Cup win can launch Blues' title tilt

Chelsea's head coach Frank Lampard reacts during the English Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers in London on July 26, 2020.
Chelsea's head coach Frank Lampard reacts during the English Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers in London on July 26, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Frank Lampard believes Chelsea should be aiming to fight for league titles every year, but winning the FA Cup today could be a building block towards a title challenge next season.

In his first season in charge, the club great has guided the Blues into the Champions League next season despite the loss of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and a one-window transfer ban to contend with.

Chelsea are already making up for lost time in the transfer market with big-money signings Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in place.

With Lampard's men facing an uphill task in the Champions League - they trail Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich 3-0 ahead of the second leg of their last-16 tie next Saturday - the Cup appears to be their only chance of silverware this season.

But the 42-year-old does not want his side to think a trophy is the be-all and end-all - rather, they should be competing on all fronts.

At his virtual pre-match press conference yesterday, Lampard, who is gunning for his first managerial honour, said: "It's a nice boost but it will only mean anything going forward if we take it in our pocket, move forward and improve as a club and on the training pitch.

"In the last few years, we haven't been able to fight for that league title so it doesn't mean all of sudden we are back, but it will be a nice, small step when you consider where we want to get to."

He confirmed that N'Golo Kante had recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of their last six games, while Willian is fit again for what could be his final game for the club. The Brazil forward's contract expires at the end of the season, but Lampard claimed he would have no qualms naming him in his line-up at Wembley despite rumours that Arsenal might be his next destination.

On the 31-year-old, he said: "I've known Willian for many years now, as a player and now as his coach. So I would expect nothing less than he's shown already, and that's Willian for you."

While Lampard is hopeful victory can spur his team to new heights, Arsenal, who can play in the Europa League next term only if they win the Cup, are in the early stages of rebuilding under Mikel Arteta.

Critics feel his side will be the underdogs, pointing out that they froze in last year's Europa League final, crumbling 4-1 to today's opponents.

However, the Spaniard yesterday insisted that heavy loss would have no bearing at Wembley, saying: "A year in football is a different life... so there is not many things to take from that (defeat)."

A loss today will likely hasten an exit for top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who only has one year left on his deal, although Arteta told reporters that he "did not fear" this could be the striker's final appearance for the club.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no presentation party, nor will the winning side ascend the steps to the Royal Box as the trophy will instead be awarded on the pitch.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'Cup win can launch Blues' title tilt'. Print Edition | Subscribe