Amidst speculation about the ownership, a transfer ban and the departure of their best player; it now appears it’s only a matter of time before Maurizio Sarri is named the new manager at Juventus, as reports intensify about the Italian’s future at Chelsea.
Despite the mounting reasons for gloom at The Bridge, there appears to be widespread faith that their former midfielder and all-time top scorer, Frank Lampard is the ideal man to replace Sarri.
Lampard is reported to have opened talks with his former club and represents a headline-grabbing candidate for the job. However, in the midst of the all the drama and chaos, perpetually engulfing Chelsea; is their pursuit of Lampard one mad gamble too many for the West London outfit?
There has been a lot of talk this year about former players “getting” their clubs and being a perfect fit for simply understanding the supporters and the football culture etc etc. Frank Lampard certainly falls into this category, whether you like it or not.
The current consensus is that Lampard would bring back some much-needed positivity to Chelsea after relentless doom and gloom from the supporters under Sarri.
Lampard would certainly serve as a popular figure with the fans, where he is still idolized on the terraces. He would also bring back the good vibes to the Stamford Bridge, with former Blues midfielder Jody Morris, his current right-hand man at Derby likely to follow in his footsteps.
This would very much be a case of familiar faces bringing back great memories. However, there is also a need for some cold waters of caution to cool these arguments off before too much sentiment kills Chelsea’s course.
Do they need to bring in a man so well entrenched in the traditions of the club? Jurgen Klopp had no emotional connection to Liverpool, yet this has not stopped the German from buying in to the football club and bonding with it’s fans. Likewise, in Chelsea’s recent history, José Mourinho was an outsider who made himself a legend at the club. They may not be in a position currently, to hire such a top name but the question remains as to whether they need a figure from the illustrious recent past to do the job.
The Blues need only look north to Manchester United, where the club was virtually forced by a wave of populism, to appoint Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a permanent basis in March.
Solskjaer personified the old guard at United; a ’99 treble hero and one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most popular signings. After a record-breaking run as interim manager, the club hierarchy buckled on their plans to wait until the summer, and appointed the Norwegian on a full-time basis after a wave of popular demand.
More than that, Mike Phelan was brought back as his deputy and Michael Carrick retained as a first-team coach. This was more than a nod to the glory days; it was an attempt to recreate that bygone era. The yearning for the comfort of that golden era for the football club, arguably overshadowed what should have been some very pragmatic decision making at a crucial time. Sound familiar?
It’s not unfair to question to ask whether the United manager, after losing his goodwill and burning out his hot streak, lacked the elite level experience at the required level, to bail his side out of a bad run.
This brings us back to Lampard. Should Chelsea opt for their famous son, there is little doubt they’d be appointing a man who loves the club to its core. But the decision would echo United’s and smack distinctly of romance trumping over pragmatism once again.
Not a good time
Like it or lump it, this is not a good time to manage Chelsea. Another trophy may be lining their bulging cabinet, but a win over an Arsenal side in disarray does not mask the ailments blighting the Stamford Bridge club.
With their Belgian talisman gone after his curtain call in Baku, there is a considerable deficiency in top-class attacking players. Any new manager would need to address this, however, the transfer ban currently facing Chelsea makes is presently impossible for them to recruit. An appeal is in the works, but any manager would surely be hindered by such uncertainty, even one with a built up scouting network and transfer pedigree.
In addition, the future or Roman Abramovich remains the elephant in the room at The Bridge. The Russian Billionaire has made noises towards getting a little bored of his London soiree, as his investor’s visa expired without a renewal date in place last summer. With all that background noise, a young manager, even one emotionally invested in the club, would do well to pause for a moment for consideration.
Plug the gap
Lampard could well be capable of working with Chelsea’s swollen youth numbers, returning from heir myriad of loan spells. He certainly knows two of them from last season, with Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount both enjoying an educational season at Derby last term.
Indeed, the former Chelsea captain favored youth significantly at the Championship outfit.
As early as November 2018, the average age of his starting XI at Derby, had fallen by three years, to 26 years and 259 days. If he is not adverse to giving youth a go, then it may well serve him well, should he step into the role as Chelsea manager.
A preference towards younger, hungry players may plug the gap if the transfer ban remains; although it’s hardly a flattering indictment of Lampard’s abilities as a coach.
Those abilities, by the way, are still somewhat open for debate. He has shown flurries while at Derby, but you cannot say he has been an unequivocal success story.
Yes, he guided The Rams to 6th place and a play-off final, for which he deserves praise. But his side’s expected goals per game was the 19th worse in the division which is a glaring stat when you consider they averaged 54.1% possession in their 46 league matches.
A lack of creativity was compensated via the explosive form of loan stars such as Harry Wilson. The Wales international bagged 15 league goals last season, seven of which came from outside the box, meaning Lampard’s Derby were able to rescue themselves with a bona fide match-winner in the ranks, if things went a bit stale on the pitch.
However, this does not exactly paint the picture of a manager capable of fielding a side, fully greased and geared to a slick footballing ideology. It smacks of a coach still trying to assemble a route to victory in the second tier of English football.
This is hypercritical of course, and the man deserves time to finely tune his management style.
A rookie and a gamble
He also showed considerable know-how in his play-off semi-final encounter with Leeds at Elland Road. Abandoning his preferred possession-based style, his Derby side opted for a direct approach and hurt the home side’s high line. An epic 2-4 win ensued as Lampard masterminded a sensational comeback over a much more experienced coach in Marcelo Bielsa.
However, the fact remains that he is a rookie coach and represents a considerable gamble for his former club. If the heart wins over the head, and Lampard is sworn in to replace Sarri, then it will certainly make for interesting viewing next season.
It would though, be quite a shame, if a talented young English coach was left to smash against the rocks in the turbulent waters current lashing around Chelsea Football Club.