Frank Lampard is on a mission to make Chelsea top dogs in English football again.
The club’s all-time record goalscorer returned to Stamford Bridge as manager following the departure of Maurizio Sarri, who joined perennial Italian champions Juventus.
His appointment led to some substantial changes on the field, notably the presence of academy graduates in his starting line-up, players that have been on their loan carousel in recent years. Normally for a club of Chelesa’s stature, that is focused on instant results; there’s no room to develop the stars of tomorrow.
The go-to resolution in a crisis is spending, bringing through youth is often associated with patience – which not many clubs have. However, there seems to be a sea of change taking place at the moment, and Lampard appears to have sensed an opportunity accelerated by a transfer ban imposed on them.
Enter Mount & Co.
Chelsea’s youth set-up has been widely praised for developing intelligent footballers, but the pathway to first-team football had been non-existent until now. With no one relocating, plus the squad effectively being the same as last season, Lampard – who began his coaching career at Derby County last year– wasn’t under any pressure to perform. But his pride meant there was no way he would view this campaign as a throwaway.
"Basically just Frank Lampard with a bit more pace." 👀
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 24, 2019
Having borrowed Mason Mount at his previous club, the young academy graduate has been ever-present so far this season, and in some ways become symbolic of this newlook Chelsea side. The highly-talented midfielder really made his name at Dutch club Vitesse, who the Blues enjoy a working relationship with. In Arnhem he demonstrated his versatility as a footballer, having proving himself capable of playing across various midfield positions and still retaining that eye for goal (13 across 39 games).
His performances led revered French publication to name him as one of the ’12 stars of the future’ alongside Kylian Mbappé and Matthijs de Ligt. Unlike those aforementioned names Mount has yet to stamp his name on world football, but that might not be long now considering his start. So far, across three league matches, he’s played in three different roles: attacking midfield (v Man Utd), central midfield (v Leicester City) and on the left flank against Norwich City where he made an even greater impression.
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On the opposite side was Christian Pulisic, the only new face this summer even though he was signed from Borussia Dortmund prior to Chelsea receiving a transfer embargo. Sandwiched between Chelsea’s new look wing-pair was promising centre-forward Tammy Abraham – who, like Mount, made his full Chelsea debut in the recent 4-0 humbling at Old Trafford – and the trio caused Daniel Farke’s side all sorts of problems. Each contributed to the 3-2 win, Lampard’s first victory as Blues boss, with Abraham bagging a brace either side of Mount’s effort, which Pulisic created.
What really excited about this hastily put together attacking trident, on account of Pedro sustaining an injury in the warm-up, was their near-telepathic understanding between each other. Maybe belonging to a similar generation, with their average age being 20.3 years old, was a factor. Exuberance often leads to carelessness, this was no exception, they are nowhere close to being full pelt so having a workmanlike midfield behind enabled them to express themselves knowing they would be rescued if something went awry.
"He doesn't want to be 'young Chelsea', those boys are there on merit .. forget the age!"
Chelsea have fielded their youngest side in 25 years but age is just a number for Joe Cole. pic.twitter.com/JALKyIi8MZ
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 24, 2019
Being mobile ensured seamless combination play and interchanging of positions with all three players comfortable in whatever space they occupied. Combined they created six of Chelsea’s 20 chances on goal (Pulisic 3, Abraham 1, Mount 2). A small return, understandably, but that only illustrates how Lampard wants his midfield to be the bulk of their creativity.
It comes as no surprise that Ross Barkley, who came in for Pedro, created the most goalscoring opportunities (five). Their speed and movement brings another dimension to Chelsea’s game.
Tammy Abraham's game by numbers vs. Norwich:
2 shots on target
Finding that clinical touch. pic.twitter.com/Gadn75HJza
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 24, 2019
It’s too early to suggest this will be their fixed attack, but for now it seems more than enough. More importantly there’s a sense of community at the Bridge. It’s been well-documented that John Terry was the last Chelsea academy graduate to hold down a regular starting berth, something Mount recently brought up when explaining his decision to remain at the club. There’s every chance of that statistic changing very soon and we will have Terry’s old teammate to thank.