I remember watching Tottenham in 2015. One of the most vibrant teams I ever watched; almost like Leicester City today but much better. The guys in the team were young, hungry, fearless and full of talent. The names in there are world-renowned stars now; Tripper, Lamela, Townsend, Rose, Walker, Dier, Alli, Kane…these guys would go on to form the backbone of the team that had a real chance of winning the English Premier League in 2016 and the core of this team was also present as Tottenham made the UEFA Champions League final in 2019. In my opinion, what ruined it was simple: the team staying the same for too long without a refresh. In the end, a dynasty crumbled before it even got started.
Fast forward to 2018 and Chelsea found themselves in a similar situation. The transfer ban saw the club make radical changes to their recruitment strategy. For starters, a few players that had been out on loan were brought back and promoted to the first team. The likes of Mount, Abraham, James, Tomori and Zouma were centre-stage at a club that was known for buying superstars rather than promoting from within. Even the manager was ‘home-grown’; Lampard is a club legend with 13 trophy-laden playing years at Stamford Bridge and had an impressive first managerial campaign at Derby County. Having coached Mount and Tomori at Derby, he was the best candidate to lead a new era at Chelsea.
12 months later, Lampard was a celebrated manager, having guided Chelsea to 4th place in the league and a FA Cup final (which he could have won if Aubameyang wasn’t such a beautiful…ok I digress), Frank looked like he could take the next step towards guiding Chelsea from contenders to challengers. He knows what it means to win multiple titles, he’s worked with some of the world’s greatest managers. He knows the next step to take. But he was at Chelsea…and I believe that was the problem.
With the transfer ban removed, the focus shifted towards recruiting the best young talents in Europe. As Pedro and Willian moved out, in came Werner and Ziyech. Good business…until they decided to stretch it by pursuing luxury. Havertz came in after the club felt they didn’t need Loftus-Cheek and Barkley; key components of the sharp attacking football that Lampard produced in his first season at the helm. I’m not saying that Havertz is a bad buy but the money spent should have been geared towards finding an alternative for Kante. Chelsea’s biggest issue in Lampard’s last season was a lack of protection for the defence. Adding Thiago Silva was NOT the answer. He’s too slow for this league and Lampard kept using him regularly for some reason, while keeping Rudiger out (really?). I strongly believe that if a solid Defensive Midfielder was recruited (instead of a fancy attacking player), Frank Lampard would still the manager of Chelsea Football Club.
Now he’s gone and Chelsea is back to recruiting managerial expertise from overseas…and the same shiny ones we are used to seeing. Thomas Tuchel is a fantastic manager and he deserves credit for how he has steadied the ship so far. But after watching Chelsea struggle to break down a Man United team that was there for the taking on Sunday, I’m left wondering if Chelsea missed a trick by rushing their transfer business; eroding the massive progress made and now must take a lot of steps backwards before coming forward to where they imagined they would be by now.
They didn’t need to rush the process. Just a couple of additions and they would have been fine. They should be challenging for the title by now with those same ‘boys’. Now, Man City look like running away with it. With Man United still finding their feet, Arsenal & Tottenham way behind, Leicester City and West Ham likely to fall away soon, Chelsea should be the biggest challengers this year. It is a missed opportunity aswear.