The signings of European stars Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech could signal a turn in the tides at Chelsea, and an end in the faith of the academy players coming through.
It is safe to say that there were sceptics over the future of Chelsea 12 months ago, as Eden Hazard flew off to Real Madrid. This was exacerbated with the departure of Maurizio Sarri, and Chelsea’s failed appeal against the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) felt like the final straw.
Frank Lampard walked into a much different Chelsea that any other manager had done in the Roman Abramovich era, with the least experience in the managerial role. It all seemed too quick too soon. Steven Gerrard had gone to work on his craft at Rangers, whilst John Terry was cutting his teeth up in Birmingham, working as a right-hand man to Dean Smith.
It became clear from the sale of David Luiz that Lampard was going to try his own way and give young talented Chelsea players a chance they may never get again, which worked in his favour.
This ethos from the Chelsea boss can be dated back to 2014, where he spoke about young players getting ‘lost’ due to a lack of play time, in an interview with Sky Sports:
“I made my West Ham debut at 17 and was a regular a year later,” he said.
“If I was the same age now I wouldn’t be anywhere near the Chelsea or Manchester City sides. Like the other kids I’d have had to go out on loan.” (SkySports.com)
This maverick approach from Lampard was deemed amicable from not only Chelsea fans, but fans of other clubs. Pundits were constantly discussing how much ‘they loved how Frank was giving the youngsters a chance’ and how people ‘don’t hate Chelsea as much this year’. The old Chelsea seemed to have gone.
This was until the signings of Werner and Ziyech came around. Suddenly Chelsea went from a good but tame side to getting the players they want when they want, how Abramovich always used to conduct his business.
The question to ask is was all this season for nothing? All this faith put into youngsters was just to fill a gap, and now Chelsea are back to buying their way to trophies?
It is undeniable that the young players at Chelsea are of genuine talent. Tammy Abraham scoring 17 goals in all competitions, after playing in the Championship last year is no easy task. However, Werner scored double Abraham’s tally (34) for RB Leipzig this season.
It is hard to imagine Abraham will keep his place to one of Europe’s hottest strikers, and for a man of his age, after the season he has had, will be itching to get consistent first team minutes, potentially making him look elsewhere from Stamford Bridge.
Lampard has shown a lot of faith in Mason Mount. He was his boss at Derby County and this season, Mount has played 52 times in all competitions, more than any other player. One would expect Lampard to keep Mount in his plans going forward, but with Ziyech playing the same positions, and with constant rumours of Kai Havertz being brought in, one must question where Mount would fit in to all of this.
Defensively, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have exceeded expectations when called upon. However, Chelsea’s defensive record has been inconsistent, therefore it would not be ridiculous to think Lampard will be looking to strengthen his backline, perhaps more desperately than his attacking options.
If defenders is what Lampard aims to attract are of a similar ilk to Werner and Ziyech, it would be difficult to see Tomori or James being able to displace a marquee signing from the starting XI.