The experts at The Guardian made their annual predictions about where each team will finish in the English Premier League on the eve of the first game between Liverpool and Norwich. Chelsea came in fourth in the preseason poll showing how optimistic the pundits were about the abilities of new coach Frank Lampard and a club hamstrung by a transfer ban lasting two windows.
The first game of the season loss to Manchester United was followed by the unlucky European Super Cup defeat to Liverpool. The early season optimism is slowly eeking away with Lampard now installed by the English bookmakers as the favorite to be the first manager sacked this season.
Any coach making their way to Chelsea FC should not be expecting a long-term appointment with owner Roman Abramovich seeing 13 managers leave Stamford Bridge between 2003 and the summer departure of Lampard’s predecessor Maurizio Sarri. When Lampard made the decision to move on after a single season in the Championship with Derby County many were shocked but understood the call of The Blues was too much for the former England midfielder to resist.
Some pundits believed Chelsea had been unlucky in their first game of the new season at Old Trafford after taking more shots and dominating possession. However, looking back at the game, it is possible Lampard was outthought by his counterpart at United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Red Devils pressed high up the field in the first half exploiting the absence of N’Golo Kante as a defensive midfielder and the lack of pace of Jorginho. In the second half, Solskjaer appeared to anticipate a change in tactics from Chelsea and sat deep to invite pressure before hitting Lampard’s men on the break for a 4-0 victory.
Lampard will need to be tactically astute and push for a return from Kante if Chelsea FC is to match the achievements of Sarri’s team last season. The coach is facing a difficult period of time with an owner who is not noted for his patience as Lampard himself will know having played during the glory years at Stamford Bridge under coaches such as Jose Mourinho and World Cup-winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.
There are many problems facing the Blues at the moment, the least of which was not the summer transfer ban that saw the club unable to add new faces to the squad. Lampard is being asked to provide Abramovich with a team capable of reaching the top four in the English Premier League from the stable of youngsters who have been largely ignored by previous coaches and loaned out on numerous occasions.
For the majority of Chelsea fans, the chance to see a team filled with the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, and the currently injured Callum Hudson-Odoi has been called for by supporters for many seasons. However, expecting them to combine with the newly arrived U.S. international Christian Pulisic and an established group of stars could prove difficult.
The departure of David Luiz to Arsenal could also prove a mistake with Lampard stating he spoke to the Brazilian defender and explained the reasons behind his departure from the Blues. If Luiz solidifies the defense of the Gunners and leads them to an English Premier League finish above Chelsea, which is possible, the future for Frank Lampard back at the Bridge could be limited.