A new era is dawning at Chelsea football club this summer with a drastic shift in club culture set in motion by one of the Blues’ very own greats, Frank Lampard. Stamford Bridge now welcomes back the former midfielder who once ruled the ground with record goal scoring abilities and a slew of trophy celebrations that filled the history books during his glittering 13-year career in west London.
THE INITIAL QUESTIONS
Chelsea took a massive leap of faith by hiring Lampard to replace Maurizio Sarri as the club’s head coach. The very first question that pops up to everybody’s mind: After just one year of managerial experience in the 2nd tier, is Frank ready to take charge of such a gigantic club? The answer would normally have been a straight no, but given the circumstances the club is facing, the answer shifts instead to: Why not?
The Blues are banned from signing players during the current and next transfer windows, as two appeals made to overturn the transfer ban have not worked in their favor. This creates an advantageous scenario for the 41-year-old former England midfielder to be called up for a full-time coaching job that won’t test his top-flight recruiting prowess until summer 2020.
Is Lampard the best option out there? Not at all. Is he the fullest qualified? Absolutely not. But is he the right manager at this current moment, right here, right now? Most probably. Who knows? He could turn out to be the next Pep Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane of this club, or maybe, the next Thierry Henry or Garry Neville. Better to keep check of such possibilities in the world of football.
WHAT LAMPARD BRINGS TO STAMFORD BRIDGE
It’s certainly not an easy task to manage Chelsea right now, negotiating with the burden of a 12-month transfer ban, the enormous loss of club superstar Eden Hazard, and at the same time challenging for trophies domestically and in Europe.
Lampard’s club-legend status follows how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been embraced at Old Trafford by the fans. Also having a relatively and realistically lower expectation for success should help to extend his honeymoon. The former midfielder will be given more time to reignite the (largely) missing pieces of the squad, and the thought of Chelsea knocking on the door of their youth team is interesting, especially given the irony that mishandling youth recruitment is how Chelsea earned the transfer ban.
England’s former captain also has a helpful hand reaching out to him behind the scenes, as Petr Cech returns in a role that will see him communicating with the manager and the board room. Another plus point for Lampard is bringing in Jody Morris as his assistant, someone with great in-depth knowledge of Chelsea’s youth squad.
Lampard’s time with Derby last season — leading them to the Championship play-off final — was commendable, and developing Chelsea’s young guns is something to look forward to during such a transitional period. Under Lampard, there should be a shift in methodology, a cultural switch and embrace of diversity that Chelsea needs, an essential investment in youth players worth rooting for.
THE TACTICAL APPROACH AND CHANGE IN STYLE
Chelsea fans were furious with Sarri’s tactical abilities with the squad, and rightly so. The Sarriball that everybody saw at Napoli did not work out in England at all. The Italian displayed no tactical flexibility, instead starting the same nine players every week and repeating what quickly became obvious, unimaginative substitution patterns: Each sub followed the same role and dynamic as the player he replaced. Chelsea became extremely predictable for the world to defeat, leaving fans yawning out of boredom (or howling in frustration). Let’s not forget the embarrassing defeats at Bournemouth (4-0) in late January and shortly thereafter at Manchester City (6-0).
Super Lampard, as many call him at the Stamford Bridge, will follow the same 4-3-3 formation as Sarri, but he will certainly not continue the same tactical approach with its predictable structure and system. Instead, we expect Lampard to take some risks and be willing to adapt in-game to circumstances as they come. Thus, a 4-2-3-1 can be expected when one of his main midfield players is injured as was Mason Mount last term for Derby.
There were three key elements that changed the landscape and image of the Derbyshire — the former midfielder is remembered for bringing unity, a never-die-attitude, and the fighting spirit displayed by players, staff and even fans. Frank gave them a winning mentality, the belief that they could win against anybody. The spirited Carabao Cup (aka EFL Cup) victory over Jose’ Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford is emblematic:
Sarri may have been tactically superior to many, but Lampard brings integrity in the dressing room, mastering all areas of management with a taste of a better cultural system around the club. This manager brings these three factors to the table, changing the dynamics of the club mentally.
But Lampard also brings three on-field doctrines: quick interchange movement to create space, pushing players inside the box, and controlling the ball when required. As seen at Derby, Lampard likes to play slow and steady from the back, using the goalkeeper to ensure the ball is passed on to the central defender instead of splashing it away in the middle of the park. The central defender is responsible for directing subsequent build-up play, with the fullbacks not advancing too much, as the playmaker in the middle sits deep to create something in the gap, helping the wingers interchanging with the No. 10 player to provide the striker with a goal scoring opportunity, eventually forming a 4-2-3-1 system when in attack mode.
PLAYERS TO LOOK AT FOR FANTASY
Hazard — one of the biggest Premier League stars this decade — left for Real Madrid after the Belgium attacker hit a personal best record of 16 goals plus 15 assists in 37 matches. It’s a massive loss for Chelsea, which is why expecting a single player to step up and fill his role is nearly impossible at this stage. So Lampard will demand a collective effort to make sure Chelsea remain prolific in front of the goal this season. (For more on the magnitude of the superstar’s exit, read Chris’ article on Hazard’s departure.)
Having Petr Cech in a strong position, Lampard will likely take advice on how to manage to goalkeeping situation. Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.5m) is expected to start majority of the Premier League and Champions League fixtures.
However, Lampard is the sort that did give chances to both Derby’s goalkeepers Scott Carson and Kelle Roos, which is why second-choice keeper Willy Caballero (£5.0m) should feel positive that he can get an opportunity to prove his abilities in competitions such as the Carabao Cup and even the FA Cup.
To structure a wall at the back, Lampard has numerous options among central defenders. With 36 appearances last season, David Luiz (£6.0m) became a regular starter under Sarri and took charge of building the game-play with his excellent short/long passing abilities from the back. The Brazilian averaged 3.125 passing accuracy and also earned the highest number of points (164) for the Blues in FPL.
The newly appointed manager also has options like Kurt Zouma (£4.5m), who was sent on loan to Everton last year, and now has been called back to Chelsea. The Frenchman had an impressive spell at Goodison Park, playing 2,613 minutes in 29 appearances. Lampard has expressed his desire for the 24-year-old to stay at Stamford Bridge and gave him playing time during the pre-season friendly defeat against Japan’s Kawasaki Frontlane.
Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) — not a Sarri favourite — also managed to buy a few minutes in the latest fixture by replacing Zouma at the interval. Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) is expected to miss the start of the season due to his knee injury, but there is a lot of room for competition in this specific position.
Fikayo Tomori (£4.5m) is reportedly on the verge of going out on loan again, having played for Championship club Derby last term under Lampard. Having progressed through the academy, the England U-21 is highly rated by Chelsea’s new bosses. However, the youngster is unlikely to get enough minutes this season, though he did manage to start for the Blues against Barcelona.
Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) and Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) had the most points in FPL last term after David Luiz, the captain providing 158 points while the Spanish full-back earned 161. Both are expected to dominate their respective positions, but Davide Zappacosta (£5m) and Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m) will be ready and waiting in the wings.
Everybody will have eyes on Christian Pulisic (£7.5m FPL, $7 Fantrax), as the American will surely have his name on the team sheet every week. Pulisic has the ability to play on the wing where he’s been exceling for his USA national team, or in the No. 10 role. He should not take long to get acclimated to the EPL, so consider taking a risk on this attacking midfielder in your initial draft. (For more on Pulisic, read David’s Scouting Report.)
Lampard may very well play N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) at his favorite defensive midfield position alongside either Jorginho (£5.0m) or Matteo Kovacic (£5.5m). However, the more advanced role is really pretty much up for grabs. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.5m, $5.96) has been considered a breakthrough talent for a couple of years, but he faces a lengthy injury recovery that could sap his entire season. If Pulisic is used as a winger, the fight for the No. 10 role will come between Ross Barkley (£6.0m, $4.95) and Mason Mount (£6.0m, $7.00).
Mount was a key figure during the Rams’ promotion bid, scoring 11 goals in 44 games and earning a call-up to the England national team, which is why handing this youngster a five-year deal worth £75,000 a week is a great move for both parties. Keeping that in mind, Lampard can make good use of Mount this season. It may sound like a risky call, but it could prove well worth putting the youngster in your fantasy team at what will likely be a very helpful cheap price tag.
Once the future of Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m) is clarified for good and he wears the Blue jersey, he will become a natural star for Chelsea, one whom fantasy managers won’t think twice about grabbing. There is a reason why Bayern Munich went after this gifted young talent in the transfer window again, owing to the scary speed that the English winger has exhibited. Unfortunately, like Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi is currently injured, so fantasy managers will have to wait until after the season starts, but hopefully not long.
2018-19 was the perfect opportunity for Pedro (£7.0m) and Willian (£7.0m) to cement their position on the right-hand side. Despite consistent chances and minutes under Sarri, neither managed to contribute to the team. Being a winger requires pace, and age is certainly not helping either of them. However, they scored a total of 11 goals last term with 9 assists, in 47 appearances altogether. That’s really not a good stat to have. Having these two in your fantasy team may not be the greatest of plans.
Instead, focusing on promoting and giving chances to youth can be the key to success for Lampard.
The transfer ban also raises the question of who is going to be the #9. Chelsea hasn’t signed a real quality striker since the controversial exit of Spain’s Diego Costa. The prolific forward had one goal every six shots (20 goals, 18% conversion rate) in his last season for the Blues, when Chelsea scored 85 goals and won the Premier League with 95 points during the 2016-17 campaign.
Replacement center-forwards Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain were not able to elevate their work rates to the EPL level as hoped. The Spanish striker had a 13% conversion rate with 11 goals, while the Argentinean had a 11% conversion rate from just five goals, most of them against bottom-three sides.
With Olivier Giroud (£7.0m), Michy Batshuayi (£7.0m, $4.00) and Tammy Abraham (£7.0m, $7.00) ready for action up-front, Lampard must decide whom to start, as each offers different technical qualities that would influence the team’s overall playing style.
Due to the transfer restrictions, Chelsea’s only reinforcements must come from recalling players such as Batshuayi and/or Abraham who had been out on loan. Abraham can be the secret-weapon behind getting massive points in the fantasy world, as the young talent notched 25 goals in 37 Championship appearances to lead Aston Villa to a playoff spot. It was this young striker who defeated Lampard’s Derby in May to promote his team into the Premier League. Abraham is one of the most exciting prospects in the game, so keep a close eye on him if and when he is given an opportunity under Lampard.
Lampard has confirmed his willingness to develop these young players, and will prove himself the main man to guide them on their paths to greatness. The toxicity surrounding the club has gone away, and now Chelsea feels fresh. The unity amongst the fans, the staff and the players is apparent, all because of just one specific appointment of a legendary player, Frank Lampard.
How do you feel about the hiring of Frank Lampard? Is he the right man to lead the Blues back to glory? Which Chelsea players are you considering for your fantasy teams? Let us know in the comments!