Frank Lampard has praised the young players in his team after they helped seal a sixth successive Premier League victory to move up to second place in the table.
Goals from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic gave the Blues a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge and the Chelsea manager singled out 19-year-old Reece James for praise following an assured league debut.
“I’m proud of them and I believe in them,” he told BT Sport after the match. “I just felt today was a game we could give Reece some minutes because he deserves it in the way he’s training and playing.”
James, who scored in Chelsea’s dramatic 4-4 draw with Ajax in midweek, was a surprise starter at righteous back in place of club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Lampard was pleased with his display against Palace danger man Wilfried Zaha.
“What better a test?” Lampard added. “Every team has players who can hurt you on the counter attack and Zaha is one of the best but could we hurt him the other way? make him run back more than he ran forward?
“I trust in Reece defensively so really, really impressive game for him and he’s going to get much better.”
“Azpilicueta is our captain, I spoke to him before the game. He’s a great leader for the club and so important to us.”
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Chelsea also started James’ fellow academy alumni Fikayo Tomori, 21, Mason Mount, 20, and goalscorer Abraham, 22, against the Eagles, as well as bringing Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19 and Billy Gilmour, 18, off the bench.
Lampard, who spent 13 years at Chelsea as a player from 2001-2014 before returning as manager this summer, is proud of the way the players have been able to settle into first team football so quickly.
“Setting expectations was difficult going into the season,” he admitted. “I did believe in the younger players. I know the academy well so that gave us a head start.
“But you never know with young players until you put them in, and when you put them in as a group even more so. If you put three or four in there, they really have to step up quickly at this level of football.
“They’ve clearly showed they have the ability, mindset and desire to play for Chelsea. They’re also surrounded by some fantastic experienced players.
“The balance we’ve got feels good which is helping the young boys.”
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