Frank Lampard has, so far, done an extremely impressive job during his opening months at the helm of the club that made him a football icon.
While his appointment was seen as a gamble by some, others saw it as a shrewd move in the midst of a transfer embargo, as well as the black cloud left hovering of West London following the departure of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. The move was partly aimed at pleasing the ever-restless Chelsea fanbase and it has paid dividends… so far.
A wave of optimism washed over Chelsea as Lampard unveiled his brand of exciting, attacking football which allowed players freedom and expression, in stark contrast to Maurizio Sarri’s mechanical, stoic methodology which demanded near military discipline and allowed no deviation from the collective cause.
The playing squad, finally furnished with some of the products from the club’s previously neglected academy, was on board and enjoying themselves and all of a sudden there were good vibes coming from Stamford Bridge.
Lampard’s honeymoon period has been lengthy and for the most part thoroughly successful. And yet, as so often has been the case with this soap opera of a football institution down the years, turbulence is only just around the corner.
Recent results in the league have blotted the manager’s copybook, while the decision this month by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to shorten the transfer ban to just one widow, throws in a completely different dynamic to Lampard’s stewardship. The next few weeks, far more than in his opening salvos as a top-flight coach, could be crucial in shaping the manager’s future at Stamford Bridge.
Expectations will swell now that the club is able to sign players in January and the onus will be on the rookie Premier League boss to make some big calls which could have massive consequences.
It could very much be argued that while the embargo was firmly in place, Lampard was able to move, unshackled, by the huge expectations that have been placed on his stellar predecessors. The former midfielder must now show he is a dab hand in the transfer market, a challenge that all managers stumble on from time to time, let alone a young coach still learning his trade in the dugout.
His fledgeling reputation as a coach should not impede him in attracting players should he chose to flex Chelsea’s financial muscle. West London has had a strong pull in the Roman Abramovich era and players will be motivated to go there if the club comes knocking in January.
Crucially though, any new signings would also have to be completed with some semblance of an idea of how to knit them in with the current crop of youngsters and regulars who have done so well up to this point.
The club is in the last 16 of the Champions League and sit five points clear of fifth despite losing three of their last four Premier League matches.
Tammy Abraham has averaged a goal or an assist every 88 minutes played, while Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have played themselves into the England team so impressive has their form been.
Lampard must consider this when delving into the market. Yes, there are clearly some issues to address, as an unhealthy 36 goals conceded in all competitions suggests a defensive vulnerability which could well derail their silverware chances this season.
The former England international must find a way to strike a balance between adequate defensive reinforcements and blowing large sums on big-name players who will elbow their way past the queuing cohorts of talented youngsters at the club and upset the apple cart.
Recent results in the league have raised some questions about the long-term durability of the Chelsea defence as a whole. In particular, some pretty shabby defending against Everton last weekend led to a costly defeat that allowed the chasing pack to claw away at the points cushion that Lampard’s men had made for themselves in the top four.
The manager and his team must take adequate steps to ensure this casual approach to defending does not calcify and become a real hindrance to the prospects of a wonderfully entertaining football team.
Lampard’s regime has impressed in its infancy. Champions League progression from a decidedly tricky group, the stunning form of Tammy Abraham and some bold, ambitious attacking football hints at a project which could prove to be hugely successful.
However, the honeymoon period has well and truly ended and there is some big and decidedly tricky work to be done in the coming months for Lampard at Stamford Bridge.