Frank’s back for now, but Chelsea need to get their next move right.

Well, I did not expect to see Frank Lampard back at the helm at Chelsea so soon, even if it is only until the end of the season. I said at the time that Lampard was sacked that I hoped he would return someday, and be able to make a material success of the job. Now, the club legend has returned to help see the season out while the club looks for a permanent successor to Graham Potter. Given that the season is all but over for Chelsea, with only the prospect of Europa Conference League qualification up for grabs, having a club legend in charge that the fans will get behind and back without any question, will give the decision makers at the club the time and space they will want and need to make sure the next permanent managerial appointment is the right one.

However, Saturday’s performance shows that it will not be easy for Frank in this limited run he has back in the dugout. After all, while he has worked with a lot of these players before, there are plenty of new faces for him to assess and decide how he wants to use them. I worry as well that the things that caused Abramovich to sack Frank Lampard the first time around will resurface. For all his desire and ability to coach attacking, adventurous football, his sides still tend to be extremely vulnerable to counter-attacks. It is the biggest wrinkle in his coaching style at the moment. And it has been seen right from the beginning of his coaching career. It was true at Derby, it was true at Chelsea and it was true at Everton. Sides coached by Frank Lampard can score a lot of goals. They can also concede a lot of goals. Apparently, there are fans of Lampard as a manager at the club, who believe that he was harshly sacked the first time around. I’m not sure I agree that it was harsh; I just found it very sad. It would have been an absolute fairy-tale if the greatest player in the club’s history had been the one to take us back to regularly challenging for league title and trophies. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. News media surrounding Chelsea have reported that it would a Roberto Di Matteo style run to the Champions League for Lampard to be considered for the job on a permanent basis. That’s the correct way to go in my opinion. There is still a chance of moving up the table and into European contention, but that would not be enough for Lampard to take the job on as full-time head coach.  

This isn’t the moment to be looking for an up-and-coming manager in my opinion. I really think the club needs someone at the helm who has a good amount of experience, has a clear idea of the football he wants to play, can work with the existing squad that has already been assembled and work with the people in charge of recruitment to properly shape the squad into an effective unit. The squad is bloated at the moment and needs some serious pruning. Luis Enrique is a name that has become closely linked with the job and he is someone that I would quite like to see take the it on. His Barcelona side played some wonderful football and are the last Barca side to win the Champions League. Now, he did benefit from having one of the best forward lines of all time, in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luiz Suarez, but his three-year stint at Barca is comparable to Pep Guardiola’s four years in terms of success (nine trophies in three years for Enrique versus fourteen in four years for Guardiola). Enrique is also fantastically flexible, able to possess the ball in a manner similar to former teammate Guardiola, while willing to counter-attack like Klopp’s best teams. If he can bring those attributes out in this set of Chelsea players, we could have a very exciting team on our hands.

It is crucial for the decision makers at the club to get this decision right. For whatever reason, Graham Potter just did not work out as hoped. I don’t think any less of Graham Potter as a coach and I am sure that he will be successful in management. It just did not work for him in this environment. The new owners have shown their hand with what they are willing to spend in the transfer market. They are going for a particular profile of player. They are looking to recruit the best young talent in Europe and add in a few experienced heads to help guide them towards becoming a great team that is going to win a lot for a long time. I think one of the experienced heads around this squad needs to be on the touchline. Someone who knows his business, and who wants to be around for a while to help build something special. Chelsea have never had a ‘dynasty’ manager, someone like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. People who have developed their teams over years and taken them to sustained success. That is the model that Chelsea need to move to. And they tried to with Graham Potter. The difference being that Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp were already hugely successful managers when they arrived at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. Klopp had won back-to-back Bundesliga’s, the German DFB-Pokal and had taken Dortmund to a Champions League final. And Pep Guardiola is Pep Guardiola. They were both established names, known for bringing success. Chelsea need to bring in an established name and back them to create their own dynasty at a club that for too long focused on short-term success.

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