Being an avid Football Manager player, I'm used to seeing weird and wacky appointments of former world superstars to the most far-fetched clubs. For instance, we once had former Manchester City midfield general Yaya Toure become Gillingham manager, who then got them relegated the following season.
Last week saw Chelsea legend Frank Lampard hired as their new manager; a deal that saw former gaffer Maurizio Sarri move to become boss of Juventus. A renewed appreciation is therefore in order for the former world-beating central midfielder who has won everything as a player pretty much, but his managerial prowess on the largest stage is yet to be seen.
On first impressions, it could be seen that Lampard's selection is perhaps a little sentimental. If former players and club legends are the subject of discussion, then it's worth bringing up the Manchester United job. Jose Mourinho was ousted in favour of Norwegian super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the hope that the player's status could prevail and shoot the Red Devils back into the big time.
As we said back at the end of January (see here: https://www.untitledblog.co.uk/post/has-ole-gunnar-solskjaer-solved-the-manchester-united-crisis), the appointment of Solskjaer looked like he had solved the ongoing crisis at Old Trafford with a long winning run. However, following the publishing of that article, United fell down the table and just clung onto 6th place in the Premier League, gaining them Europa League football.
A question that I had heard other people raise surrounding both Solskjaer and Frank Lampard was that of managerial experience. Solskjaer had previously managed Norwegian side Molde, winning various plaudits during his time there. His only venture into English management was five years previous with a short, unsuccessful stint at Cardiff City where they finished rock bottom of the Premier League. Lampard's managerial career is a lot shorter than Solskjaer's which left me pondering as to whether he's really the best option for the Blues.
Lampard, in a way, is in a more fortunate position than Solskjaer, having been through the English leagues, both as a player and manager, along with his time at Derby County. He's also got Champions League this year, unlike his Manchester counterpart.
Despite the competition's stature, Lampard's Chelsea will have to put up with a FIFA-enforced transfer embargo that lasts this season, meaning that they aren't able to sign players at all. The pre-arranged deal for American Christian Pulisic, formerly of Borussia Dortmund, will go through soon enough, most likely after the Gold Cup Final, which the United States Mens team lost to Mexico. The Blues have also signed former Real Madrid and Inter Milan central midfielder Mateo Kovacic as a result of a loan-to-buy option. The same can't be said for former Juventus and Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain.
In addition, with the marquee sale of superstar Eden Hazard, arguably one of the best wingers the Premier League has ever seen alongside the likes of Robert Pires and Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea's life has gotten a whole lot harder. With no other acquisitions possible due to the upheld transfer ban, Chelsea may have to rely on some of their farmed loan prospects like Callum Hudson-Odoi. There's an argument that due to the likes of Hazard leaving that it's now the job of other players, such as Pedro and Willian to step up that little bit further, but this can be countered when you consider the factor of age. Academy graduates like Hudson-Odoi are arguably more worthy of a place in the Chelsea first team and to be honest, on his day, Hudson-Odoi is a world-beater.
One key thing I do think that Chelsea will have a problem with is that of capable centre forwards. Outcast Alvaro Morata is on his way out to Atletico Madrid, whilst their only real capable finisher is former Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud, who is now the wrong side of thirty. Giroud was Chelsea's talisman in the Europa League and proved he's still more than capable of hitting the target. Barring the Frenchman though, Chelsea don't seem to have a wealth of forwards, which will unquestionably limit their ability to score. Sure, starlet Tammy Abraham has ripped it up in the Championship, but is one year of prolific scoring enough for him to make the step up? I don't think so.
Frank Lampard is arguably Chelsea's best player and comes highly-rated from Mel Morris and the team at previous employers Derby County. A former player with all the energy and motivation may just be what Chelsea need after stale spells with older managers whose tactics were temporary and fans' feelings mixed over their tenures. The state of Chelsea under Lampard remains to be seen but it's fair to say we're going to treat him with high expectations.