As 2020 begins, Frank Lampard has outlined where he would like to see his team in 12 months’ time.
At a traditional time of year for resolutions and fresh starts, the boss has declared the main target for him and his staff remains the same: to make Chelsea contenders for the Premier League title.
Currently the Blues are 20 points behind pacesetters Liverpool, and while Lampard acknowledges the gap between us and the top of the table remains hefty, he has belief he can mould his team into genuine title challengers by the end of this calendar year.
‘That has to be the aim,’ said Lampard.
‘The transfer ban gave us - myself and the staff - the chance to look at the players and see what we’ve got, look at the youth.
‘The more I see us play, the good and the bad, you change your feelings about how you want to go forward, but the end game will still be the same. Once we can start bringing players in, and the young players mature and get better, we want to bridge that gap and get up there.
‘Whether that can happen next year I don’t know, that will depend on the work we do and how quickly it hits home, but I will certainly not leave any stone unturned in how I try and work to get us there. We’ll have to get recruitment right, that’ll be a huge deal, but we’ve shown at times this year we’ve got a chance.’
For now, the focus is on a trip to the South Coast and a meeting with a Brighton side energised by Graham Potter this season. They gave us a good game at the Bridge in September when two second-half goals secured what was our first home success of the campaign.
‘It’ll be a really tough match,’ Lampard stressed.
‘I have got huge respect for him [Potter], from playing against his team [Swansea] last year twice, and seeing what he’s done with Brighton. It’s not easy to really change and affect a style of play, and I think he’s done that. He will have done a lot of work there.
‘I watched back their game against Arsenal a few weeks ago when they came to the Emirates and controlled big elements of the game. I am under no illusions about how hard it’ll be.’
Lampard is confident of having Cesar Azpilicueta fit and available for the game after recent hamstring bother, especially with Marcos Alonso and Reece James still out. He has provided the latest injury news on those three, as well as Christian Pulisic, who missed the Arsenal match.
‘Azpi felt it from Tottenham when he came off towards the end. Southampton he was feeling it during the game. With Reece James injured the options are less, and he’s a fighter so he stayed on.
‘At Arsenal he said he felt better, so fingers crossed. It was more precautionary we had Lamptey in the squad.
‘Reece James is out for a week or 10 days. He’s had a bit of a niggle around his ankle injury which he had surgery on in pre-season. That was a bit of a worry, but the doctors are saying at the moment he’ll be a week or so.
‘Alonso is similar. It’s the top of a glute muscle injury. They’re in a similar boat, not terrible injuries but obviously they’re missing a pretty crucial time.’
On Pulisic, Lampard added: ‘After the Southampton game the lads did some strides and he felt a cramp in his hamstring. I wouldn’t even call it an injury. He trained a couple of days after that at quite a low level, for me it was more precautionary to keep him out of it [at Arsenal].’