A first full season in charge of Chelsea has been put on hold for Frank Lampard as he looks to find his feet in a club where he has installed legendary status as a player. The former England midfielder took on the task of dealing with a summer transfer ban upon his arrival from Derby County where his first Premier League appointment comes as no easy task. But with the fans no doubt willing him all the way we catch up with Chelsea fan Matt Jackson to talk us through his opinions on how things have gone up until this point!
League position: 4th
Champions League: Currently Round of 16
FA Cup: Currently Quarter-Finals
Carabao Cup: Round of 16 defeat
What were your immediate feelings when Frank Lampard was appointed as Chelsea boss?
I was extremely happy with the decision as was the vast majority of the fanbase. One of our legends was returning as manager with the prospect of bringing through players that have grown up with the club which is something that you don’t often see now in modern topflight football.
We’d seen promising young players not given a chance in previous seasons. Some of these have ended up plying their trade in the lower divisions but some gems slipped through the net and are now flourishing at other clubs. Lampard’s appointment accompanied with the transfer ban gave the fans the chance to finally see players from the academy that won five FA Youth Cups in a row.
How confident were you with your playing squad going into the season? Did you have any areas for concern? What would you have considered a good season for Chelsea?
We were almost an unknown at the start of the season for many reasons including young players returning from loan spells in addition to losing arguably the Premier League’s best player in Eden Hazard. It was evident in pre-season that Lampard’s tactics would be very different to Maurizio Sarri’s – far more forward thinking but losing the tight defensive structure that Sarri had. Could the existing players that Sarri had brought in such as Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic adapt to that remained to be seen.
A good season for me would have been top 6. I’d have been disappointed to have missed out on that as I think that squad was more than capable of making the top 6 comfortably whilst challenging for a top 4 place. I think it would have been unrealistic to expect anymore than that due to the Hazard departure, no transfer window and so many young players playing their first full season at the top level.
A lot has been made of Chelsea’s young players throughout the campaign, individually how would you assess their seasons as a whole? Do they have what it takes to be at Chelsea in the long term?
I think all the young players have acquitted themselves very well this season. They all started the season strongly and have fallen away from those levels since the Christmas period. Interestingly, all of them have had injuries that have kept them out for prolonged periods of time. Playing their first year in the rigours of topflight football could be a factor but you would hope this will not occur in the future.
I think their long-term futures will depend on if they perform over time and continue to progress. Lampard has shown he is willing to give players a run in the side whilst not being hesitant to drop players if they have a poor run of form. The board have given Lampard the freedom to play the young players which previous managers have not had. These managers knew that unless instant results were not achieved, they would be sacked. Although the board would have discussed a strategy with Lampard, both parties know that the club will want to be back challenging Liverpool and Manchester City for the title soon. These players over the next five years need to justify their place at Chelsea and this can only be done by improving their consistency over the course of a season
What have been some of the real highs and lows of this season? What are your immediate emotions when reflecting on the whole journey?
My immediate emotion is it’s certainly been an exciting season that has been very up and down with some memorable results and others that have left us scratching our heads.
Real highs include away wins at Arsenal and Spurs, the latter being one of the most complete performances we’ve had all season. Additionally, the Champions League comeback against Ajax was a great night as was the FA Cup 5th round win against Liverpool. These games showed everyone what the squad was capable of when up against it which can only be a good sign for the future.
The real lows this season have been results at home against sides which are battling relegation. Often this season we have seen us put in superb performances against sides when we have been the underdog, only to follow them up the week after with dreadful home performances. Defeats at the Bridge to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton is evidence of this.
Who have been the standout players both good and bad? What areas does Frank have to address in the next transfer window?
The standout player from a positive point of view has been Mateo Kovacic, and if someone would have told me I’d be saying that a year ago I’d have though they were mad! Kovacic has shown how much of a difference a change in system makes and has completely justified the £40 million spent to make his loan permanent. The player that passed sideways and was a just a repeated sub for Ross Barkley has flourished under Lampard. Kovacic has often been the link between the midfield and attack this season, showing an agile turn of pace that had clearly been restricted under Sarri’s leadership. For me he has been our player of the year.
From a bad point of view two players come to mind – Kepa Arrizabalaga and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Kepa had a very hit and miss season during his debut year at Chelsea last season but was touted as one of the best young keepers in the game. This season he has been poor consistently which gave Lampard no choice but to replace him with Willy Caballero. For the world record goalkeeper to have one of the worst save percentages in the league is unacceptable. I would not be surprised if Lampard requests a new number 1 in the summer, whether the club agree to this with the investment they made in Kepa is another thing.
Sarri was often maligned last season for his reluctance to play Callum Hudson-Odoi. In many cases the criticism was justified as there were not many other options and, in his substitute and cup appearances, he looked the real deal. Since the large offers from Bayern Munich last summer were rejected and after he signed a huge new deal in September, his performances have been well below par. Granted, he has had his injury problems after suffering a ruptured achilles at the back end of last season. I had high hopes that he would kick on this season and we’d see more of the player the club have shown lots of faith in, unfortunately this has not been the case. I am putting the poor year down to his inexperience at the top level as it is clear the talent is there – after all he is only 19. Let’s hope from our point of view he turns this around next season and we see the player that Bayern were willing to spend £40 million on.
Rate your season out of 10 so far and the reason behind this!
So far, I would give the season 7 out of 10. As I’ve already mentioned the league has been very up and down, but we find ourselves in the top 4 which was beyond where I thought we would be at the start of the season. Although technically still in the Champions League this season, we were beaten by a far better team which shows the level that we should be aspiring to get back too. I think getting any further than we have done in Europe would have been unrealistic. Additionally, we still have a chance of silverware with being in the latter stages of the FA Cup so it could still be an excellent season for us.
What are your thoughts on this Chelsea fans? Let us know in the comments below!