Alonso appeared just once on the field in the league between October and February.
He was able to turn his fortunes around at the Bridge at the beginning of this year, though he is not short on suitors should his time be up.
Inter Milan have been credited with an interest in him, and Crystal Palace are willing to give him an option to stay in London, and the top flight, should he so wish.
Antonio Rudiger looked for all the world to be heading out of the Stamford Bridge exit in the summer.
A breakdown in the relationship between himself and Frank Lampard had seen the German defender linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, and after failing to appear in six of the first seven games, it appeared as though is departure was a formality.
However, after heart-to-heart talks brought about an understanding between the pair, Rudiger has been slowly finding himself back in his manager’s plans.
Antonio Rudiger has held clear the air talks with Frank Lampard after almost leaving the club
He has made two starts, against Krasnodar and Newcastle, and has been a regular in the matchday squad.
However, with Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva providing a solid foundation at the heart of the Chelsea defence, a return to the starting XI looks a tough ask.
There is still talk of a possible move away, with Barcelona the latest club to be named as an interested party.
If the problem between Lampard and Rudiger is now water under the bridge, he could play an integral part in keeping things tight at the back during a crucial festive programme.
What cannot be denied is that Frank Lampard has an incredible stock of defenders from which to build his team around.
Fikayo Tomori’s development in recent seasons would have him establishing a starting role in the majority of Premier League clubs. Just not this one.
Like Rudiger, he finds himself shut out of the starting line-up by a dependable duo, and has even struggled to get into the squad on most occasions.
Fikayo Tomori has been linked with a move to Newcastle, such has been his lack of opportunity
With just three appearances to his name this season – two in the League Cup and one in the Premier League against Liverpool – the defender will be beginning to worry that he has not kicked on since making 11 consecutive start for the Blues towards the beginning of last season.
Still only 22, Lampard and Chelsea will not be willing to give up on him just yet, and a loan move in the second half of the season would appear the most sensible option.
There is already interest growing, with Newcastle showing an interest in bringing him to St James’ Park.
With Steve Bruce keen on trying to develop a system with just two centre-backs, it could prove a fruitful learning curve when Lampard likes to do the same.
There was nothing but high praise for Billy Gilmour when he burst into the Chelsea first team last season.
Praised for his composure and passing displays in the middle of the park, it was a massive blow for both the club and the player when he picked up a serious knee injury in July.
Since recovering, the Scotland Under-21 international has been quietly regaining his fitness with the Under 23s, while also coming off the bench for his national side – though he lasted just eight minutes after seeing red against Croatia.
His re-emergence will bring a smile to the face of Lampard, though the club will be at pains to ensure he is not rushed back into the first team at the expense of his fitness.
The 19-year-old has a bright future, and there is no hurry in forcing the issue.
Billy Gilmour is back after recovering from injury and has starred for the Under 23s recently
Another defender with work to do after a problematic start to the season.
Frank Lampard’s faith in Danish academy product will have been shaken by some hair-raising displays in September.
Sent off for hauling down Sadio Mane against Liverpool, Christensen was also part of the backlines that shipped three goals against both West Brom and Southampton.
Since leaving him out of the side, Lampard has seen his side concede just once in the Premier League, a stat that makes it difficult to see where a route back in for the Dane would be.
A packed Christmas schedule may give the 24-year-old a shot of more first team action, but with Antonio Rudiger now back in the fold, he will have to wait his time before his shot at earning back his manager’s trust.
Andreas Christensen has had a disastrous season so far, and hasn’t featured since October
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