Chelsea signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner yet to justify those big transfer fees
JIGSAW puzzles have never been my thing — the more pieces there are the more confused it can get.
There is a lot to be said for simplicity in football, it’s what makes it the beautiful game because it looks so easy when done well.
It is the same in management and you won’t get more of a contrast than when Chelsea play West Ham tomorrow.
For Frank Lampard at Chelsea, it is almost as if he has too many pieces in his puzzle at the moment. You wonder if he yet knows his best team. If anyone does. Where do they all fit in?
I say this with regard to his two Germans in particular. I’m still waiting to see the best of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
They cost a lot and even though they’re only young lads, they came here in the summer with big reputations. Yet to be fulfilled, if you ask me.
Successful management is all about the players. Take the sacking of Slaven Bilic at West Brom, for example. He got that team into the Premier League with average players.
He didn’t spend fortunes on new signings so the team is where it should be — but he has got the boot.
It’s as if the worst thing he could have done for himself is get West Brom up.
Frank at Chelsea has a puzzle to solve with his squad. He needs to work out where is the best position for Werner and how to get Havertz firing.
Should Werner come in from the wing and play through the middle with Mason Mount putting little balls through for him? It’s an option.
Havertz doesn’t seem to have got to grips with the physicality of English football yet.
Having coronavirus is obviously a big setback and one we wish him well from. But even before that, he looked like a player not quite sure of himself.
And at this moment in time English football is a stroll.
If he finds it tough now, wait until crowds come back into stadiums and pump up the passion and the tackles to go with it.
I really hope they do fit in but it’s up to Frank to sort it. And the challenge faced by modern-day managers is that it’s not always them doing the buying.
Years ago, managers would be buying British players and so would be out every night talent scouting. It’s not possible to fly to Germany or even further afield to watch players week-in, week-out.
And so a lot of time you go on recommendations from others and work with it.
Didi Hamann, the old Liverpool midfielder, was on TV in the summer talking up Werner and Havertz as if they were the best things in Germany.
Fingers crossed for Frank, they go on to become the best over here, too.
But with Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud all competing for places, it’s not always a great problem to have.
Over in East London, David Moyes has it much simpler. His team virtually picks itself for every game.
He’s done a superb job so far and really got the best out of what he has. I love the right-back Vladimir Coufal — a £5million quid bargain.
Jarod Bowen, at £22m, was an inspired buy. Declan Rice gets better with every week, midfielder Tomas Soucek is effective, strong and powerful. And with Michail Antonio up front they have pace.
But David has around 16 players he rotates. It’s old school and working for West Ham. They have a settled team.
They won’t finish top six but if they get top half, David has done a brilliant job. If you ask me, the club’s owners should be drawing up a new deal for him now.
His jigsaw has far fewer pieces and life is simpler in terms of picking teams.
A settled side where the players know each other so well can be a big weapon.
And West Ham are now tough to beat — that’s the key for them.
SO HO-HO HORRIBLE
CHRISTMAS is a tricky time for managers.
The whole festive season revolves around three points on Boxing Day — well it did for me, anyway.
When I look back on how many miserable Christmasses I had because of results, it’s actually quite scary.
I got so low, so low.
There’ll be bosses out there now feeling that way — sleepless nights, the lot.
Mikel Arteta got a point in midweek but he knows Arsenal must be doing much better.
Down at the bottom of every league, there’ll be coaches struggling for any joy over Christmas.
With new West Brom boss Sam Allardyce’s track record, the four managers of teams around them at the foot of the Premier League will be having unsettled nights worrying about developments.
NO END OF SPORT
THERE is so much football coming up on the box. Luckily we have two TVs at home.
It’s wall to wall this Christmas and I bet your last mince pie I’ll watch as much as I can.
Sandra will be in the other room watching Coronation Street and EastEnders so I’ll be out from under her feet.
Reckon I’ll watch 95 per cent of it — and the other five per cent of my time will be spent watching racing.
Stay safe, have a happy Christmas and look after yourselves after a tough year. And be nice to each other.
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