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Pat Nevin: Brave Lampard is building something special

Now that Chelsea's drawn-out season has finally come to a close, the time is right to reflect back on the past 12 months and former Blue Pat Nevin believes the groundwork is being laid for another great period of success at Stamford Bridge. He explains why here in his weekly column...

The season has finally ended for the Blues and as ever there will be players leaving who will be missed and celebrated in equal measure for what they have done for the club. Both Willian and Pedro have had many fine moments and there is a decent argument to say we got the very best of their careers - well definitely Willian’s and maybe Pedro’s.

The same could be said of Eden Hazard as well, even though he has been gone 12 months. He is part of that group of brilliant little creative attackers that symbolised Chelsea for over half a decade.

All of us who have played for the club and moved on have a special place in our hearts for the place, the people who work here and most importantly the fans. It has been clear by the emotional words from those players, that they will never forget their time here and that is the way it should be. Your blood becomes a little bluer for the rest of your life when you have been part of the Chelsea family.

It is time to move on however and with Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and doubtless others joining before the new season starts, there will be a fresh new style to look forward to and I suspect most Chelsea fans are excited by the prospect. It has been possibly the most overused phrase about the club since Frank Lampard became the boss, that we are ‘overachieving’ this season and now that the dust has settled it is definitely still the case.

You could have a glass half-empty attitude and say that we lost the FA Cup final and the last game was an aggregate 7-1 defeat so these are dark times, but anyone sensible who understands football knows this is not the case. There are so many positives and so many hopes for the future. To think how far Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Billy Gilmour have come on this season, and more importantly how much time they have to improve still further, is to realise we could be at the start of another great Chelsea period.

The average age of the side next season when you add Werner alongside Christian Pulisic, is a detail that every other club in the country will take note of and may well be jealous of as well. Lampard has been astoundingly brave bringing in this group, believing in them, nurturing them and sticking by them. I am sure even they know that not every manager and certainly not every club is willing or able to cherish and care of their kids to this level.

In the midst of this, it is important not to dismiss any player over a certain age. The work done this season by Olivier Giroud, Cesar Azpilicueta and others has been phenomenal so they should be respected for not only what they have done but what they can still do.

Over the season, Olivier’s attitude and resurgence has been a joy to watch and should be an inspiration to any young player on the art of how to be a great pro. Dave for his part has just astonished me, with arguably his best season at the club and in retrospect, one of the best pound-for-pound buys we have made in the modern era.

There were so many positives but there is still a big job to do and I have yet to talk to anyone who does not expect Frank to invest some money in the back line. I reckon our midfield to front area is looking very well-stocked, with maybe one more creative addition to add up there, but the defence is not going to be easy.

'Frank has been astoundingly brave bringing in this group, believing in them, nurturing them and sticking by them.'

photo of Pat Nevin Pat Nevin

Just about every club you can think of is considering or has just considered adding a dependable centre-back who is good with the ball at his feet. From the Spanish giants of Real and Barca to Manchester United and until last week Manchester City, it seems this is the position causing most concern. I mean, what is going on? Didn’t it used to be finding creative goal-makers and indeed goalscorers that was everyone’s pressing priority in pre-season?

You just have to look at how much Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk and United paid for Harry Maguire to underline that this is precisely where there is a major problem with supply and demand at the very top level. Everyone is searching for the right defenders just now.

To some extent I do feel sorry for top-level managers at this precise time. Just when the season has finished and you want to take a break from the stresses, strains and the 24/7 pressure, you know if you take your eye off the ball for a moment, that player who could make all the difference to your team will be snapped up by one of your rivals. However, a break is vital and there is of course a committed team at the club scouring the planet with their scouting system while the management team - as well as the players - recover.

I am guessing for Frank it will be a matter of days, if that, before he is itching to get back into the thick of it because he knows he has only just started on this adventure. Looking back at this season now, that is what it felt like - an adventure. An exciting one, an unpredictable one but one that has already been successful and is likely to be more so. It will certainly never be boring with Frank at the helm; he is just too positive-minded and too much of a winner to have his team play any other way.

We got the top four spot we wanted with the promise of Champions League football, we brought through a bunch of young players, we reached a cup final, we managed to beat all of the top sides in the country as we did it but that all seems almost secondary to how Frank brought the Chelsea support even closer to the club than it has been for a few years.

There were no trophies but I have enjoyed this season more than some others that have delivered the glittering prize because of the way we are trying to do it. This is Chelsea, this is who we are and what we want to be. So, thanks for the season lads and we all can’t wait to see you giving us more of the same but even better when you come back. I just hope the fans can be back at the ground safely as soon as possible. For the team, that would be as good as any new signing Frank could make.

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