Hey everyone, I have been away for a while. Has anything changed at the club? Well, maybe a bit of an exaggeration there. Unless you have been hiding under a rock on the dark side of the moon, then every Chelsea fan knows that Frank Lampard is back, and to be fair I have rarely seen a more positive welcome to a new young manager at any football club in my entire life.
The heartstrings have been well and truly tugged and when he walks out at the Bridge for the Leicester game as our manager there will hardly be a dry eye in the house. There is the small matter of Manchester United to deal with beforehand at Old Trafford and Liverpool in the Super Cup. The travelling fans will be very emotional seeing him on those touchlines wearing blue, but the walk up those steps under our own East Stand will be magical.
So far so emotional, though with our own Jody Morris beside him, you get the feeling he has just the right man to keep his and everyone else on the teams’ emotions in check. Oddly enough, I will be watching Jody just as much as Frank when the cameras close in on those first few weeks. They will need each other this season and they will need to stay on as even a keel as possible because there will definitely be ups and downs.
STRENGTH OF CHARACTER
Once the initial feelings fade, and that could be quite quickly, they both know that there is a serious job of work to be done and they would not want it any other way. They will want to be judged honestly and fairly; that is just the way of the game at the top level, no matter who you are or how adored you are.
Many who are not Chelsea fans will be looking for, and in some cases praying for, any signs of weakness and will be well prepared to pile on the pressure. Unfortunately for them, I think they might be wasting their time because of the strength of character and the intelligence of our new management team.
I will be honest: there have been times in the past where I have felt the need to give a gentle nudge to some Chelsea fans to stay with a manager through some sticky times. It is not a regular occurrence as we are generally real supporters, not professional moaners. There isn’t the feeling we have a divine right to win trophies every season from our stands; it isn’t in the DNA of the club. We stick by our own longer than most other sets of fans. There is an inbred loyalty, which of course can only be stretched so far, but it is there.
There is no need to even mention that with our new management team. We will stick by them. Frank does however have an expectation to win things in the medium term, and at least be competitive in the short term. The fans will be there supporting to a level you have never seen before at Stamford Bridge, even through the inevitable tough times ahead.
When I say tough times I have to be honest and underline this really is not going to be easy for Frank and Jody. They haven’t yet had the opportunity to bring in the one or two big signings that would help their cause, and more importantly create the vision of how their team should play. City, United, Spurs and Arsenal have all strengthened, each will spend over £60 million on an individual player alone. That is a pretty big advantage to start off with.
Yes, we have Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and others who will all feel like new signings, but it is different to buying in a tried and tested world class player who can lift the entire club in an instant. There is also the change in style to deliver, which will be very different to Maurizio Sarri’s idiosyncratic methods. Actually this year it will be changes in styles plural, as Frank will use more than one system.
CHANCE TO STEP UP
We did also lose a world great in the summer obviously, but just maybe that will allow more opportunities for others to flourish. Do not be surprised if one of Pedro, Willian or indeed Christian Pulisic has an unusually productive season. Eden understandably was the go-to man when we attacked, but now others will get more service, it will almost certainly have a positive effect on at least one of them. They will never say they were happy to see Eden leave because nobody was, but these players in particular will grasp at the positives. That reminds me, if you haven’t seen Pedro’s goal against RB Salzburg then watch it right here, right now. I will not be surprised if this is the best goal scored by a Chelsea player this entire season!
So last season we rightly got excited about Callum and Ruben as they improved incredibly quickly throughout the season. It is sad and feels hugely unfair that both have literally been stopped in their tracks by similar injuries. When they return it will be like two fabulous new signings, but in the meantime during pre-season there have been a few standout players that might also have huge seasons this time round.
Taking nothing away from any other players battling to get up to match speed, both Pulisic and Ross Barkley in particular have been quite superb. Both have been fast, positive, confident and played with a real freedom. They appear to be mirroring what the new staff want to see and what we want to see, too. If they can play to that level in the Premier League then the ultimate goal of reaching the top four may not be out of our grasp, even with all the odds stacked against us.