Mateo Kovacic has praised Chelsea manager Frank Lampard for giving him the “confidence” to play with “more freedom” on the pitch.
Kovacic, 25, put in a star performance on Saturday as the Blues registered their first competitive win under Lampard, with the Croatian providing an assist in the 3-2 win over Norwich City.
Kovacic’s role under Lampard: Five things to know…
- Kovacic joined Chelsea on a season-long loan from Real Madrid last summer.
- Alongside N’Golo Kante, Kovacic was deployed in an unfavourable midfield role by Sarri.
- The ex-Chelsea manager gave Kovacic more defensive responsibilities in the middle of the park.
- However, since completing a permanent move, Lampard has allowed Kovacic to play with more freedom.
- The shift yielded an assist at the weekend and Kovacic has since lauded his less-constrained role.
Under predecessor Maurizio Sarri, Kovacic was restrained to a more defensive role, but since completing his £40m switch from Real Madrid, the central midfielder has been afforded greater license to surge further up the field.
Kovacic is yet to open his Chelsea account, but says he ‘feels good’ working under the current regime, and believes there is “more freedom” in the playing style than during his maiden campaign.
“Yeah, he [Lampard] gives me more freedom and I can come and take the ball and go forward,” he said.
“So I feel good, I have a good connection with the coach and the team but I am now a Chelsea player so I feel better – last year I was only on loan – this year I feel better and more confidence.
“I think we started [the season] playing very well, the results were not perfect but obviously we played good.
“We needed the three points more than the beautiful game and we did a good game, won and so everything was perfect.”
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Kovacic: We’re more relaxed now
Things couldn’t have started any worse for Lampard after the Blues were ruthlessly exposed 4-0 by Manchester United on the opening Premier League weekend, before his side suffered defeat in the Super Cup to Liverpool and mustered only a point against Leicester City.
However, the tide turned at the weekend as the west London club picked up three valuable points at Carrow Road, and Kovacic believes the early-season tension has relaxed as a result.
He added: “It makes it more relaxed, last year was difficult and I needed to show myself but I think last year was good, not perfect but good, this year I have started well and I want to continue like that.”