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FAR FROM SUPER FRAUD

Is "Super Frank" on the precipice of something great?

By Elbion Caci

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This season has been a turbulent one for the football world to say the least. One of the more surprising stories to come out of the extended 2019/20 season is how Chelsea FC legend Frank Lampard, in just his second year of professional management, has managed to guide his team to a top 4 finish in an intense race for those coveted Champions League places. Overcoming barriers thought unconquerable by many at the start of the season, including a transfer ban, the departure of Eden Hazard and a squad most pundits tipped to struggle in his first season in charge, Lampard has shown glimpses of becoming a force to be reckoned with during his reign thus far.

 

By showing faith in his young starlets, as well as a few displays of keen tactical nous against some of the best teams in Europe, Lampard has shown that he just might be the guy to take Chelsea to the next level.

 

Considering the squad already and now the mouth-watering list of talent both linked and already confirmed to be joining the squad next season, could ‘Super Frank’ be the man to finally establish his beloved Chelsea as the European Powerhouse they have threatened to become over the last two decades? 

 

Lampard’s legendary stint as a player for The Blues earned him the reputation as one of the greatest midfielders in English football history. He is their all time top goalscorer with 211 goals, and is the 5th top goalscorer in Premier League history. Combined with 3 Premier League trophies, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and both the Champions League and Europa league, his personal and club accolades are rivaled by very few.

 

The announcement of Lampard as the new Chelsea manager in the summer of 2019 was received positively by the fans after a promising stint in charge of Derby County in the EFL Championship the season prior. Many fans were hopeful that his appointment as the new boss meant the ushering in of a new era at the club, unmarred by constant managerial changes and inconsistent performances. 

 

The beginning may have been turbulent however, losing on the opening day 4-0 to Manchester United, but has since turned his fortunes around and established his side as one of the most exciting teams in England, with big wins and excellent performances against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Ajax in the Champions League. A lot of the credit for those performances have been given to the plethora of young academy graduates Lampard has seamlessly integrated into the starting XI. The ensemble of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Callum Hudsom-Odoi have already made the transition well into the first team, with Mount and James in particular cementing themselves as some of the first names on the team sheet with spectacular performances throughout the season.  

 

Although morale is high, the 2019/20 campaign was not undeniably adequate for Lampard as Chelsea were still prone to lapses in concentration against lesser teams, suffering losses and draws that could have been detrimental. Losses to the likes of relegation candidates Bournemouth (0-1), Southampton (0-2), Newcastle (1-0) and a league double to West Ham (0-1, 3-2) meant that a top 4 spot wasn’t secured until the final day of the season.

 

In combination to the few woeful performances, Chelsea were susceptible to failing to make chances count during games they had otherwise been dominating. A 4-0 loss to United on the opening day came as a shock to many, especially as the statistics seemed to indicate that the game was firmly Chelsea’s to win. More possession, shots and passes meant nought as Man U were clinical at the other end, converting 4 of their 5 shots on target. This pattern has also shown itself against teams in the bottom half. In all 5 of the aforementioned losses against bottom half teams, Chelsea recorded a possession of over 66%, as well as at least double the shot count of the opposition in all but one of the games. 

 

Chelsea’s problems with inconsistency and failure to take chances might soon come to an end. Once their transfer ban was lifted in December of 2019, The Blues wasted little time in assembling a team that was capable of competing against some of the best in the world. The confirmed signings of ‘The Wizard of Amsterdam’ Hakim Ziyech from Ajax as well as statistically the second most prolific striker in Europe, Timo Werner has left Chelsea fans exuberant at the prospect of their future line-up. The playmaking skills of Ziyech and the clinical finishing of Werner, coupled with the burgeoning talent already at the club in players like Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and their already mentioned squadron of youngsters threatens to cause some real damage come the 2020/21 season. 

 

Although speculation on potential transfers is a fool’s game at times, it’s hard not to entertain the idea that come the start of next season, Chelsea FC might be lining up with some of the greatest young talents not just in England, but world football.

 

Much has been made of the transfer saga regarding Bayer Leverkusen wonderkid Kai Havertz, including many reports that (as of 27/07/20) he has agreed personal terms with the London club ahead of a £90 million move. Although Lampard has been coy in recent press conferences, refusing to even entertain questions regarding the German, many sources have all but confirmed the transfer to be complete, including recent Bayern Munich Acquisition Leroy Sane. During his unveiling, the former Manchester City winger congratulated fellow German compatriots Werner AND Havertz on moving to Chelsea, potentially spilling the beans on the most talked about transfer rumour of the year. 

 

On top of all the attacking reinforcements, Chelsea’s main problem area, the defence, seems to be on the verge of an overhaul as well, if transfer rumours are to be believed. Atletico Madrid stalwart Jose Maria Gimenez is the latest in the series of defensive merchants that have reportedly been courted by The Blues this year, alongside the likes of former Chelsea youth product and current West Ham star Declan Rice, Ajax’s Nicolo Tagliafico, Leicester's Ben Chilwell and Evertonian Lucas Digne. All of these names add different dimensions that could see Lampard tinker with his already fluid tactical style, as well as adding defensive reassurances that have otherwise been missing this season. 

 

Kepa Arrizabalaga, the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, has also come under heavy scrutiny for his performances this season, and after only a year as the No. 1 for The Blues, plans seem to be in motion already to find his replacement. Chelsea have again gone to the Spanish capital for their man, With Atletico shot stopper Jan Oblak high on Chelsea Director Marina Granovskaia’s list. The Slovenian international has cemented himself as one of the best keepers in world football, and with Chelsea’s war chest more than capable of funding multiple big name signings, is Oblak the next superstar to join The Blues’ long list of world class talent? 

There is a great deal of intrigue surrounding the next couple of years at Chelsea FC with Frank Lampard at the helm. Having guided his club to a Champions League berth, and having promoted multiple young super talents to the first team, it’s easy for a Chelsea fan to be excited at the prospect of their club becoming the global powerhouse Roman Abramovic dreamt of back in 2003. But with the likes of Liverpool and the two Manchester sides hot on their heels in the Premier League, it won't be an easy undertaking for Lampard. Can he take Chelsea to glory, or will he be another footnote in the long list of failed Chelsea Managers? Only time will tell.