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Frank Lampard outshone in old-boys final as Mikel Arteta triumphs

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For a long time and with plenty of justification, Frank Lampard has been a golden boy of the game.

Rightly revered as a player, Lampard’s short management career has already drawn plenty of praise.

His first season as a Premier League manager seems to have been widely viewed as a success, despite finishing one place and six points worse off than Maurizio Sarri did in the 2018/19 campaign.

And while they have only the very flimsiest of chances of overturning a three-goal deficit against Bayern Munich in Germany next Saturday, Chelsea locking in a place in next season’s Champions League is a credit to Lampard.

But here was proof, if it was needed, that Lampard is still on a steep learning curve.

Lampard is on a steep learning curve (Image: Eddie Keogh for The FA/REX/Shutterstock) Read More Related Articles Read More Related Articles

His team, quite simply, lost its discipline - tactically, defensively and mentally - at key moments.

The manager has to take some of the blame for that. It is why they are paid the big bucks.

To be fair to Lampard, very little fortune favoured him and his team at Wembley.

Referee Anthony Taylor certainly did not favour them.

Both bookings for the dismissed Mateo Kovacic were harsh and the antics of the Arsenal players, brandishing imaginary cards - as, inexcusably, did Mikel Arteta - pretty reprehensible.

Taylor also awarded Arsenal a softish penalty and somehow failed to judge Emiliano Martinez as being outside his penalty area when making one second half catch.

Goalscorer Pulisic succumbed to injury (Image: Andy Hooper NMC Pool) Read More Related Articles

To cruelly complement the poor decisions, Lampard also lost Cesar Azpilicueta, his captain, and goalscorer Christian Pulisic, his best player, to injuries.

Chelsea grievances over luck and officialdom were perfectly understandable.

But the concession of 54 Premier League goals over the course of a season had already flagged up an apparent flaw in Lampard’s management. He struggles to stop his team leaking goals..

That defensive vulnerability had been clear even before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got on the wrong side of Azpilicueta, won a penalty and converted it into an equaliser.

Seasoned full-backs Marcos Alonso and Azpilicueta were occasionally ponderous, the central defenders a touch cumbersome, never more so than when Aubameyang embarrassed Kurt Zouma with his brilliant second-half winner.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slots the ball home at Wembley (Image: PA) Read More Related Articles

It is clear which area of the field needs Lampard’s greatest attention but he has, of course, invested in the attacking talent of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, so at least they should be a cracking team to watch.

Ahead of the first drinks break here, they bamboozled Arsenal, Pulisic’s opener typical of their excellent movement and fluidity.

Pulisic might not yet be peak Hazard but his quick feet will make a considerable mark on the English game.

When his evening was painfully brought to an end only a few minutes into the second half, it was a cruel blow for Chelsea and Lampard.

The Chelsea manager reorganised and probably felt he had a degree of control until a lengthy Hector Bellerin surge out of the blue started the move that led to the goal that sealed Arsenal’s victory.

It was, indeed, a quite beautiful finish but it was still a goal that a truly top-class defence probably avoids.

Lampard shook his head in mild despair but at least his team made a decent fist of trying to take the game into extra-time.

But whatever could go wrong for Chelsea and Lampard, did go wrong for Chelsea and Lampard.

And Lampard’s match was summed up in added time when Pedro scampered into the box and fell under the attentions of Sokratis.

Not only did Taylor, unsurprisingly but understandably on this occasion, not give a Chelsea a penalty, Pedro did not get up and was eventually taken away on a stretcher.

Soon after, Taylor called time, Lampard exchanged a cursory hand-clasp with Arteta and walked away.

He knows the managerial learning at this level is just beginning.

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