Frank Lampard has claimed that expectations at Chelsea will not be lowered this season as he expressed his confidence that his side could remain competitive while young players form a greater part of the squad.
Our new head coach and his players headed to Dublin on Friday for a pre-season training camp that takes in fixtures against Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic next week. Lampard confirmed before departure that it would be a staggered return for the group, with those involved in international football throughout the summer joining up later, therefore a number of players who spent last season on loan or playing for our Academy teams will feature in Ireland.
Integrating the younger generation into the team has been a key message of Lampard’s, though he has been keen to also stress that standards and objectives must not be compromised along the way.
‘The reality is we should be competing no matter what,’ he said this week. ‘My job is to find the balance between being competitive and bringing some of the younger players through. My eyes will always be open to the young players but they have to show that they’re good enough because this is Chelsea and we can’t lower our levels too much. I’m not going to do young boys a favour by putting them in the team – they have to get there on merit.’
Many have already questioned whether the pressure will be too much for a manager with just one season’s experience in the game. However, the new boss believes his 21-year playing career at the very top of the game, alongside his clear understanding of what is expected, will stand him and the team in good stead this term.
‘The reality is that the owner has won 16 trophies in 16 years – that’s huge success,’ Lampard continued. ‘He runs the club at his own desire and I think that his desire has always been for the best of the club. He’s chosen me hopefully on that premise.
‘When I went into Derby everyone told me that there had been six managers in three years, or whatever it was, so I think you understand the pressure pretty quickly. My role now is to put that to the side and do my best on the training ground and on matchdays, and form relationships at the club.
‘I’ve had discussions with Marina [Granovskaia, Chelsea director] and they were exactly what I expected. We want to win, which I knew anyway, and we want to help bring young players through, but that’s something I would look to do anyway. I think personally that every manager should be trying to do that.’
Lampard has already stressed his desire to be a forward-thinking coach and refrain from reflecting too much on his past glories as a player at Stamford Bridge. Yet there are certain attributes in the dressing room from his era that the 41-year-old is intent on recreating, particularly the passion and desire to represent Chelsea.
‘It was something that I felt strongly about as a player, probably because I was surrounded by the likes of Didier [Drogba] and John [Terry] in the dressing room,’ he explained. ‘It will definitely be part of our message, that you have to feel the club.
‘It’s a fantastic football club so you should feel privileged to be here and play here with the support that we have and the status that the club has. I’ll promote that daily because I believe you have to feel that way when you run out on the pitch. I think it enhances performances, it enhances training, it puts a smile on your face every day when you come in and that’s what I want players to do.’
The fact we may not be able to sign players for the remainder of the summer transfer window has also been put to Lampard as a further challenge to his early days in charge, though the boss believes a quiet pre-season free of speculation could be a positive. He is looking forward to assessing all his options over the coming weeks, before making the final decision on who remains in his squad for the 2019/20 campaign.
‘The bonus is we can have a calm July and just focus on the team,’ he said. ‘Other teams will buy players and try to improve but we just have to focus on what we can do here. If I came in and the squad was really short then that would be a problem but I don’t believe it is. I know we have a good squad, we have a lot of really good young talent and that becomes a big focus of the year.
‘We want to be competitive but we also want to put our faith in the young players to see if they can get into the team and show what they can do. It’s also a test for the older players to see if they can rise to that challenge.’