Not every player, manager and club make for a good fit, no matter how much one of them – or the fans – want it. And that’s OK, even for a lovable manager and club like Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
Just as there’s no universal right way or wrong way to play football, there’s no right way or wrong way (within some boundaries) to manage the team. Some styles come more naturally and work better for managers, and the individual players will respond differently – better and worse, sometimes to extremes – to those styles. Around Chelsea, this is often summed up in the “ketchup in the canteen” non-troversy. The presence of ketchup (or ice cream or *shudder* brown sauce) is a good indicator of whether the Blues have a fun, relaxed coach like Guus Hiddink or Maurizio Sarri, or a rigorous taskmaster like Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte.
Unsuprisingly, the Sarri situation was a strange one. His supposed nutritional permissiveness put him in the “fun” category (a word he used about as often as Conte used the word “work”), but his training sessions were anything but, especially after the first few weeks.
Emerson is on his third Chelsea manager, and it seems Frank Lampard is the source of his biggest training style conflict. Conte was strict on and off the pitch, Sarri was Sarri, and Emerson thinks Lampard is a “sergeant,” according to some Italian media.
Tuttosport said Emerson doesn’t like Lampard’s training sessions and thinks Lampard is too controlling over the players.
Obviously, we have no idea what goes on at Cobham, let alone the intricacies of Emerson’s and Lampard’s personalities one-on-one or in the group. On the surface, at least, this is a rather puzzling assessment, which means it’s probably ginned up for clicks.
Conte’s and Sarri’s training methods are very similar to each other, and Lampard’s is very different from them both. The two Italians emphasize perfection by repetition, with the players taught to assess the play to decide which circuit to execute. How they approach training and their styles of play are much more similar than a superficial look at formation or possession would tell you. One of the main differences is how Conte’s sides can adapt to their opponents, both in formation and pattern of play. But that is a matter of teaching and training more in the same way, than in doing anything fundamentally different.
Still, Sarri was the fun manager and Conte the suffering-inducing disciplinarian.
How you judge their style or Frank Lampard’s depends on your point of view. Lampard has the players on a much longer learning curve than Sarri or Conte. In theory, this will make the players and the tactics more adaptable as they grow into it. Of course, that assumes Lampard is given the time for them to grow into it.
The players face a different challenge in training. Whereas Sarri and Conte drove towards perfection, there is no perfection in Lampard’s system. At least none that can be quantitatively assessed in training.
For a player accustomed to a certain culture of football training, as Emerson is, this can be jarring and frustrating. Lampard’s form of strictness is not like Sarri or Conte saying “Here’s exactly what you need to get it right. Do it more times until you do!” With Lampard, a player can do many different things during different drills and still be told that he’s not quite there. With Sarri and Conte you could clearly see what you were working towards. Under Lampard, the end goal is not so defined so the process can feel very open-ended and the assessments almost capricious.
This sort of cultural difference may be at the root of Emerson’s dissatisfaction. It stands to reason given where he played before Chelsea and the two managers he previously played under at Chelsea.
Or the Tuttosport story just decided to sex up an issue that really came down to Emerson wanting to play more so he would be in consideration for the Italian national team, and believing that he’ll only get those minutes back in Italy and not at Chelsea.
If that’s the case, well, everything we wrote above about cultures and styles of play is still true and valid. It just doesn’t explain anything Emerson may or may not be thinking.
Bottom line: There is no right or wrong way to train or play. Only the results tell you if it worked.