Just a few weeks ago the top four sides in the Champions League places in the Premier League were all set for a battle to see which of the other three clubs will finish where behind Liverpool.
Fast forward to now and all of a sudden Chelsea are now clinging onto one of those places after an alarming run of form whilst those below them appear re-ignited and ready for a challenging second half of the season. A run of one win in the last five league games has seen the gap reduced dramatically over the last month and this coming weekend’s trip to the ever improving Tottenham now has greater significance.
Whilst this one game will not define the Blues season, momentum is currently with Spurs since the appointment of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will be aware they will need to stop the slide as quickly as it began.
For Frank Lampard, this season could have been seen as a free hit for the rookie manager. No transfer windows in which to operate, although this has now been reduced and Chelsea are free to sign players in January, Lampard was forced to use either the players already at his disposal or blood the youngsters who in previous years were not considered good enough to play first team football and were shipped out on loan all over the world.
Results for the much loved Chelsea manager have been very positive and players such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have relished playing in the Premier League and Europe, but Lampard is now finding out how tough it can be to manage in one of Europe’s top leagues.
The upcoming visit to face his former boss knowing a defeat will send Spurs above them and into the top four keeps the pressure firmly on Lampard’s shoulders and with the busy Xmas and New Year period just days away Chelsea can’t afford too many slip-ups in the next few weeks or they could find themselves overtaken by the likes of Sheffield Utd, Manchester Utd and Wolves.
There is no doubt Lampard will have an eye on the January window, looking for one or two players with the experience to carry his side onto the summer where he can properly re-build a squad and put his mark on the club.
By the time the FA Cup comes around in early January, Chelsea should have picked up the points over the festive period to create a gap between themselves and the chasing pack, although much might depend on how they fair against Spurs as to whether the poor form continues or Chelsea break the cycle and head back in the right direction.
Not many managers can walk into a top job and get a chance to have a season to create a system, have nine months to assess players and decide what is needed to make the club great again, it’s something Lampard must be clear in his mind that if January is not the ideal time to bring anyone in, he must be ready to go when the summer window opens.
That must be balanced however against a club boardroom who will demand that Lampard makes the Champions League at the very minimum despite the restrictions placed on the first half of the season, business models for the top clubs depends on the cash generated by Europe’s top competitions and while the likes of Arsenal and Manchester Utd are not competing at the top levels, Chelsea need to take advantage and not get left behind.
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