After an emotional divorce and five-year hiatus, Frank Lampard has returned to Chelsea to take up a position as the new head coach.
The Blues’ record goalscorer has succeeded the ever-polarising Maurizio Sarri after the Italian tactician left for Juventus last month.
It was, at times, a helter-skelter season under Sarri, with the 60-year-old leaving Stamford Bridge having never truly endeared himself to a strong contingent of the match-going Chelsea fanbase.
But, in Lampard, those on the terraces now have a man they can relate to, one who shares their vision and philosophy for how the game should be played; though, having just completed his debut managerial season with Derby County, this appointment presents a mixture of sentimentality and unpredictability.
However, a strong emphasis on youth development and a Championship play-off final appearance in 2018/19 caught the eye of Chelsea, with club director Marina Granovskaia describing Lampard as “one of the most talented young coaches in the game”.
Indeed, this was a marriage always expected to rekindle at some point down the line, but not many could have envisaged it to materialise this quickly when Lampard first took to Pride Park just over 12 months ago.
So with that, what can the Blues faithful expect from the new regime? Lampard will have a two-window transfer embargo to contend with, plus the loss of a certain Eden Hazard, but what qualities does he possess and what might unravel in the coming months?
New backroom staff
Like many of the finest managers to have ever graced the game, their careers are so often aided – or even defined – by the man in the dugout alongside them – Bill Shankly-Bob Paisley and Brian Clough-Peter Taylor to name but two famous partnerships – and Lampard is no exception to that rule.
Travelling down the M1 with Lampard will be his Derby County lieutenant, Jody Morris, a former Chelsea academy product, player and Under-18 head coach.
View this post on Instagram
What can I say…This last year I’ve made some of the most amazing memories and experienced some of the most euphoric feelings in my football career..the warmth in which the city embraced us was evident from day one and continued throughout our time in Derbados..the fans enthusiasm and love for this great football club was apparent whenever you walked in the city (or jogged in chaddy)..I’m so proud and privileged to have felt that..from the off Mel Morris was quite simply a class act and I’m not sure anybody yearns for success in DE24 more…A true fan who is passionate about his team..I’d like to say a special thank you to Mels wife Sharon who made my family feel so welcome and was always there to help in any capacity especially on matchdays..The staff throughout the training ground were a joy to be around and worked tirelessly to support us and the players.. A special mention for ‘Mi Duck’ Adam Storrer , an absolute diamond of a bloke who I’ll be forever grateful and I’ve made a pal for life in Storrs 🖤 Thank You so much to the players that bought into what we tried to do straight away and gave us all such a great ride.I’ll never forget some of the moments we experienced together..I loved watching you grow as a group and want nothing more than for you to be successful and keep improving as players, no matter what stage of your career you’re at.. To all the Rams out there I hope you understand how much we appreciated your support. The SILENCE of late which some of you took as disrespect was the complete opposite..we had no choice but to keep quiet while negotiations were ongoing and would never want to mislead anybody..I hope you can see we have nothing but love and respect for this football club.. I have had one year in Derby which was unbelievable but I’ve had a lifetime of loving and supporting The Chels.. @dcfcofficial will be the first results I look for..always a Cockney 🐏🖤
In Morris, Lampard has the perfect No. 2 to help galvanise his side for the forthcoming season. With the aforementioned transfer ban looming, the former England international has no choice but to look from within, rather than recruiting overseas superstars, and this is where Morris will be key.
Few know the rising starlets in Cobham better than Morris, who spent four years as an academy coach, overseeing their most successful and dominant period – both domestically and on the continental stage – with consecutive FA Youth Cups between 2016 and 2018, as well as the 2017/18 Under-18 Premier League National Championship.
The likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount could flourish under Morris’ paternalistic tutelage, notably the latter two, whom he knows exceptionally well from his time at Derby.
“No one wants to see him succeed more than me. I love what I see him do with a football”
Alongside Morris will be fitness coach Chris Jones, who returns to west London having left Chelsea last year to join Lampard in the East Midlands, as well as goalkeeping coach Shay Given, a man with an abundance of Premier League knowledge.
Then there is the new technical and performance adviser, Petr Cech, another formidable shot-stopper in his day, and someone Lampard knows tremendously well – this almost has the feel of an Ajax-esque set-up with the old guard coming in to maintain the club’s traditions.
Finally, Eddie Newton is set to be promoted to the coaching staff, another Chelsea alumnus, and one who has enjoyed previous success in the shadow of the hot seat, having once worked alongside another ex-Chelsea player at the helm: Roberto Di Matteo.
The duo famously won the Champions League in 2012, and so, he will add some much-needed experience in the dugout, while Claude Makelele will take up his former role as the man responsible for the development of Chelsea’s players out on loan.
Big opportunities for the academy graduates
If ever there was a time to promote young players and give them a platform to showcase their worth, this would be it.
Chelsea’s transfer ban could prove a blessing in disguise, as some of their fledgeling talents will undoubtedly be given the requisite playing time to hone their crafts and develop their skills.
Lampard proved last season that he has a penchant for blooding in and cultivating young talent, and so, with Morris alongside him, the duo will look to give the likes of Hudson-Odoi, Tomori, Mount, Dujon Sterling and Tammy Abraham license to prosper on the pitch.
In fact, Chelsea have already begun negotiations to tie some of their young stars down to new contracts: Loftus-Cheek has reportedly agreed a deal in principle for £120,000 a week, while Hudson-Odoi is expected to be offered a five-year contract worth upwards of £100,000 a week.
Talks with Mount – who has two years remaining on his present deal – are also taking place, but the above two contractual proceedings are a massive statement of intent from Chelsea, as these figures are unprecedented for academy products – certainly exciting times for young Chelsea players.
The likely line-up
Lampard predominantly utilised a 4-3-3 with Derby last season, often positioning his players in the archetypal Jose Mourinho roles, but with more room for fluidity and positional changes throughout the match: Bradley Johnson or Tom Huddlestone as the anchorman at the base of midfield, Mason Mount as the more forward-thinking central midfielder, etc.
As such, this will likely be Lampard’s preferred choice of formations at Stamford Bridge, with N’Golo Kante at the base – a la Makelele – Mount as the advanced midfielder – a la Lampard – and Mateo Kovacic as the box-to-box engine – a la Michael Essien or Tiago.
Lampard may look to bring in Tomori to partner either David Luiz or Antonio Rudiger, while Sterling could be used at right-back as no defender provided more assists than Jayden Bogle (8) in the Championship last term; so Lampard may want a more attack-minded full-back rather than the defensively formidable, but less forward-minded Cesar Azpilicueta.
It should be noted that Lampard’s 4-3-3 transitions to a classic ‘Christmas Tree’ formation in attacking phases, or a 4-3-2-1, so the wingers will need to tuck in and penetrate through the middle, allowing room for the onrushing full-backs to hug the byline and wreak havoc in the final third. This is where Willian and Christian Pulisic could thrive, as they are two very technically gifted inside forwards capable of drifting in and playing between the lines.
The centre-forward role was a bone of contention last season at Chelsea, but Lampard has no shortage of options, though it will likely be a toss-up between Michy Batshuayi and Abraham, with Olivier Giroud continuing his peripheral – but effective – rotational role.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
There is a lot of room for tinkering here, with the likes of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Kurt Zouma also returning to the club, and while they have attracted interest from elsewhere, Lampard may find their services invaluable next term.
More lenient expectations?
Chelsea historically exert arguably the highest level of expectation on managers among the traditional top six: Di Matteo was sacked less than six months after winning the Champions League, Andre Villas-Boas was given just eight months to assimilate his ideas, and Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed for finishing second in the league in 2011.
But Lampard can expect a more lenient approach from the typically impatient Roman Abramovich, with the Telegraph reporting that unless Lampard drags Chelsea into a relegation scrap, he will be untouched during his maiden season.
That will take a massive weight off Lampard’s shoulders, and will allow him to do his job without the seismic pressure of a Russian oligarch breathing down his neck.
Given Lampard’s formative managerial approach, mainly his eagerness to promote young academy products, as well as the introduction of a number of Chelsea’s former players to coaching and advisory roles, this has the feel of a long-term project rather than a quick fix.
So how will everything go for Frank Lampard at Chelsea?
It seems that every couple of seasons we are waiting in anticipation to see how Chelsea will fare under a completely new philosophy and tactical approach – this summer is no different.
There was an aura of excitement around this time last year, as the prospect of Sarriball – under Sarri and Jorginho – looked a tantalising possibility. This time around, there is perhaps more apprehensive arousal.
Certainly, Lampard evokes fond memories of a time when Chelsea were the dominant force on English soil, but will that level of success transmit onto the pitch with him on the sidelines rather than the turf?
Well, like most things football related, we can take to Football Manager for the answers. And here at Squawka, we thought it would be interesting – and fun – to see how he got on in his first season.
So without further ado…
A valiant effort from the Chelsea legend, but he wasn’t quite able to reach the much-desired Premier League top four.
He was, however, able to reach a European final, albeit Europa League rather than Champions League.
The formation, as expected, was the classic 4-3-3, with Jorginho at the base, and Kante further forward – that surely wouldn’t have gone down well with the Chelsea fans.
Giroud ran away with the goals on 23 across all competitions, with only Willian coming close – and it wasn’t really that close – with 11, while Abraham netted just four.
Meanwhile, Mount was the most used youth academy product with 39 appearances in all competitions, including 25 in the Premier League.
We aren’t expecting fireworks from Lampard, but rather small adjustments and gradual progression, with the aforementioned youngsters getting plenty of action under their belts. A cup run could be on the cards, but without reinforcements, and the loss of Hazard, the Blues may struggle in the latter stages of the Champions League, though could finish in the top four.