Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all with Chelsea Football Club, you are quickly hit with another unexpected curveball to harshly remind you, you have not. In reality, you have barely even scratched the surface of chaotic madness that is supporting the Blues.
Eight days away from a European final, and all anyone can talk about is that Maurizio Sarri will be shown the door regardless of the result and will be replaced by club legend, Frank Lampard – who, regardless of his result in a Play-Off Final with Derby to get to the Premier League, will leave Pride Park to return to the club he made his name with.
In many ways, hearing that Frank Lampard, a childhood hero, a role model of mine and someone who I’ve idolised since the age of five could be returning to Stamford Bridge should feel me with nothing but joy and excitement. Instead it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, one of confusion, frustration and predominately fear.
Like many who expressed this concern regarding a potential return for our iconic midfielder in the managerial position, it is quite possibly the worst timing imaginable. Frank Lampard is only just on the brink of the conclusion to his first full season in management. Granted, he has done a superb job with Derby, getting them within 90 minutes of Premier League football, utilising a young squad and helping to improve the likes of Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, who have played key parts in his starting eleven.
The second leg triumph at Elland Road highlighted how well he has been able to instill belief into his squad, and the added ability of that squad to overturn a deficit against a strong Leeds United side, who looked destined to return to the top flight. All these hallmarks are signs of good leadership, smart tactical awareness and an eye for a good player, all things that should not only excite Chelsea fans, but also the Chelsea board.
However, it is one season in management, and it is one season in Championship football. Frank has admitted himself in interviews he is learning, adapting and making mistakes on the job as he goes. Derby is the perfect place for him to make those mistakes and be forgiven for them. At a smaller club, he has room to mould his vision, and construct a side in his image. Staying with Derby and getting them promoted would not only be a huge achievement after only one year, but would allow him to take what he’s built and challenge himself in a more difficult league against better players and managers.
Also, it would give Chelsea the added opportunity to loan more players over to Frank, who can positively impact their development and thinking longer-term (If I dare regarding our club) can dream of Frank being able to grow a connection to Chelsea loaness who he can then utilise when he finally returns to West London.
The counter argument to Lampard’s lack of managerial experience is expectedly the likes of Zinedine Zidane who walked into Real Madrid’s dugout and won three Champions League titles in a row without blinking an eye. Though, I need not remind you reader that there are some key differences between Chelsea and Real Madrid. Cristano Ronaldo, to name one – plus a host of other world class talent who had countless titles and winning experience behind them in spades and knew what it took to get over the line in big occasions. Zidane was a match made in heaven, but he was handed a fantasy side to work with from the off.
People seem to easily forget the deep-seated and present problems with the current infrastructure of the club that are consistently pointed out by the people who are demanding for Lampard’s arrival. There is a clear of lack of vision, unity and coherent plan to anything Chelsea are currently doing. Sacking Maurizio Sarri in under 12 months stinks of an appointment that was made on a whim and not because of a clear direction the club were attempting to go in.
Sarri has achieved top four, something which his predecessor failed to do in the previous season. Reaching two finals and beginning to integrate Chelsea’s next generation, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, both of whom’s seasons ended unfortunately and tragically with long-term injuries. Plus he is one victory away from claiming another piece of European silverware, which all adds up to a farcical situation in which a manager achieves his objectives and is still shown the door.
A transfer ban which is looking more likely by the day that it will be upheld, means no possibility of fresh blood and investment into a squad that needs it. Lampard would have no room for manoeuvre to buy players to fit into his system and would likely end up frustrated and walk into a season working with players who had spent the last campaign learning a completely new style of play.
Chelsea need stability, direction, a plan. A reset button would set the club back even further with the likes of Manchester City continuing to move further into the distance. There are no guarantees Lampard despite his unbreakable connection to the club and its fanbase is ready for a job of this magnitude at a time when nearly everything around the club feels so uncertain. If the worst came to pass, Lampard’s promising managerial career could end before it even starts because the club and himself rushed into an emotional decision rather than a rational one.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United is the perfect warning sign for Chelsea of how an appointment based off of emotion can go wrong. Even with Solskjaer’s brilliant start, in the long run it couldn’t mask the long standing problems that have remained present within Old Trafford long before the Norwegian’s arrival, and United now find themselves without Champions League football and a potential player exodus around the corner.
Instead of always pinning the blame of the manager and continuing the merry-go-round which worked when the club had a higher quality of player, the hierarchy should instead aim to strengthen the line of communication within the club and pin down what the vision is going forward over the next 3-5 years. A Director of Football is desperately needed to improve signings and player recruitment which has been an area of frustration for a number of seasons.
The club should see Sarri as a vehicle to truly transition the club and squad into a new era under Roman Abramovich’s ownership. Chelsea need to modernise the structure in order to compete with the top two, who both have backed the vision of a manager over a number of years, given them investment and helped unify the club in one direction. That is so far from what Chelsea have at the moment.
Despite it being the dream appointment, currently in reality, Frank Lampard should be kept as far away from Chelsea’s dugout as possible until bigger problems are addressed and the club’s structure is stronger and better defined.
Patience is key, if that’s even possible at Chelsea.