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Lampard must stamp identity on disjointed and expensive squad

Jason Burt


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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: Getty Images

During the two and a bit seasons of Frank Lampard's fledgling career as a manager there has been a prefix to the teams he has coached: first it was Frank Lampard's Derby County and now, even despite the size and scale of the club, Frank Lampard's Chelsea.

That owes much to the profile of one of the Premier League's greatest players - except what is Frank Lampard's Chelsea?

For a club who have largely employed coaches with a defined approach and style of play, their former midfielder is yet to stamp a true identity on them as he prepares for today's trip to Manchester United, his opponents for his first league game in charge 14 months ago.

Maybe his apparent pragmatism is born of the knowledge that it is all well and good to attempt to lay down a philosophy but - at Chelsea above most clubs - there is only one true approach: to win. Even so, the 42-year-old accepts that the question is a fair one.

Picture

"I do have a pretty clear picture but I'm not one to sit here and lay out all my plans," Lampard said. "The reality of football is that it moves on a lot. Last season I think was very positive for us as a team because we had an identity of a team that worked very hard off the ball and created a lot of chances, tried to get higher up the pitch and made a lot of steps forward while also needing to make further steps.

"This season, where we have new players who have come in, I definitely felt before the season there would be, not a levelling out process but a period where we had to work again and see the new players.

"The message cannot always be the same for players with different attributes. So that's why I don't want to commit to what would be my ideal philosophy in six months, a year's time, two years' time, because in real time you have to work with the players you have."

Nevertheless, a year before Carlo Ancelotti became Chelsea manager in 2009, Roman Abramovich confided in him that he had fallen out of love with the team because they did not "have a personality".

It may well be that the owner felt the same about Chelsea when it came to dismissing Maurizio Sarri and employing Lampard.

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Lampard negotiated a difficult first campaign, with the transfer ban, impressively, but he also surely knows that on the back of huge spending and apparent renewed enthusiasm from the Russian billionaire in the last window, expectation has risen sharply.

That applies not just to results but also to style of play and organisation, with murmurings around Chelsea and those who know Abramovich over some of the poor defensive displays recently - as three goals were conceded away to West Brom and at home to Southampton.

The statistic that Chelsea have given away 63 goals in 43 league games under Lampard - the worst of any manager at the club - has not gone unnoticed even if, in the same period, only Manchester City have conceded fewer shots.

Expensive

Lampard has got his way in replacing the world's most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, who he inherited and who is out injured with a damaged shoulder for today's trip to United, with Edouard Mendy.

But he is still searching for greater consistency in his team which should stem from a more settled defence, even if that appears dependent on 36-year-old Thiago Silva.

It is something Lampard needs to sort out quickly and especially in a season which can be looked at in two ways: the unpredictability means there are unlikely to be runaway leaders and ground is not being lost but, also, that there is an opportunity there.

With Hakim Ziyech coming on during the Champions League fixture against Sevilla, which ended in a disappointing draw but with a clean sheet, it meant Chelsea had their six new signings on the pitch for the first time.

"I am seeing some signs of improvement," he said. "But I also know we have brought in six players who have come in to compete for our first XI . . . I knew this would be something that would take time."

There will be sympathy from the Chelsea hierarchy, but there is also a growing sense that Lampard needs to stamp an identity on this squad.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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