It’s the end of the season. Chelsea have just finished third in the league and won Europe’s best Thursday night competition. So naturally, question marks over manager Maurizio Sarri’s future are being raised. Rumours of yet another fresh start are everywhere, from respected journalists to The Sun. Names like Allegri, Blanc, Simeone et al are being thrown around until something sticks. Yet only one rumour does.
The return of Frank Lampard.
A man with just one year of experience in management became Chelsea’s firm first choice to take over the reigns at London’s biggest club. Everyone questioned if he was ready. Fans, pundits, journalists. You name them, they had doubts. Was he ready for such a career defining move? Could he handle the pressure of the Stamford Bridge dugout? Was he going to wear a suit or Chelsea gear? The big questions were on everyone’s minds.
Walking into the Chelsea job is no easy task. Numerous previous managers have stumbled through the front door and and failed to regain their balance before the back door closes behind them. You could tell Lampard was different. He strolled in like he was ready, like he knew this was his time, his moment to prove himself. That first press conference was just amazing. He controlled those journalists like a puppet master, no question phased him, and his answers were music to the ears of Chelsea fans across the globe. You could tell he’s taken a lot from his experiences with past managers, and is becoming an expert in dealing with the media.
Chelsea knew what they were getting into with Lampard. An exciting project, but one filled with unknowns and risk. Lampard was and still isn’t anywhere near the complete manager, but the early signs are showing that he could very well be as good as Chelsea believe he can be. Alongside an incredible backroom staff in Jody Morris and Joe Edwards in particular, Chelsea are set up for an exciting future. Not only is Lampard doing excellently well so far, he’s learning on the job and fast.
In light of that, let’s go back to those early season worries and the Sheffield United game at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had gone 2-0 up courtesy of a Tammy Abraham brace, before Robinson pegged the Blues back. With the score at 2-1, Sheffield United were piling on the pressure and Chelsea were having to defend more than they’d had to all game. We needed someone to help solidify the team. Lampard brought on Gilmour for his Premier League debut over the available Christensen. We needed a target man to give us a way out of the pressure. Lampard brought on Batshuayi over Giroud. Two wrong substitutions in my opinion, which had they been different, could have saved Chelsea from dropping those 2 costly points.
Since then, Lampard has shown an incredible improvement in his in game management. It’s ok to make mistakes, and just like the young players, Lampard is learning from them. Most recently, his substitutions have been spot on, with Pulisic, Batshuayi and Reece James coming on the majority of the time. There seems to be a much better understanding of who the best players to bring on are in different situations, and you can only praise Lampard for his improvement. It’s fantastic to see.
One of the other major talking points of the season so far has been the use or lack of use of Christian Pulisic. He started the season on the bench at UTD, and performed relatively well for the minutes he played throughout August. September was a very difficult month for him, only playing 90 minutes once against Grimsby Town, a game in which he wasn’t at his best. #JusticeForPulisic tweets started appearing and fans were clearly upset by his lack of appearances.
But after 3 goals, 2 assists, and one crucial pre-assist (against Newcastle) in his last four games, Pulisic’s luck has turned and it’s in no small part to Lampard’s management of him. He had just a week’s break in the summer before arriving at Chelsea, started relatively well and then faded. The Blues’ manager took him out of the firing line, allowing him to adapt as well as he could in training, before slowly integrating him back into the side in the last few weeks. It’s proven to be the right course of action, and despite many questioning it, Lampard’s man management has shone through. Maybe we should all have trusted in him a little bit more, even though many, including myself, were anxious to see Pulisic play. Now that he’s back in the team, and back with a bang, it’s clear to see that the way he’s been handled by Lampard was the best thing for the team and the future.
In Frank Lampard, Chelsea have a confident young coach who is adaptable with his lineups and systems, who can clearly learn quickly from his mistakes, and someone who has the hallmarks of being an excellent man manager. After 7 wins in a row, there are sure to be lows, but many Chelsea fans will be much more confident with Lampard at the helm now, than they were in August. I know I am.
The future of Chelsea is bright, and with Lampard in charge, the feel good factor is here to stay.