A lot has already been made of Frank Lampard’s relatively short career as Chelsea manager.
It seems more or less every day since he’s been at the helm, Lampard and Chelsea have been the main agenda for newspapers, websites and sport radio stations.
Appointing Lampard this early was of course going to be a gamble, but no other manager, perhaps John Terry aside, would’ve been given the “free hit” needed with the current transfer embargo and limited squad options.
The press might be salivating at the prospect of another #LampardOut trend on Twitter, but the truth is that inside the ground, and with most sane supporters around the world, the support for Lampard and this project is strong.
As a player, Lampard played under some great managers and has already been compared to José Mourinho, especially in his dealings with David Luiz.
‘You don’t want to play for my club? Fine, there’s the door.’
Not many managers who were unable to sign any new players would’ve got rid of one of the club’s top defenders that ruthlessly, but as he said in his initial interviews, Lampard only wants to deal with players that are 100% committed to the cause.
Life’s been tough for Lampard so far, a harsh reality check in a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford, an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool in the Super Cup and a draw at home to Leicester City.
Lampard has shown a flexibility in his tactics in those three games, switching to a 4-3-3 in the Super Cup after using 4-2-3-1 away to Manchester United, with Chelsea then using both formations during the game against Leicester.
One thing Lampard has been more rigid with though, is his starting XI. The same back 5 have started every game, despite that heavy defeat, along with Jorginho, Mason Mount and Pedro, while Tammy Abraham and Oliver Giroud have shared the starting role up front.
The opening 25 minutes against Leicester were ferocious, with Chelsea containing them inside their own half, not letting up with their relentless pressing game.
It was that press that saw Mount win the ball on the edge of the area and slam the ball past Kasper Schmeichel to score his first Chelsea goal.
Then around the half hour mark, that blitzkrieg opening wore the team out, many of whom played the full 120 minutes on Wednesday night.
To he fair to Lampard, he doesn’t use tiredness as an excuse for the performance, but it certainly had a massive impact on it.
This is where Lampard could look towards his first Chelsea manager for some inspiration.
Claudio Ranieri, otherwise known as the Tinker Man, was known for his game by game rotation of his squad.
Four or five players nailed down a starting position, but the rest had a game by game playing rotation. Critics say that you can’t get momentum if you’re not playing every week, but remember Ranieri tinkered his way into the Champions League.
This is not saying Lampard could do the same, but he’s got a lot of key positions where there’s no clear starter.
Take the striker for example, he’s got three choices, Abraham, Giroud or Michy Batshuayi. So far, Lampard has left Batshuayi out completely, claiming if he wants to play he needs to be fitter.
Lampard watched on from the stands as Batshuayi scored twice in an U23 development game against Liverpool earlier this week.
What Lampard could create in rotating his strikers, is really healthy competition for places. If Giroud/Batshuayi think Abraham has the place no matter if he scores often or not, it’s not going to give them much incentive to do well on a rare playing occasion.
If they all believe that if they don’t score or play particularly well then they’ll be replaced, that will give them that boost to do something to influence the game/result.
The same could be said about the wide positions. I can’t believe that Willian came on and gave that performance against Leicester, but if he knows that despite being the ‘superstar’ of that bunch, he’ll get replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi, Pedro, Christian Pulisic or even Mount if he doesn’t perform, then that will only help increase the levels of this squad.
Lampard will have an idea of his strongest XI, but a main criticism of his predecessor was an inability to change the starting XI despite the poor performance level.
If things don’t change after that dreadful second half display against Leicester then I fear the same complacency will start to seep in from those who are not deemed good enough for a regular place in the team.
Lampard’s smart enough not to get too carried away with being too much like Ranieri, but a little tinker never hurt anybody.
There’s a transfer ban, so Lampard can only use what he’s got, that’s what makes this season a free hit.
So why not give everyone a chance to prove their worth?
Neither Abraham or Giroud have scored in the Premier League thus far, so why have a tinker with the team and put in a striker who’s just scored two goals.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu