Chelsea are now out of the title race for this campaign, and once again, re-entry into the Champions League next year by any means is the priority.
Whether the reassessed goals as a sign of Lampard’s inexperience coming to the fore, or simply the effects of a turbulent period in West London, there can be no denying that the Frank Lampard reign has held few dull moments. From the highs of a six-game winning run in the league, to the dizzying lows of defeat to West Ham and Manchester United, every hope and fear surrounding Lampard’s appointment has been simultaneously realised.
Going into December, his win-rate as Chelsea boss stood at 52%, but that compares very unfavourably to his two predecessors, and provides much of the fuel behind Chelsea lengthening odds within the latest football prices for a top-four finish or a European trophy.
Despite ending 2018/19 on a 62% win-rate, Maurizio Sarri’s days were arguably numbered, making Lampard’s inferior rate of victories somewhat troubling to behold. Yet, even with Lampard winning only around half of his matches with Chelsea, they appear much better placed to beat their two main London rivals for a top-four berth.
That alone speaks volumes about the ‘quality’ of the league below the current top-five, and of potential significance is the fact that only Andre Villas-Boas (on 48%) has finished a Chelsea stint with a worse win-rate under Roman Abramovich.
Youth Policy Restores Chelsea ‘Spirit’
With or without the mitigating circumstances of a transfer ban, or his status as a club hero, a lot will hinge on Lampard’s ability to maintain Chelsea’s status as a top-four club at the very least.
If nothing else, there is a spirit about Chelsea that has been absent over the past two seasons, and much of this is down to Lampard’s unqiue selling point – putting faith in youth when nobody else will, as his uncle Harry Redknapp once so famously did back in 1996.
In Tammy Abraham, he has finally unearthed a true gem in the way that neither Maurizio Sarri nor Antonio Conte could. With a focal point in attack, the Blues have a direct route to goal which has largely erased the memories of Alvaro Morata falling short. Encouragingly, there has never been a point beyond August that Abraham has endured a significant drought.
With three goals in his four PL games leading up to Saturday’s match at Goodison Park, and two of those strikes coming during the opening half-hour, Abraham is exactly the sort of person needed to give Chelsea the early matchday momentum that keeps the fans – and the board – on Lampard’s side.
While Abraham is no Didier Drogba just yet, his continued form would provide an excellent justification of the Lampard regime, should its credibility ever be brought into serious question.
American Dream Continues
In more recent weeks, Lampard has enjoyed another victory for youth with the form of Christian Pulisic, who boasted a return of six goals in eight competitive appearances prior to Chelsea’s win over Aston Villa on 4 December.
After Champions League football, the American starlet’s presence is the best asset bequeathed to Lampard by his predecessor. While any motivated player in a purple patch of form can make a vastly-inexperienced manager look good, Lampard’s ability to play to Pulisic’s strengths shows exactly why the current Stamford Bridge boss deserves time and loyalty.
The American’s return of is indicative of Lampard’s desire to utilise an attack-minded midfield. Once a phenomenon, the transformation of midfielders into makeshift attackers is now the staple of the greatest teams around. Intriguingly, Lampard’s own playing days proved vital towards this shift in popular tactical philosophy, and there is ultimately nobody better than Lampard to architect an alternate setup in that hallowed area on the periphery of the box.
Of course, the hard work to restore Chelsea’s reputation and stature has only just begun. Lampard’s efforts to date have been largely undermined by the transfer ban. Until Lampard is afforded the opportunity to make the first signings of his era via freshfootball, it would be unfair to describe his time in the hot seat as anything other than a reasonable success.