Lampard took the reins with relatively little experience, and there is no point pretending that he was not a contender because the club had few other options. When he took over the club looked to be facing an extended transfer ban, but he has since seen the punishment halved. Because of their early action over Christian Pulisic and the conversion of Mateo Kovacic from loan signing to a permanent one, the damage was relatively minimal. Pulisic is an obvious talent, and he was when he joined, but Lampard deserves praise for his patient development of a young and brilliant talent when he must have been desperate for inspiration at times.
Indeed, the transfer ban might have given Chelsea a boost compared to most of their peers. They were forced to save, and force to develop their own players for a year. It has not obviously hurt them.
Tammy Abraham has proved himself a striker worthy of Premier League games. Aged 22, it is not certain that he will be anything special, but he deserves his place as a young Londoner in the squad. It is under Lampard that he was given the chance when other managers might have elected to focus on the reliability of Olivier Giroud at the expense of anyone else. Instead, Lampard has managed to develop a promising youngster over the course of the season while at the same time rekindle the form of his 33-year-old French striker. Going into next season, he will be able to call upon Timo Werner too.
Christian Pulisic (FC Chelsea)
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Further back down the field, today’s goalscorer Mason Mount might have tailed off after a ludicrous start to the season, but he remains a prospect for the coming seasons. Jorginho has died on the vine, but his flickers under Lampard show that his coach is able to coax performances from players who are not necessarily keen on being at the club. The same can be same for Pedro and then Willian. Two players whose futures were uncertain remained committed to the cause.
Looking at the squad, Mount is not the only younger player who could conceivably stick around at Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future. Andreas Christensen, Fiyako Tomori, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kurt Zouma and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all players who might once have left for opportunities elsewhere, but under Lampard they have shown enough to be kept on for next season. From a transfer ban, somehow Chelsea now operate from a position of strength rather than desperation.
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There are problems, of course. Kepa was dropped for today’s game but even that can be turned into a positive. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United is stuck with David de Gea despite his constant mistakes, while at Chelsea their record transfer ‘keeper is set to leave after losing his way. Chelsea’s midfield legend is not just capable of resuscitating players’ careers, he is ruthless when it becomes time to end them. Other players will soon find that out.
Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmeiri will soon do one from the club, as will one or both of Pedro and Willian, and Jorginho is likely to depart as well. There will be more sales as Lampard can call upon the unspent money, pre-coronavirus, to develop the squad.
Werner is one arrival, but there are more. Hakim Ziyech from Ajax seems a pragmatic bargain, able to create chances. Potential additional Kai Havertz looks an exceptional talent and able to drive on his team much as Lampard did Mourinho-era Chelsea. Ben Chilwell or Nico Tagliafico will be an improvement at left-back, and there could be money raised or replacements promoted from their 51st state, the on-loan section of their squad.
In all likelihood, Liverpool and Manchester City will once again challenge for the Premier League season next season, and Chelsea will struggle to come close. But Lampard has earned the right to defy expectations once again.
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