In London, Stamford Bridge is glistening, shining and glowing even but it's not just because of the torrential and albeit clichéd rainfall in London. In part, it's thanks to Super Frank Lampard and his band of misfits who have shocked, awed and lunched with the big boys and they’ve done it in style.
This is a stunning turnaround for the Blues especially given his, Lampard's, situation towards the end of August. Ladbrokes had him at 16/1 odds at being the next boss to get sacked which puts him above Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino. Three months on and the only man is left standing and it's not just because his boys have hit the ground running. A passing glance at the club reveals a complete overhaul, a team that wants to play for a manager and more importantly, they've done all this without a certain Belgian. He's implemented fines, hefty ones at that, he's overhauled the training methods and no longer do players have priority selection.
Instead, and exactly how it should be, it's based on performances and how well a player performs in training which had made all the difference. But the biggest change just happens to be off the field and it's come as a shock to many. A startling one at that because Super Frank Lampard has made Chelsea likeable and enjoyable to watch for the first time in decades. Even their most successful manager in Jose Mourinho or the always likeable Carlo Ancelotti or even Maurizio Sarri, with his heartwarming and inspiring backstory, could never do that. It's come as a shock to a few, especially to their London rivals, but the Blues have added to their multimillion fanbase and it's not just people who are nothing more than bandwagon gipsies but proper football fans.
And yet, while his gung ho style is entertaining, enthralling, frightening and nice to watch, it's junk food and not the football any manager in the world should be aiming for. Instead, the Blues need to try and get their first Michelin star becoming more than just a weekly cheat meal. In simple terms, they need to balance out the team with the perfect balance of everything and become the five-star meal that everybody dreams of replicating but may never be able to. A little sugar, spice and maybe even everything nice or else risk being nothing more than just entertainment instead of becoming Chelsea's version of Pep Guardiola. Not the man who spends obscene amounts of money but the Barcelona version of the now debatable super manager. It's a surprising parallel between the two men and it goes way back in time.
They never really met on the same field as players or managers till this season but the parallels between the two men are incredible. First, both men were a part of one of their club’s, if not the, greatest dynasties with Guardiola the corner-stone of Barcelona under Johan Cruyff and Lampard the same at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho. We all know exactly what Pep Guardiola has done since but it’s his spell at Barcelona that Lampard is on the path to duplicating. He walked into Stamford Bridge as a former legend with his former side undergoing a power struggle and a transition from one era to another. But unlike Guardiola, Lampard has been burdened with the loss of a superstar in Eden Hazard and a transfer ban.
Together, the two things have been spoken more about in tandem than the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo debate in the months since Lampard took over. Things have since moved on to their effervescent youth set-up and just how the boss-man has inculcated them into the starting eleven alongside a few experienced superstars. In Christian Pulisic, Matteo Kovacic, Jorginho and a few others, Lampard has found players who, despite ingrained in their style of play, have found a way to adapt to their manager’s tactics and found themselves flourishing because of it.
But the Guardiola we see today is not something Lampard should be aiming for even though he is at the right club to do just that. Instead, Lampard has to aim for something more than just that and find the balance between heavy spending and Chelsea’s youth academy which is what the plan seems to be at least for now. Even then, he’s four months into his spell at Chelsea and for once, they look positive, have some sort of plans, or so it looks, and with time they have something in place to establish their next dynasty. Their next great dynasty by the very man who played an integral part in their first dynasty and that means taking these losses with a pinch of salt.
Don’t ignore them, but don’t let the entire world revolve around them. Even their winless run, three games, should be taken with a pinch of salt because this side is in the genesis of their evolution. It’s rather nice to watch, as a star grows and grows but it hasn’t been easy. Maurizio Sarri and his wonderful style of football failed miserably. Antonio Conte tried to build something and he failed miserably. Jose Mourinho never really tried to build anything and Carlo Ancelotti may be the only man who actually came close. Because for most of Roman Abramovich’s time in England, and it’s been nearly a century, he’s been a hire and fire owner.
It’s been a revolving door of managers, with the Blues changing a team full of them since he first walked in and offered them the world. But at the same time, they’ve been on two different roads and that has shaped the team. The first team, brought in with a lot of money and the loan army, which helped balance out the former, which saw them build successful but short-term sides. That unbalanced effort to bring success is why they lost Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Throgan Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Nathan Ake, Bertrand Traore, and so many others. That needs to change and Super Frankie has taken both sides and smashed them into one single entity but that’s been an easy revolution despite the criticism.
It’s been a soft and easy beginning and that changes as the years move on and that’s where Lampard’s true challenge lies. Even when the club struggles to perform, Lampard needs to stick to his guns and supplement the youth with players and certainly not the only way around. Because, and this is a massive one, if he does that then there is nothing and maybe even no one that can stop them. Because it’s their chance at a Pep Guardiola Barcelona-esque dominance on England, the likes of what the UK has not seen since a certain Manchester United legend did before he retired in 2013.
It’s a scary and terrifying thought to see exactly what a coherent Chelsea with a vision, a flourishing youth academy and Ritchie Rich-esque money can do but that’s a big if.
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