Frank Lampard felt challenged by Chelsea’s major investment in 2003 and believes the current crop of Blues youngsters should be just as excited by their recent transfer business.
In a window reminiscent of the early days of Roman Abramovich’s tenure, when Lampard was a player under Claudio Ranieri, the Blues have spent heavily heading into the new season.
Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz have each arrived for substantial fees, while Thiago Silva was brought in on a free and Chelsea are said to be negotiating for a new goalkeeper.
The huge moves come after a season in which head coach Lampard relied heavily on academy graduates as the club served a transfer ban.
The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James helped Chelsea qualify for the Champions League but could now find their places under threat.
Lampard hopes they will respond and “up their game”, though, recalling the time 17 years ago when the likes of Joe Cole, Juan Sebastian Veron, Claude Makelele and Geremi arrived in quick succession at Chelsea.
“I saw it as a challenge,” Lampard told reporters. “When players come in that add quality to the squad, they might be in similar positions to you or not but it lifts the team, it should lift the team.
“The players with the right mentality will up their game, make friends with the players, make them feel welcomed within the squad. Hopefully then you see levels raised throughout the squad.
“That was something that did occur [in 2003]. I was a young player, so was John [Terry] and others in the group, so the core of those young players in the group did react and we managed to form a good group moving forward.
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“I certainly wouldn’t say, ‘I did it, you can too’. That’s not my style of management. But with Mason, the conversation Mason has is the way he trains every day.
“The last two days when we’ve trained with these new players, when everyone is very excited and focused on them at the moment, I focus on all the squad at all times.
“The way that Mason’s trained the last few days after coming back from England shows that when I talk about how players will react in a positive way and up their game, Mason is one of them. That’s what I want from all the young lads.”
Yet Lampard also does not want his younger charges to feel they are in direct competition for places, believing there is space in the squad for each player to thrive.
“I expect them to be excited by the challenge of playing in the squad this year,” he said, ahead of Chelsea’s new-season opener at Brighton and Hove Albion on Monday.
“I don’t see it in those direct competitive situations that we’re trying to find.
“A modern-day squad – much more than 17 years ago – needs to have flexibility, needs to have competition. I don’t think we need to find direct battles at this point in the season, no.
“The team needs to be flexible. A lot of the time I’m talking about players that can play in a number of positions, which is great for a manager.
“I just see it as a group that is hopefully stronger than last year and the players give everything to try to get in the team game after game.”
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