As the rumours of Maurizio Sarri’s departure to Juventus develop by the day, now is the time for us to explore potential successors in a post-Sarriball era. We have seen the great and good of managerial talent since Roman’s takeover in 2003; but only once in that time has a manager survived three full seasons. This chop-and-change mentality, while undoubtedly successful in years gone by, has begun to limit the choice of top managers willing and able to take on the challenge. Of the four I analyse across the series, I would argue that only one manager can currently claim to be of the top ilk – yet this may present the opportunity for a new generational manager to develop at Stamford Bridge. As another ‘new dawn’ beckons, the first two candidates to succeed Maurizio Sarri can boast of experience in English Football.
1. Frank Lampard
It was inevitable when Super Frank entered management twelve months ago that he would be hotly linked with a return home to the Bridge. After an impressive run to the Championship Playoff Final with Derby County after a 6th place league finish, these rumours have reached boiling point. He is now the odds-on favourite to replace Maurizio Sarri. Whilst several fans (including a majority of my twitter followers) believe this may be too early, the prospect of Lampard continuing the attacking work of Sarri may be too tantalising for Roman to turn down.
Favoured Systems: 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-1-2
The return of a club legend may bring about a renaissance of the dressing-room passion of the Old Guard, something which worked out particularly well at Juventus upon the return of Antonio Conte in 2011. Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane also demonstrate that experience is not a pre-requisite for success at the top-level.
Lampard’s style of football appears to be somewhat similar to that we’ve seen this season, with a tactical flexibility not seen under Sarri. He has also developed Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori at Derby, and would be best placed to integrate them into the first-team. Frank Lampard could present the perfect opportunity for Sarri-ball to evolve into a rounded, Chelsea brand of football commandeered by a club legend.
This move could very well be premature – something painfully demonstrated by Santiago Solari at Real Madrid, or even potentially Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich. It could be argued that, without the development of a sure-fire philosophy, Lampard may struggle to get the best out of technical players like Jorginho. Questions must remain over Frank’s managerial depth.
Derby County: W20 D14 L12, 6th Position.
Carabao Cup: 4th Round, FA Cup: 4th Round.
SF: Derby 4-3 Leeds (Agg).
Final: Aston Villa 2-1 Leeds.
2. Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo has impressed many this season, taking newly-promoted Wolves into the Europa League. Rumours of Chelsea’s interest came around after Chelsea’s defeat to Everton in March, and his impressive end to the season ensured these did not diminish. A member of Porto’s Champions League-winning side, Nuno considers his bench-warming as a reserve goalkeeper a crucial managerial education.
Favoured Systems: 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-4-2
Nuno is an adaptable manager, and fears of a return to ‘Suffer-ball’ would not be justified. Santo experimented a variety of styles at Valencia and Porto, only predominantly playing a three-man defence under pressure at Wolves. His record against the top-six this season is impressive, and Champions League Qualification with Valencia is a fine achievement.
Tactically pragmatic, he could be the man to make the best of a squad devoid of talent after the likely departure of Eden Hazard. Furthermore, he has experience of big-club management at Valencia and Porto.
Can Nuno match the colossal expectations of a top-six club with a transfer ban? Would he even want to? With considerable investment at Wolves, he may view Chelsea as an unnecessary and insurmountable challenge. A hefty contract and compensation fee would be required to prize him away from the Midlands.
Santo has never been at a club long-term, and this may be of issue to segments of the Chelsea faithful. Failure to find a successful system swiftly could result in immediate questions over his future.
Wolves: W16 D9 L13, 7th Position, Europa League Qualification.
FA Cup: Semi Final
Carabao Cup: 3rd Round