Paul Merson believes Chelsea won’t prepare enough of a game plan to deal with Manchester United star Jesse Lingard in the FA Cup final this weekend.
The England winger has enjoyed his finest season yet in the United senior side, weighing in with 13 goals and five assists in all competitions to establish himself as a real star of this team.
Still, Merson believes he’s yet to make himself a big enough name to command the attention of Chelsea, who he thinks will focus instead on nullifying the threats of the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
This is misguided in Merson’s view, however, as he feels Lingard’s impact this season has been so good that he’s the player Antonio Conte should be focusing his teamtalk on at Wembley.
‘Chelsea will overlook him because he is not a big name. They will focus all their attention on people like Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez,’ Merson wrote in his Daily Star column.
‘That could make Lingard even more dangerous. He has so much energy and on a big pitch like that he will have space to exploit.
‘He’s quick across the grass and his pace can hurt you. I actually think he should be the teamtalk for Chelsea – but you can guarantee he won’t be.’
The pundit added that Jose Mourinho deserves credit for developing Lingard this season when he’s so often given flak for not working with young players enough.
‘Jose Mourinho often gets criticised for not improving players but Lingard has improved tenfold under him and you have to give the manager credit for that,’ he said.
‘He has put his faith in him and played him in big games. Even when he’s rested, he’s often the one who comes off the bench when United are in trouble and need a game-changer.’