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3 Jan, 2021 13:47

Chelsea boss Lampard dismisses 'flop' accusations after big-money import Havertz recovers from 'severe' Covid-19 bout

Chelsea boss Lampard dismisses 'flop' accusations after big-money import Havertz recovers from 'severe' Covid-19 bout

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has called for patience amid Kai Havertz's inconsistent start to his Stamford Bridge career as the future of the under-fire boss appears increasingly tied to the performances of his big-money imports.

Havertz, 21, was drafted into Lampard's squad last summer with a glittering reputation of being one of European football's brightest prospects but with a return of one league goal so far this season, the former Bayer Leverkusen man hasn't yet blossomed into creative force that his eye-watering transfer fee might have suggested.

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Of course, the reasons for this are numerous. Havertz was forced to adapt to a new league in a preseason very much abridged by the restrictions levied upon sport by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year. 

While there certainly have been flashes of the type of play which convinced Roman Abramovich to bankroll a £71 million move for the German prodigy, his progress stalled in November when he became the latest big name Premier League footballer to be stopped in his tracks by a Covid-19 diagnosis.

Now healthy, Havertz has started the past three Chelsea games on the substitutes bench - and Lampard says that he is keen to give the German international time to adapt and recover from what he called a "severe" bout of the illness.

"Moving country and missing pre-season, Kai had eight days with us, five work days before he played," Lampard told the media ahead of Sunday's Premier League fixture with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

"That is just not beneficial for a player in any league, let alone when you are coming into the fastest, most physical league in the world. Just as Kai was just coming to terms with it he got Covid. He had Covid quite severely.

"He definitely has had a bit of a fallout with that physically. It’s something we are trying to help him to deal with. The expectation around him – you have to put context into the story. Kai’s talent is undoubted. Giving him the time to adapt is crucial."

Despite this pragmatism, Lampard needs his faith in Havertz to be repaid on the pitch. After a strong opening to the season which saw the Blues piece together a run of 17 games unbeaten in all competitions, the train has come close to derailment. 

Chelsea's recent slump has seen them drop points in games against Everton, Wolves, Arsenal and Aston Villa, significantly quietening talk of a title tilt in Lampard's second season in charge of the club but the Blues boss is adamant that Havertz - and the rest of Chelsea's galaxy of new stars - are given the necessary time to prove their worth. 

Lampard cited previous instances where talents such as Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah were shipped out of West London after failing to make an immediate impression, and this is a mistake that he says he is keen to avoid repeating.

"We have seen players come here in the past, didn’t really adapt, went elsewhere and come back to the Premier League and absolutely lit it up to unbelievable levels,” Lampard said.

"We need to give him that time, particularly because of the Covid situation. That is not a non-issue, it is an issue that is related beyond his illness. I am there to help him."

Chelsea's problems run deeper than just Havertz. His German international teammate Timo Werner, another expensive summer signing, has also failed to recapture his Bundesliga form amid concerns that he is struggling to unlock the Premier League's deep defenses.  

But like Havertz, Lampard has prescribed time as the factor which will help Werner's predatory goalscoring instincts come to the fore.

"Every player goes through tough times in front of goal," Lampard said of Werner. "The beauty is that he has been getting chances because that is definitely a positive. I found work on the training ground to be the only way to turn that; simple work and repetition of finishing, which Timo is doing.

"When you work like that it is a matter of time because his natural attributes will get him in front of goal and away from defenders. If his confidence comes down from missing a couple, that is only natural. It is my job to help him with his confidence. I feel the goals will come."

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Come they must. Chelsea and Abramovich have long shown that they have deep pockets when it comes to attracting some of world football's biggest names to the club - but the one resource which has proven to be the most finite for a long list of Chelsea managers is time. 

And for now, it appears that is what Lampard and Chelsea need the most.