When Frank Lampard first arrived at Chelsea last summer, it was all about damage limitation. Eden Hazard was gone, the squad was depleted and the transfer ban left their hands tied.
Qualifying for the Champions League was not a certainty, but Lampard helped Chelsea limp over the finish line and exceed expectations in his debut season. That’s why his first year has to be seen as a success.
However, things are just a little bit different this year.
No longer are Chelsea this hotbed of uncertainty. They’re not this cute little team full of unproven youngsters anymore.
But that’s what spending close to £200m in one summer does to you.
Hazard is long gone, and he’s been replaced by Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and (probably) Kai Havertz. The struggles in front of goal have been addressed by the signing of Timo Werner. The combined £300,000-a-week or so wages which look set to be thrown at Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell should sort out the defence.
Even the once-unproven youngsters have to step up. Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham are all England internationals now, and that brings a whole new level of pressure.
The 2020/21 campaign simply has to see Chelsea challenge for the Premier League title, and that’s very possible. There were some good signs from the Blues over this past year, and these expensive arrivals definitely should see Chelsea move to the next level.
Lampard has a three-year plan for Chelsea. Stage one was to steady the ship, and that’s done. Now, we’re in stage two, which is to re-establish Chelsea as a genuine force. That has to be done. There are no excuses.
If they don’t, then the criticisms of Lampard which Chelsea fans have tried to excuse over the last 12 months will be thrust into the limelight even more.
Blues fans have taunted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for spending so much money at Manchester United and not achieving success, but Lampard may find himself in the same boat if he doesn’t improve next season.
If Chelsea can’t defend corners, even with Silva’s leadership, Lampard will have to answer questions. If Werner and Havertz don’t improve the team’s goalscoring, Lampard will have to answer questions. If Ziyech doesn’t boost the creativity, Lampard will have to answer questions.
“Yeah it probably does [increase the pressure] and I can get that,” he admitted back in June. “There’s pressure in this job, the Chelsea job, whatever.
“There will be expectations to whatever degree, we’re a well supported and well followed club, and the scrutiny is big, as we know. I don’t mind the idea. I get it. We’re trying to improve and I’m under no illusions and I want us to improve, first and foremost, so I don’t mind that pressure. I will have more pressure on myself.”
For now, let’s give Lampard the benefit of the doubt. He’s an intelligent man who will be able to see the flaws in his side and will have relished the time off to try and figure things out. He’s pursuing the signings he wants and believes will address the problems, and fans should trust him at this point.
There’s no reason to suggest that Lampard isn’t up to the task, but this season is where we’ll find out for sure. He’s likely to have a star-studded squad at his disposal, so it’s up to him to pull his weight.
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