Whenever the management position at Chelsea is discussed, especially in difficult periods this season, lots of names have been mentioned – but there is one constant. Chelsea’s record goalscorer, and current Derby County head coach, Frank Lampard.
Frank is a bona fide Chelsea legend, and in many people’s eyes – including John Terry himself – the greatest player to pull on the blue of Chelsea. Frank said publicly several years ago that one of his dreams and ambitions is to eventually manage Chelsea, and according to reports, he’d be open to taking the job for next season, even if the club had their transfer ban imposed this summer.
Whether or not Lampard takes the job this summer, he’s likely to be a candidate whenever the job becomes available from now on, until he actually gets the job, as he surely will one day.
But today I want to examine the pros and cons of Lampard taking the Chelsea job this summer – as well as in the future.
I’m going to start, perversely, with the cons. The reasons critics of his potential appointment this summer give for us not to appoint him – yet.
1) It’s way too soon
This is the one most critics use and has some validity. The fact is Lampard only has one year’s experience in management, and is still learning his trade. To take a volatile job like Chelsea this early in his career, could, it’s argued, overwhelm him and end his management career before it’s begun.
2) The club structure isn’t good enough
Again, this argument has legs. There is currently no tangible footballing strategy and structure at Chelsea. The club do appear to be attempting to recruit a director of football or technical director, so this could change soon. However right now there is no structure at the club to support a young manager like Lampard, and give him what he needs to rebuild the squad.
3) The squad isn’t ready
This argument suggests that the squad rebuild which is desperately required, and managing the club with a transfer ban, isn’t the job Lampard should be doing for Chelsea, and instead we should build a side to hand off to him. With Eden Hazard leaving, and the likes of Willian, Pedro, David Luiz and others either ageing or not good enough, we need a man with more experience to build a new team.
4) Fans would turn on him
Despite being in fourth position with only 3 league games left – however fortuitously that may have come about – Maurizio Sarri is disliked and mistrusted by much of the fanbase, and routinely gets booed if things go wrong.
There’s a group of fans who use this as evidence to support the idea these fans would turn on Lampard just as quickly if things go wrong. If this did happen, it would be mean fans turning on a legend, and him tainting his legacy with several people, which we don’t want.
5) The United factor
Some argue the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, on the face of it, doesn’t look a wise one. Why should Chelsea make the same mistake?
So, clearly there are some very good and logical reasons why Lampard shouldn’t get the Chelsea job now.
But there’s also plenty of reasons why now might be the perfect time for him to take the job.
1) The pressure and expectations are lower
It could be argued that the expectations of the board or fans from a Chelsea manager right now aren’t as high as they have been. No one expects us to win the Premier League or Champions League anytime soon. We also might have a transfer ban this summer. In many ways all of this would give Lampard more freedom to build a long-term project, and develop a side over two or three years to challenge again, without the immediate pressures of previous managers – one might argue it’s the best time, not the worst time, for him to take the job.
2) Lampard’s status at the club
Given Lampard’s status as a Chelsea legend, to appoint him would be a big decision – and he could make demands as to what he wants from the club in return.
It’s well known Roman has great respect for club legends, and trusts them. If he brought back Lampard, and he made demands, the club are, in my view, more likely to listen to him than any external candidate.
Lampard is a smart guy, a winner, and leader, who knows the club well. He can surely see, as we fans can, exactly what’s wrong at the club – and could demand changes. He could ask for a director of football. He could demand players, or types of players, and the club would be under more pressure to listen.
There’s a strong argument that Frank Lampard could arguably be the catalyst for the major restructuring which the club desperately needs.
3) Lampard knows the academy structure and believes in youth
Having been at the club 13 years as a player, till very recently, and his work with Under 18 and academy teams last year give him a knowledge of our academy set up and the players there. This expertise would only be improved by having former youth manager Jody Morris as his assistant. Whoever the manager is from now on, needs to trust and integrate our best academy players, and who better than someone who knows the club, knows some of the players, and is a club legend they can look up to and learn from.
We’ve also seen at Derby, with Mason Mount and Fikoyo Timori, how Lampard and Morris’ coaching actually improves young players – and is ready to give chances to deserving academy players, something the Chelsea board wants right now. If we’re building a new squad around a core of academy players, Lampard is the perfect man to head this up.
4) Lampard gets the club
Current manager Maurizio Sarri gets booed almost every game now, and most matchday fans appear to want him gone, despite us currently being in fourth position in the league.
Meanwhile, in the catastrophic 15/16 season under Jose Mourinho, fans never turned on the manager. Even in the days we were one point off the relegation zone, fans still cheered his name at matches, and barely anyone wanted him sacked, and were upset when he was.
The reason? Jose Mourinho was one of us. He got the club. He had a strong connection to the fans and the club. The fanbase trusted him implicitly. That’s never been the case for many with Maurizio Sarri.
The fans have been chanting Lampard’s name for much of the season. Lampard is a club legend, arguably our greatest ever player. He knows the club, he knows how it works, he knows what the club means to people, and he knows fans expectations. He cares about the club, and is trusted by the fans. Which means fans would be far more patient with him than they ever will be with Maurizio Sarri – or another external candidate.
And he’d be far less patient with players who don’t care about the club, who don’t show up in games. Player power would be dead, because most fans and as such the board, would most likely take Lampard’s side over any of the players – especially under performing ones.
5) Lampard is a talented manager
What often gets missed in these debates, is that Frank Lampard, and his assistant Jody Morris, are one of the most talented young coaching teams in English football right now. Lampard has shown himself to be tactically astute, good man-manager, strong leader, and has notable performances against big Premier League teams to his credit.
Given the circumstances and budget he has had at Derby County, Lampard has arguably over-achieved by getting them into serious playoff contention with only 3 games left. He has undoubtedly improved the players working under him, especially the young players. He has also built good team spirit, and has a brought a highly professional, winning mentality to their team and the club as a whole. Even if he were not a Chelsea legend, Lampard would be one to watch purely from a management point of view – and, in my view, a far more talented coach than the current manager of Manchester Utd.
6) Uniting the fans and the team
The connection between fans and first team is as absent as it’s ever been. And there is division in the fanbase on a level I’ve never seen before. Appointing arguably the clubs greatest player as the new head coach, to rebuild the club alongside an experienced director of football with connections in the game, with a clear vision and a long-term project, is in my view the clubs best shot at uniting the fans building trust in the players and board.
It would be a signal of intent that Chelsea want to rebuild and move forward for the long-term, with a strategy to take us forward, under the stewardship of a man who embodies what Chelsea is all about.
Overall, there are several valid reasons for Frank Lampard not to take the Chelsea job now, which all have merit and logic behind them. Indeed, in an ideal world, we’d wait a few years and give him more experience in management before giving him the Chelsea job.
But for me, the positives of appointing him, and the situation around the club at the moment and with Maurizio Sarri – whatever he achieves this season – far outweigh the negatives. In fact, he might well be exactly the tonic the club needs right now.
One thing is for sure, Frank Lampard will be manager of Chelsea Football Club one day. The only question is when.
(Picture Sources: Getty Images)