Chelsea’s start to life under Frank Lampard has reflected the transitional nature of a club operating under a new template with an inexperienced manager, an influx of young players and a transfer ban.
As the Blues prepare for Sunday’s Premier League home fixture against leaders Liverpool, who have a 100% record, what are the club’s targets in this unfamiliar territory and how are they reshaping under club legend Lampard?
What are Chelsea’s expectations?
Chelsea’s managers are always given the same brief – get towards the end of the season in contention for the major trophies and the Champions League places.
And this year, irrespective of Lampard’s relative inexperience and a transition accelerated by the transfer ban, this will be the aim again.
Chelsea may be in transition but owner Roman Abramovich is not lowering his sights. In financial terms, the club cannot afford to.
The difference between Champions League and Europa League football is about £60m at the bottom line, doubly important for a club whose Stamford Bridge capacity of 41,000 and its resultant revenue is outstripped by attendances at each of the other ‘big six’ clubs – Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as West Ham and Newcastle.
Lampard knows the demands and embraces them. Abramovich is desperate for him to succeed but will not be over-sentimental.
He is the 11th manager Abramovich has appointed since he bought Chelsea in July 2003, with reigns lasting from 1,205 days for Jose Mourinho’s first spell to 223 for Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008.
There is an understanding among the club and its supporters that this is currently a different type of Chelsea and the level of goodwill and patience Lampard is being given was exemplified by the relatively warm reception they received from the home fans after losing to Valencia.
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin believes the club and supporters realise the parameters have changed.
“I do think it will be different this season and the club and the fans will understand that,” he said.
“They have lost their best player in Eden Hazard, they are not able to buy anyone else, they have a lot of young players, a young new manager and on top of all of that they want to change the style of play completely – five things that are radical and not all necessarily helpful.
“Frank will get far more leash – 100%. There is an acceptance and understanding of that. Walking out of the game on Tuesday, having lost at home in the Champions League, people were shrugging their shoulders and the reception was warm.”
This is Chelsea and for all the talk of understanding and patience, ambition is as high as ever. Lampard knew it as a player and does as a manager.