From the minute Maurizio Sarri left Chelsea just days after handing the club a Europa trophy, it always felt like it was just a matter of time before Frank Lampard’s name would be touted as the replacement for the Italian.
Lampard 41 seemed the most logical choice at a club that is renowned for its hiring and firing of managers. Taking an unfancied Derby County to the Championship playoffs where they were narrowly beaten by Aston Villa had seen his stock rise but questions remain whether the former Chelsea midfielder’s appointment hasn’t come too soon. Already, there are doubts in some quarters that he can replicate his achievements in the lower league.
Questions around his technical nous and how he will be able to handle the expectations at Chelsea will hound him perhaps throughout the season, especially if the team does not get off to a flyer in the first few weeks but there is a sense that the Chelsea fans are ready to give one of their own a chance to find his feet and hopefully become the most successful manager in the club’s history.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 5, 2019
Lampard takes over the reign of the club at a time where a transfer embargo means that they are unable to make additions to a burgeoning talent list that has yet to be exploited in full by former managers of the club and he will be without the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard who has left for sunnier climes in Spain but his stint at Derby County has shown that he can be tactically flexible and is able to adapt his team to play in a manner that nullifies the threat of the opposition. At Chelsea, he’ll be required to do more than just adapting to threats of opposition teams. Fans will ultimately demand that the team play with the kind of swagger that Manchester City and Liverpool have shown in the recently concluded season and anything less after a full season may be considered a failure.
It’s a big ask for a manager who only a couple of months ago was cutting his teeth at the Championship level but Lampard is determined if nothing else. His affability and charisma suggest that the players at the club will be drawn to him and eager to take on the new ideas that he is expected to bring to the club. In recent interviews, he has also talked about being bold and willing to introduce young players like Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, and Kurt Zouma among a host of other players who are currently on loan around the elite clubs in Europe. There might even be a return for the unhappy Alvaro Morata if Lampard chooses to dispense with the services of the ageing Gonzalo Higuain.
Perhaps the most compelling conundrum that the new manager will face as he comes to grips with managing this current Chelsea squad is how to deal with the Kante and Jorginho situation. His predecessor had a particular fondness for playing Jorginho in the central midfield position and as a result, moved Kante to a more attacking role that hardly suited the French international. While Kante as the season progressed, eventually warmed to the role, there was always a feeling that Chelsea would have been a far more compact team had he been employed to play the holding midfielder role that he’d excelled at Leicester City, the French national team and for Chelsea before Maurizio Sarri’s arrival.
It’s still early doors and there does seem to be a real feeling of enthusiasm at Chelsea after what had been a rather turbulent end to the season under Sarri but that sense of relief may just be transient if Lampard does not come quickly to terms with the vagaries of an unforgiving league that has seen managers far more experienced than him bite the proverbial dust. It’s safe to say that if it all goes pear-shaped; the 41-year old might be at risk of tarnishing a carefully cultivated reputation that may take a very long time to rebuild.