The opening act of Frank Lampard’s tenure at Stamford Bridge has so far been a tempestuous affair, with the budding optimism brought upon by the ebullience of youth being countered by a pervasive defensive fragility and lack of experience.
The new Premier League season is going to be an uphill battle for Chelsea, and here’s why.
To put it plainly, Eden Hazard is an elite footballer.
For the last few seasons, the former Chelsea playmaker led the way for the Blues in just about every department. The Belgian netted 16 goals and provided 15 assists in his final season at Stamford Bridge, as well as sinking Arsenal with two individual goals in the Europa League final in Baku.
Hazard’s seven-year association with Chelsea came at an end in June when Real Madrid came knocking, penning a deal worth upwards of £130 million (A$233 million) with add-ons.
The tantalising transfer fee convinced Chelsea to loosen their grip on Hazard. This was a quizzical decision considering the club still has a transfer ban to contend with.
With Hazard soaking up the sun in Spain and Chelsea unable to replace their star player, new manager Frank Lampard has been forced to inject some youth into the team. Lampard admitted that the remaining squad would have to step up in order to cover Hazard’s departure.
With the youngsters expected to be getting plenty of playing time on Hazard’s favoured left side, Chelsea fans can only hope for small adjustments and gradual progression.
With the Chelsea’s previous manager Maurizio Sarri being lured to Juventus, the club was tasked with employing a new gaffer. How they expect Frank Lampard – a man who failed to lead Derby County to promotion – to somehow guide Chelsea to a top-four position is beyond me.
Prejudice aside, Lampard was one of the best midfielders of his generation, winning several trophies with Chelsea. He was a brilliant player, but he is not an established manager.
His appointment as Sarri’s replacement was met with much apprehension. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich opted to go with a fan favourite rather than an experienced manager.
On the opening weekend of the new Premier League season, Chelsea travelled to Old Trafford to play Manchester United. Chelsea fans were full of optimism.
They got spanked 4-0. The Blues never stood a chance.
The final whistle blew and Lampard faced the press, saying: “The game was nowhere near a 4-0. Four mistakes for the goals, but we controlled major parts of the first half. We hit the woodwork, poor decisions in the final third. We should have been in the lead at half-time.”
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a manager in denial. Besides marginally more possession and more shots on goal, Chelsea were wasteful in the final third and far too prone to silly defensive errors.
At the end of the day, the players’ failings boil down to the manager and on that day Lampard got it wrong.
Yes, it was his first match at the helm, but how patient will Abramovich and/or the fans be if Lampard can’t bounce back and prove his doubters wrong?
Will Chelsea’s favourite son be able to maintain his crown? We will have to wait and see.
I don’t expect anything extraordinary from the Blues this season. The loss of Eden Hazard will hurt, and until Frank Lampard can get the ball rolling, Chelsea will struggle to stay afloat.
I wouldn’t rule out a cheeky cup run but Chelsea won’t trouble the top four.