It was the news that seemed inevitable right from the very moment it was announced Maurizio Sarri would be leaving the club – Frank Lampard making his return to Stamford Bridge and joining the club as its new manager.
Since confirmation of the Chelsea legend’s appointment, the big talking point has revolved around the club’s use of the academy. The west Londoners are home to some of the country’s brightest young stars, but have struggled to see them make the grade at the club.
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Lampard’s arrival is expected to change all that. The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham will relish the increased chances they are likely to get. But with the club still looking to compete both domestically and in Europe, Lampard simply cannot be blinded by an obsession with playing the youth.
The desire is admirable. The execution however could prove catastrophic. Whilst the club’s transfer ban has somewhat forced Chelsea to turn to their academy in their time of need, the Blues still remain contenders for the Premier League and will once again be a part of the Champions League next season.
The very nature of both competitions are incredibly cut-throat; mistakes are punished, sides are ruthless and there is usually very little room for error. The mood around Stamford Bridge is one of palpable excitement. The club finally seem receptive to giving their talented young players a chance in the first-team and Lampard’s appointment certainly swept up the fervour even more.
But if the former Derby boss gets carried away in his desire to blood his side with youngsters and completely overhaul the first-team in his first season in charge, he could be in for a rude awakening. The club’s fellow ‘big-six’ rivals all seem to be strengthening in one way or another and are unlikely to be forgiving of any teething problems at Stamford Bridge.
Whilst playing the youngsters could bring some much-needed energy to the side, it will also result in a huge loss of experience on the pitch. The pressure-cooker environment of needing to finish in the top four and also trying to get to the business end of the Champions League could see the side’s talented crop of academy stars crumble under the weight of expectations.
It will therefore be incredibly important for Lampard to get the balance right in his team selections. Not choosing young players for the sake of it, but allowing them to thrive in a side where they have experienced voices to help them through the difficult times on the pitch. Falling out of European football’s top competition could be catastrophic not just for Lampard’s future, but for Chelsea’s too.