After weeks of wildfire rumour, Frank Lampard finally landed his dream career move, making the leap from Derby to Chelsea after just one full season as a manager of an English club.
In doing so, the Chelsea legend swaps wet weekday outings to Millwall for the bright lights of the Bernabeu – but so too does he shoulder an immeasurable increase in personal pressure.
As such, there are several potential ways that Lampard can make this Chelsea squad his own, and silence those who believe that this new venture is beyond a man of his light experience.
Revise midfield roles of 2016/17 heroes
When combined with Chelsea’s transfer ban, the departure of Eden Hazard ensures that Lampard is set for a trial by fire at Stamford Bridge.
Filling the hole left by the Belgian midfielder is a task that even a vastly-experienced manager not operating under a transfer ban would find difficult. Yet, with Lampard having been a player in a similar mould to Hazard during his playing days, he has the chance to succeed in this task where other managers would fail.
Luckily for Lampard, there are still other midfielders at his disposal that could make a huge impact in the final third.
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Willian, for instance, remains the go-to deliverer of set-pieces, while Pedro has shown his ability to dictate the pace of play during attacking phases, even though he last did that with real consistency during the excellent 2016/17 campaign.
Lampard was, of course, a wizard from the free kick, and as a new-breed Englishman in the hot seat coming directly after two Italians with a more ‘old-school’ aura, he will provide a fresh angle to the duo’s existing playing style.
Make Barkley the ‘new Hazard’
The main issue is where the thrust from the centre of the park will come from. Until that issue is addressed, those that check out sports spread betting outrights for the upcoming season will see no changes in Chelsea’s standing. The Blues are currently a distant fourth-favourite behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham to lift the Premier League title.
However, Lampard is perhaps one or two tweaks away from addressing that.
Ross Barkley has yet to show anything approaching the killer instinct Hazard has shown in past seasons, but the former Evertonian’s injury struggles are a mitigation.
Up on Merseyside, no Evertonian has yet forgotten his breakthrough 2013/14 campaign at Goodison Park.
During that campaign, which saw Everton record their highest points tally in a Premier League season, Barkley showed just what he can do in a cohesive squad, utterly destroying teams and scoring some exceptional goals.
In particular, the strikes he pulled off at Swansea (in December 2013) and Newcastle (in March 2014) that season would put a prime late-2000s, Lampard, to shame. The man himself undoubtedly has the ability to draw upon his own numerous highlights of the past, and revive Barkley’s dormant long-range shooting prowess.
Lampard will need to find a ‘Plan B’ with a young squad
Lampard’s faith in youth, along with his understanding of the young Englishman’s typical passionate psyche, worked wonders last season. Harry Wilson and Mason Mount were a huge influence behind Derby’s run to the playoff final, and the latter man, along with defender Fiyako Tomori, is at Lampard’s disposal once again.
While they are unlikely to be starters against fellow top-six sides, they would certainly find the weaker Premier League sides, or any Champions League teams drawn from pot 3 or 4, to be fair game. Last season, it was Callum Hudson-Odoi who found himself thriving against inferior European sides, and in turn, this gave him the confidence to up his game against the better ones.
Naturally though, what these ‘lesser’ teams lack in skill, they more than make up for in battle-readiness. If there is one thing that a still-growing younger player hates, it is a crunching tackle from a 6’5 PAOK defender, and when the more desperate teams begin to intimidate physically, a ‘Plan B’ will be necessary.
It remains to be seen whether or not Lampard has learned how to be tactically fluid, to the same degree as Premier League stalwarts like Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino, but there were times last season where he was out-thought against fellow promotion chasers.
Overall, going into the 2019/20 season without several backup plans is akin to managerial suicide, regardless of experience levels.
‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’
Lampard is a well-spoken champion of youth and someone who appears to be both lenient and respected. This has been reflected by his assertion that the aforementioned youths he brought to Derby last year will need to prove themselves, and will not benefit from any special treatment – especially at this level.
However, Lampard’s appointment does not just bring a new degree of inexperience to the Stamford Bridge hot-seat. As with any rookie Premier League manager in his early forties, Lampard must also tread a fine line to avoid becoming unduly permissive.
There are still some huge egos in the Chelsea dressing room, meaning that this role will undoubtedly reveal the true extent of Lampard’s man-management abilities. Ultimately, to quote a famous Eagles track, this could be heaven – or this could be hell.