Chelsea fans everywhere knew what a tough season ahead it would be. With the loss of their greatest ever player, Eden Hazard, a transfer ban and losing manager, Maurizio Sarri, to Juventus. It’s fair to say morale was low at Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea board knew they had to restore the passion in the club. Fans were split about Chelsea’s style of play, with half the fans calling Sarri out and the rest wanting him to stay.
The appointment of Frank Lampard changed everything. A promise of academy players to be injected into the squad, something the previous Chelsea manager lacked at doing. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus – Cheek were stand out players for Chelsea last season, but due to their age, Sarri favoured a more experienced lineup.
It took the perfect storm for Chelsea to finally accept their youth products with Lampard introducing 12 new academy graduates to the first team. As soon as Lampard arrived, he made his intentions clear. Out with the old and in with the new. Club legend, David Luiz, was sold to rivals, Arsenal, to make room for younger talent.
Lampard deserves full credit for having the confidence in giving these young players a chance. There were rumours of even Jose Mourinho returning for a third spell as Chelsea boss instead – making the chances of academy players breaking through, very little.
Mourinho gave Kevin De Bruyne, Mohammad Salah, and Romelu Lukaku a mere eight starts in his second spell. A man for winning now and not bothering about tomorrow. If Mourinho was managing this Chelsea side, Olivier Giroud, Pedro, Willian, David Luiz, and Marcos Alonso would all be starting. No youth, only experience and long rants about the problems he has had to counter.
Lampard deals with it. No complaints. He just gets on with the situation. He has managed to perfect the balance of youth and experience in the starting XI, showing how in touch he is with modern-day football. Doing the double over his former master came as no surprise.
The main problem Lampard has had to deal with is, of course, the transfer ban. Managing to keep up with the high rollers in the Premier League is, in my opinion, Lampard’s biggest success since being at the club. Man United were the league’s top spenders with a whopping £148m, whilst Chelsea could only sign Matteo Kovacic due to a transfer loophole they found in their ban. Not to mention losing their best player, Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s squad had been completely downgraded.
But yet, Lampard still managed to guarantee Chelsea a Champions League spot, finishing on the same amount of points as Manchester United and placing above Leicester City by a 4 point gap! It’s quite an incredible accomplishment to even finish near these teams if you consider the amount of money spent.
Even pundits couldn’t have guessed what a wonderful job Frank would do. Only six out of the 24 BBC pundits predicted Chelsea would get top four at the start of the season, doubting Lampard’s abilities as a manager. Even when Lampard had tactically outsmarted Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, the media weren’t talking about Frank Lampard’s masterclass but instead, Liverpool’s title win.
Lampard has even won more Manager of the Month awards than Mourinho, Guardiola, and Carlo Ancelotti put together this season. He was also nominated again in June, plus the Manager of the Season award too alongside Jurgen Klopp, Chris Wilder, and Brendan Rogers.
For me, Chelsea fans and the media don’t quite register what a fantastic job Frank Lampard has done. To reach a Champions League place and an FA Cup final in just your second season of management is one hell of an achievement. This is far beyond what anyone else could have imagined…
Frank Lampard is not one for the future but one for now.