On Tuesday night, Chelsea drew 4-4 against nine men Ajax at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League. Blues boss Frank Lampard described it as ‘one of the maddest nights of his career’. Lost amongst the goals, dismissals and the VAR controversy was that Chelsea are well in contention for a place in the knockout stages of the competition with just two group games to go.
The game showed the Blues relatively young team has a tremendous fighting spirit and that they are certainly capable of holding their own at the highest level.
Chelsea are thriving under Frank Lampard
Some felt that appointing Frank Lampard was a free-hit for the Blues hierarchy. The team lost its star player in the summer in the shape of Eden Hazard. To add to that a two-window transfer ban and the job looked to be a difficult one.
Many more experienced bosses will have been put off the job by the transfer ban. Therefore, the Blues did not exactly have many outstanding options. Many will fancy the job when the transfer ban expires, though.
With the transfer ban and Lampard’s lack of managerial experience, expectations were low. He is a Chelsea legend, so the fans were always going to afford him more time to instil his ideas and philosophy into the team.
Some wrote off Chelsea’s chances of a top-four finish or going very far in the Champions League. However, at this stage of the campaign, the Blues are looking in good shape in both competitions. Everybody connected with the club will not want to get carried away with their form so far this season.
It is clear though that Lampard does have managerial acumen and the team are thriving under the former England star.
Faith in youth
Lampard showed his faith in youth while managing Derby in the Championship last season, including Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount who were with Lampard on-loan from Chelsea.
As predicted, Lampard has shown a similar faith in youth with the Blues. The transfer ban was almost a blessing in disguise, as the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mount have thrived. Tomori has also played regularly at centre-back this season.
Young full-back Reece James came off the bench and grabbed the equalising goal against Ajax. James had impressed last season on loan at Wigan and has been earmarked as a star of the future. Under Lampard, he may get his chance from the start in the near future.
In a decent position to qualify for the knockout stages
The draw last night against last season semi-finalists leaves Chelsea in a decent position to qualify from the group. Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia all have seven points after four games. The group was always going to be tight, due to the level of quality amongst the teams.
However, Chelsea are favourites at odds of 5/4 to seal qualification to the knockout stages. Their next game could be a pivotal one, as they visit Valencia. A trip to the Mestalla is never an easy one. Los Ches also have the advantage of having already recorded a victory at Stamford Bridge. An away victory would equal things up in the race for qualification.
Some considered Frank Lampard as a bit of a stop-gap, to keep the seat warm for a high-profile European boss to arrive next summer. However, judging by his early work, Lampard has the makings of an excellent top-level boss and could just be the man to bring stability to Chelsea.
Can Frank Lampard guide Chelsea into the knockout stages of the Champions League?
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