Frank Lampard should channel former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to keep his squad happy and overcome his “biggest challenge” as the Blues look to win the Premier League title in the coming years.
The west London club are attempting to contend for the league this term and sit fifth, three points off leaders Leicester and two behind rivals Tottenham and Liverpool, the defending champions, after eight games.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich backed Lampard coming into this season with a summer spend of nearly £250million to sign Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy.
And Mendy and Silva have helped improve Chelsea’s defensive woes, with Lampard’s charges conceding 10 times this term but only once in the last three matches.
While the likes of Werner, Ziyech and Havertz are all beginning to get into their groove as Chelsea continue to gel offensively.
The Londoners have a deep squad – full to the brim of attacking quality – but after the 4-1 win over Sheffield United at the weekend, questions have question been asked as to how Lampard will be able to give regular minutes to Havertz, Ziyech, Werner, Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud.
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But Lampard – a member of two of Mourinho’s three title-winning Chelsea teams – can take a page out of his former manager’s book in order to keep all of his squad happy in the battle for minutes, believes self-confessed Chelsea fan and former Arsenal attacker Paul Merson.
“If we are going to talk about Tottenham winning the title, then Chelsea are right in the mix,” Merson wrote for Sky Sports. “If Spurs can win it, then for sure, Chelsea can win it.
“Frank Lampard has now got who he wants in key positions and you can really see the difference. “Thiago Silva is world-class. They’ve got two full-backs who are as good as any in the league and for me, they [Reece James and Ben Chilwell] are the two England full-backs, in my opinion.
“They are outstanding. Silva is also only going to make Kurt Zouma a better player and the goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is solid.
“I know Sheffield United are down at the bottom at the moment, but they are a hard team to play against. They are organised and when you go 1-0 down, you know it’s going to be a difficult evening.
“However, they literally dismantled Sheffield United. They made them look like a proper relegation team, which I don’t see that because I think Sheffield United will be okay this season. They made them look distinctly average and that’s a sign of a good team.
“It’s coming from everywhere too. Hakim Ziyech has got a left foot that can open a can of worms, Timo Werner scores plenty of goals, Tammy Abraham looks like he’s getting better and then there’s Mason Mount. They’ve just got so much attacking talent.
“The problem is going to be keeping everyone happy and that’s going to be the hardest job in the world. You are going to have top, top-draw players not playing, and that’s hard.
“Kai Havertz wasn’t even in the squad because he was unwell and Christian Pulisic is injured too. Mateo Kovacic played on Saturday, but he hasn’t been playing. That’s going to be the problem Chelsea have to contend with going forward.
“Is the squad too big? It depends how far they go in certain competitions, but that is where Mourinho was great. If you look at his Chelsea team and the squad he had at Stamford Bridge, you never heard anybody moaning.
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“From the outside, you always thought, ‘wow’! How do you keep all those players happy? There’s got to be an art to it because when you’ve got that quality of player, to keep them all happy when they are not playing is a major skill.
“It’s alright people saying they get £100,000-a-week, they get paid well or whatever, but they want to play football. As a player, you want to play football and that will be Lampard’s biggest challenge going forward.
“They also have to play a better quality of opponent in the games coming up, but everything at the moment looks good.”
Asked if something special is brewing at Stamford Bridge after their win over Sheffield United, Lampard said: “People were looking at where we were at and people were very quick to look at goals conceded or not getting the wins.
“I think people expected that pretty quickly if I’m honest and I didn’t. we had some injuries and we had the idea of people coming in and had to work to get better very quickly.
“I think now with the performance today it was our best performance of the season for sure in complete terms.
“We’re in a good place but there’s a level that’s been set by Liverpool and City in the last few years means you have to be in that good place every game and every week and that’s the gap that we have to close.
“I certainly won’t jump ahead of myself albeit I’m very pleased with a lot of the signs today.”
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