Frank Lampard has urged the Premier League to push back Chelsea’s start to the 2020-21 season, claiming September 12 is too early for his players to recover properly given their imminent Champions League round-of-16 tie with Bayern Munich.
Chelsea face the German champions on Saturday and the chances are that, facing a 3-0 deficit from the home leg, that will signal the end of their European challenge. It would mean they face a 35-day turnaround before top-flight football restarts, a figure that exceeds the 30-day minimum agreed between the Premier League and its clubs, reports The Guardian.
Should they complete a remarkable comeback at the Allianz Arena they will be entitled to begin their domestic campaign at a later date, but Lampard believes that should be the case regardless and fears consequences for his players’ fitness otherwise.
“Even in a worst-case scenario that we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th feels too early for me for the players to start playing again,” he said after the FA Cup final defeat against Arsenal.
“The players need a break. That is why we have pulled two hamstrings [César Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic] and had players pull out of the game before this. I would like to think the Premier League would look seriously at that and hopefully give us a fair start next season. We deserve to be, as a Premier League club competing in the Champions League.”
Lampard is unlikely to get his wish. The Premier League’s stance is that clubs signed up last month to the start date, along with the caveat that those involved in European football were guaranteed a 30-day break, and that there is little wriggle room given the need to complete next season in time for the rescheduled Euro 2020.
The fixture list will be released on August 21 and, unless Chelsea do overcome Bayern, it will dictate they start on time.
A staggered start to 2020-21 does, however, look inevitable. If Manchester City reach the Champions League quarter-finals their top-flight opener would probably be put back a week; if they make the final, that could be extended to a fortnight. Wolves and Manchester United will also receive delays if they progress beyond the Europa League last eight.
Whenever Chelsea’s season begins, it remains to be seen whether Lampard can call upon Willian. The forward is out of contract and, while the Blues want to keep him, he also has serious interest from Arsenal and overseas clubs. Willian missed the cup final through injury and Lampard is waiting on his decision.
“I have not got that answer,” he said. “I know the situation from the club’s end. I have a great relationship with Willian. He has been brilliant for me this season with his input and work ethic. I actually don’t know what that decision is. It is his choice and I respect his choice. He has been a great servant for Chelsea if he decides to move on.”
Lampard’s opposite number, Mikel Arteta, faces an even more consequential wait on whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang extends his deal.
Aubameyang’s two goals won the final for Arsenal and Arteta reiterated the importance of keeping him on. “Goalscoring is a difficult thing in football and he makes it simple,” he said. “With him we will be closer to winning trophies; the longer he stays here, the happier we will be.”
Regardless of Aubameyang’s decision, Arsenal will be active in the transfer market over pre-season as Arteta looks to reshape his squad. A number of targets are being worked on but, while the club would like to complete deals quickly, they may have to be patient – with little significant business currently expected over the coming week.