Chelsea have not been shy about replacing managers in recent seasons but this summer feels different, if Maurizio Sarri is poached from us this summer and with so few top coaches available and a transfer ban looming, we have a real opportunity.
Rumours that Maurizio Sarri would be leaving Chelsea started before the leaves began to fall last Autumn. The Italian has had a troubled first season at Stamford Bridge with a roaring unbeaten start followed by a fallow, stumbling, shambles of a winter and a brighter spring. Ultimately, he finished third behind a Liverpool/City tussle that broke all kinds of records, reached the League Cup final and won a European trophy. Which is not bad for a season adjusting to the Premier League.
But isn’t that the problem: adjustment.
Sarri’s sides didn’t seem able to adapt. When Jorginho was closed down there was no solution coming from the coach. Plan A appeared to be the only plan and once Everton caught us passing square nothing came from the bench to change things; match after match after match.
Sarri came with the endorsement of many top coaches as a crafter of fine teams. Pep Guardiola spoke highly of the Italian after his City defeated Sarri’s Napoli. But as Chelsea came under pressure Sarriball seemed unsuited to away games in the Premier League. Losses at Arsenal, Bournemouth and the humiliation at Manchester City put Sarri and Chelsea on the back foot at a time when United and Arsenal looked stronger. “F*ck Sarriball” was a bit over the top but it is hard to argue that the side were not six goals worse than City when they slump four to Bournemouth.
Sarri’s departure to Juventus – the Italian giants don’t have to play away at Wolves so are unconcerned about inconsistency – means we are looking for our 14th manager since Roman Abramovich took over 13 years ago.
The turmoil at the top hasn’t stopped us hoovering up trophies. Even our least successful, shortest serving managers (with the exception of Avram Grant) have managed to win a trophy, often two at a time.
So, is the answer Frank Lampard? The evidence from his short managerial career is that he is capable of organising a club. His Derby squad contained a lot of older players past their peak and on long contracts. He managed, in short-order, to reduce the age of the squad and produce incisive, attacking football.
Everyone around the Bridge will tell you that Frank Lampard knows the club but is knowing enough? Ole Gunnar Solskjær knows Manchester United but that didn’t stop Cardiff thrashing them at Old Trafford. Alan Shearer knew Newcastle but still oversaw their relegation. In the same breath neither Antonio Conte or Carlo Ancelotti knew the club or the league in their first seasons and both won trophies.
What could give Lampard the edge is the transfer ban. The club are currently appealing to CAS about the ban, imposed for supposed irregularities in our dealings with young players from abroad. If we are unsuccessful the next Chelsea coach will have to rely on players promoted within the club until next summer. With Lampard a hero to each and every youth team product at Cobham and his likely assistant Jody Morris a very successful former academy coach, the pair could be the very thing we need.
Their tactics will suit the possession and passing game encouraged across all the age-groups at Cobham and their knowledge of the players available is difficult to better.
With a transfer ban and a new, novice, manager there is a feeling that everyone would give the situation time to bed in. Chelsea fans have been calling for Frank Lampard and, given that enthusiasm, it would be difficult to get on his back if things are not going well in late November.
There is an argument that Frank should be allowed to develop his skills and knowledge with Derby and give him the Chelsea job in the future. But that ignores the transfer ban and the fact that Lampard and Morris are uniquely placed to build a team.
Pep Guardiola was appointed Barcelona B coach in 2007 and took over the main club a year later. Under Lampard in his second season as a coach Chelsea might have a couple of seasons of development, with all the ups and downs that entails, but if we are patient the chance to have a successful, home-grown squad is just around the corner.