Chelsea's transfer ban may prove a blessing for Lampard with Abraham, Mount and Hudson-Odoi ready to step up
Chelsea star-turned-manager can dip into club's academy and large roster at his disposal in preparation for new season
Frank Lampard played nearly 650 matches for Chelsea. If he is to manage them for even a third of that total, he will set a record for longevity unmatched by any manager of the club for almost 50 years.
Enter Lampard the Loyal – and a most intriguing confrontation of his true-blue bona fides with the hire-and-fire tendencies that seem part of Chelsea’s character.
Lampard is the 17th different man to take charge of managerial duties this century.
A few former Chelsea players have been given this notoriously insecure job – Roberto di Matteo won the European Cup in his brief stay – but not one so loved and admired by supporters, nor one who had such a direct influence on transforming the club from maverick cup specialists into heavyweight contenders for all the major prizes.
Nobody has scored more Chelsea goals than Lampard, who was a midfielder, and not many were as emblematic in the sides that dominated the Premier League between 2004 and 2006.
Lampard has been a senior coach barely a year: one season with Derby County that presented positive recommendations for his knack for the job in as far as he guided a Derby without lavish resources to the Championship play-off final. He is bright, authoritative, personable and rigorous, and if none of those qualities are a guaranteed antidote to top-flight inexperience, he will be a fast and eager learner.
But he has extra challenges, too, over and above most of his many predecessors from the 16 years Roman Abramovich has been funding the club.
He is reliant on a high number of players suddenly raising their standards at the same time he does, because Chelsea are currently banned from registering new players, a Fifa sanction imposed because the club were found to have breached rules on the recruitment of foreign Under 18 footballers.
In one respect, they should be as well equipped as any to weather that: Chelsea have an excellent academy, and a famously large roster, overstocked with footballers who have been accumulating wisdom via various loan spells elsewhere.
In many cases they have lifted their asset-value in the process even if they have seldom been considered candidates to join the first-team squad of their parent club.
For many of those, the shortage of new signings is an opportunity. Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount are attacking talents who have made strong cases on loan in the Championship, Mount having worked with Lampard at Derby.
Meanwhile, Callum Hudson-Odoi, a winger now capped by England, has all but demanded his fast-track through the Chelsea academy is recognised by regular starts or, if not, a transfer to another elite club.
And for all the younger players looking to break through, there is a stellar example on the premises of how it can be done.
Chelsea took the precaution, seeing the Fifa ban as imminent, of signing Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund in January, and then loaning him back to Dortmund until June. Pulisic cost some €65 million (Dh290m), will only turn 21 next month, but has three precociously impressive years as a Dortmund star already already in his wake.
Pulisic’s drive, speed and skill on the ball can, fitness permitting, become Lampard’s best ally.
Whether the United States international can be as influential as the departed Eden Hazard, sold to Real Madrid after seven years developing into Chelsea’s most important attacking player, is a question Pulisic will become accustomed to.
He should be allowed some time to get his bearings: He thought he would be joining a club managed by Maurizio Sarri, and one which he would normally expect to have signed other proven match-winners to join him.
Sarri, who never quite won over supporters nor shook off a reputation for being too dogmatic tactically, led the club to third in the Premier League, won the Europa League in his single season, and made a good enough impression, by the time he decided to leave, to be offered the Juventus job.
Another top three finish would count as a triumph for his successor. For that, the up-and-comings, led by Pulisic will need to inject regular pizzazz and enough of the more worldly doyens, like Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, David Luiz, Pedro and Willian to impose themselves on tight contests.
The Uefa Champions League will fill Chelsea’s midweeks, too, bringing extra scrutiny of Lampard’s tactical expertise and his ability to balance his resources across a busy fixture list.
At centre-forward, he must choose from Olivier Giroud, Abraham and Michy Batshuayi. Looking at that limited list, the new manager may conclude Chelsea will need a good supply of goals from midfield.
But if anybody knows what it takes to generate those, it is Frank Lampard.
Updated: August 5, 2019 08:42 AM