A lot has been said about Chelsea’s transfer ban this summer, especially with the departures of both the star player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and head coach Maurizio Sarri to Juventus. Will the younger players be able to step up and keep the team where they have become accustomed to being? Will the new manager be given enough time to truly make their mark on the squad and continue to deliver the success Chelsea have enjoyed over the last 15 years?
Now, in my opinion, Maurizio Sarri was treated very unfairly by large sections of the Chelsea support last season. Here was a man who had never managed outside his own country before, who had never won a major competition and who was given next to no time in pre-season to communicate his football philosophy to the squad which was vastly different than the style they had been using for the last two seasons and which had given them the Premier League and the F.A. Cup. No wonder it didn’t quite click in the first season. It’s widely believed that players who have never played in the Premier League before often need a full season to fully bed in and acclimatise. I think the situation was similar for Sarri; he needed time to bed his system in with the players he had at his disposal. There was also what I considered to be unfair criticism from sections of the Chelsea support towards Sarri and his possession based style, so I can understand why when Juventus came calling, he decided to curtail his time in England to return to friendlier territories.
Frank Lampard has been the overwhelming favourite to take over at Stamford Bridge since Sarri’s departure and the club legend is expected to return to his former stomping ground in the next few days. With Petr Cech already installed in a technical role, the further hiring of another former player and one who is such a icon at the club as manager will certainly get the fans behind the team for the new season. Lampard had an impressive first season in management with Derby County taking them to the play-off final against Aston Villa despite injuries to key players throughout the season, playing an entertaining brand of football and utilising several younger players who took their opportunities and became key members of the squad, including Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, two young players on loan from Chelsea.
And with a two window transfer ban in place, Chelsea will have to look at their younger players from the academy and those who were out on loan last season. Reece James had a very impressive season at Wigan Athletic, as did Tammy Abraham at Aston Villa, scoring 26 league goals as the Birmingham side returned to the top flight. The aforementioned Mount and Tomori will look to their year under Lampard as a boon if he does take over at the Bridge. One major factor in Lampard’s favour is his ability to work with the younger players of a squad. A criticism of Chelsea over recent years is a perceived stockpiling of young players who are constantly being sent on loan season after season. In fact, last season was the first in many a year that academy players have staked serious claims for regular first team football, with both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing so well towards the tail end of the season, there is no doubt in my mind that they both would have played in the Europa League final, had they been fit. Now, Chelsea are going to have make decisions about whether some of those players will able to step up and stake a claim for a first team spot in a team that will still want to finish in a Champions League spot in the league at minimum as well as go far in the cup competitions.
The revolving door at Chelsea continues to swing. Only this time, it’s someone the fans will give time and their full support to. Can Lampard inspire the youngsters and work with what Chelsea already have in the first team squad to continue the decade and a half of success the Blues have enjoyed? Or will he only tarnish his accomplishments as a player? I guess only time will tell.