Chelsea’s most important two games of the season come in the form of 2012’s Champions League final rivals Bayern Munich. In what will be Chelsea’s sternest test this season, the German champions come into this game after going top of the Bundesliga after a 3-2 win against bottom-placed Paderborn. Bayern have rested key players and are well prepared for the first leg of the tie at Stamford Bridge.
The German behemoths will be looking to vindicate ‘that night in Munich’ when the Blues were spurred on to win the game and lift the holy grail of club football, courtesy an inspired Didier Drogba and a Frank Lampard-led cohesive unit on the pitch. ‘That night in Munich’ made heroes and turned ordinary players into legends forever casting their glow on the club in what was Chelsea’s maiden Champions League trophy triumph.
This time around, Frank Lampard leads the Blues again, but in a different vein, on the sidelines, as manager. A lot has changed since eight years ago: Jose Mourinho’s return, the all-Italian regimes of Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, the bosses have been in and out of the revolving doors of managers of the club. That period has seen the highs of winning two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one league cup domestically. While on the European front, the Blues have lifted the one-shade lower tier of European football competitions, the Europa League, twice.
In that time, Lampard has become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, left the club, scored against the club for City to set a record (lest we forget), went to the United States to play for NYCFC, retired from playing, made the dive into management with Derby County in the Championship and has returned to Stamford Bridge, coming full circle, as manager at the helm of the club he has spent the majority of his playing career and devoted his best years and life to.
In all it’s light, it’s a poetic return for the man who orchestrated the Blue’s midfield in Chelsea’s engine room over the years, with several partners in-and-out of the squad, from Makelele, to Essien, Ballack, Cesc Fabregas, and Nemanja Matic. He remained the one constant. He remained the talisman. And in the games when John Terry, the proverbial ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’, wasn’t playing, the armband was donned by Frank Lampard.
Lampard was the driving force in the middle of the park, and the highest goalscorer from midfield in the club and the Premier League’s history. A record that is seemingly permanent and daunting to surpass for every young English midfielder coming through academy ranks at every single English club in this day and age. It’s a record that could stand the test of time. Such is the man. Such is his legacy.
Lampard now finds himself thrust into the world of management, quite early in his managerial career, in the dugout of his beloved Blues against the club he achieved his highest club honour and starkest stand out memory of his playing career. You just can’t write it better or more befittingly.
Time has passed, the club has evolved and now it’s the songs of Super Frank as manager at Stamford Bridge: ‘He knows exactly what we need’. It’s also the phase of scrutiny of Lampard the manager. His playing career cast like his shadow as he marauds and prowls the sidelines leading the Blues in his first season as manager.
This two-legged tie against Bayern Munich is Lampard’s first and most significant taste of the Champions League football as manager of Chelsea. The departure of Maurizio Sarri, the transfer ban this past summer and his resulting reliance on Chelsea’s youth academy; An academy that has dominated the U23’s and U21 leagues of English football from when he was playing and up unto current times, producing a high number of world-class graduates who have made the step up from the youth team into the Chelsea starting eleven or who have found success away from the club and in other leagues. It’s a complete turnaround from the heavy-spending Chelsea that began the club’s Premier League trophy haul under Mourinho all those years ago in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Lampard has been thrust headlong into the vicious pit of managerial scrutiny in his first season as the boss at the Bridge. It’s been a mixed bag and a tide of highs and lows this season for the Blues. However, never has a youth academy class excited as much, and made the crucial step up to first-team football in the Premier League’s history since Sir Alex Ferguson’s class of ’92. It’s Lampard’s class of 2019, that has their names on every Chelsea fan’s lips around Stamford Bridge and across the globe. Boasting the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum-Hudson Odoi, Andreas Christensen, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Billy Gilmour and the talented youngsters on loan like Ethan Ampadu and several more, this is the coming of Lampard’s fledglings.
Born in England and bread into Cobham and Stamford Bridge, it’s a time as exciting as ever at SW6, London. From the days of John Terry being the only world-class academy graduate over the previous decades who made the step up to the first team at the club, now Chelsea and Lampard have a rich array of talent who have come through the club’s ranks and have performed admirably in their first season in the Premier League. This is the era of Lampard as manager. This is the era of the new Chelsea.
Frank comes into this game on the back of a 2-1 victory against a Jose Mourinho-led Spurs- the manager who taught and groomed Lampard. The protege getting the better of the master. The Chelsea boss managed to spring some tactical surprises and outsmarted, outdid and outplayed Mourinho tactically over two Premier League games against London rivals Spurs, which culminated in a league double over Spurs for the first time since the ’90s, in two fierce London derby performances.
Lampard now graces the Champions League armed with his youngsters who have maintained top four in England, stayed in the FA Cup and are in the last-16 of Europe’s premier cup competition. Chelsea’s season is a triumph in itself given the transfer ban and remarkable breakthroughs. Given time, Chelsea’s legend, old ‘Super Frankie Lampard’ can nurture his talented squad into serial winners. But he will have to start by winning silverware in his tenure and as time progresses.
The young Blues have been a shade inconsistent, a trait that comes with inexperience, but at the same time, it’s a squad that exudes potential. Lampard could lead this young Chelsea squad to domestic and European glory in time. It’s in their locker. It’s in his mindset. Such is the man and his mentality. Such is the talent at his disposal. It’s a progressive phase in Chelsea’s history and if Lampard’s playing career and what he has achieved gives any indication, then this era and this team led by him can conquer it all.
For now, it’s Lampard. It’s Bayern. It’s an ‘it’s-in-the-blood’ Chelsea. It’s the Champions League knockouts. The scene is Stamford Bridge and the Allianz Arena. Two legs of high octane football between an experienced Bayern Munich and a young developing Chelsea to ensue. It couldn’t have been written better. The script is set.
All Lampard needs to do now is to orchestrate a victory over Bayern Munich over two legs just like he orchestrated Chelsea’s midfield for two decades, the 2012 Champions League final and the recent double over Spurs. Mind you, this is his first season in charge. A success over two legs against Bayern and the player, in his first season at the helm of Chelsea, would have come of age as a manager.