Frank Lampard has re-conquered Chelsea with his charming smile and aggressive tactics. He shares fundamental qualities with other great managers who brought years of glory to their clubs.
Chelsea’s fans and manager are living on the same frequency and the confidence swells around the club with every match. So at this early stage, would it be wrong to compare Lampard with Sir Alex Ferguson? No, it wouldn’t, but let’s be a bit judicious in how we go about it.
It is not about the results. Ferguson’s first three years were very tough and he was on the verge of being axed. Obviously, things turned around and his career became part of football history. So how can Lampard be compared with the greatest?
Frank Lampard is looking for team growth, not necessarily any individual player’s growth, although they are certainly improving in many aspects. Lampard has very clear targets for Chelsea at the club level, beyond the range of any one player or season.
This approach ran through Ferguson’s accomplishments. He valued the club ethos more than anything else, making sure the players always dedicated themselves to the club as much as he did. He still had to handle disciplinary situations: alcohol-related problems and the suspension of Eric Cantona, for example. But these did not distract him from the big picture, which enabled him to put them in context and keep the rest of the squad in line towards the group’s ambitions. The discipline issues were also a way for younger players to find their way into the squad, which kept everyone sharp and the team constantly renewing.
2. Respecting his situation
Sir Alex Ferguson’s best ability was how he used his available resources. He barely complained about the players or transfer windows, and never disclosed any differences between higher management and himself.
Similarly, this is how Lampard has treated his situations when in front of the media. He has not shown any resentment or excuse-making over the transfer ban. He is not venting any negativity about the players he has or wishes he had, nor is he letting on as if he is counting down the days until he can add to his squad. This is winning over the players and fans as they respect his resourcefulness and feel like he wants each and every one of them at Stamford Bridge.
To gain the trust of his players, staff and bosses, a coach must be confident about his tactics and decisions. Lampard has shown certainly shown that.
Lampard likes to take control of situations, not as a control-freak but out of the belief that he can produce results. His decision not to play Christian Pulisic raised the eyebrows of many critics, but the way Lampard is managing the matches and stringing together results denies his critics anything to throw at him.
His calm attitude and well-measured comments during media conferences are helping him and Chelsea stay away from any controversy.
4. The art of communication
Frank Lampard mastered this skill during his playing days. He scored a record number of goals for a Chelsea player or a Premier League midfielder, assisted numerous strikers and remained the first choice midfielder for most Chelsea managers. He gave no one any room to argue with his performance, effort or personality on or off the pitch.
He is doing the same now as a coach. His influence on the players is visible during games, which quietly reveals how much he is getting through to them in the locker room and in training.
Chelsea may not achieve any glory this season, but certainly they can count on Frank Lampard for the long run. With ample time, support and opportunities to build on what he has started in these first few months, his appointment will look less and less of a gamble with each passing year.
Chelsea fans may need to count on a miracle to have a trophy-raise this season. But as Manchester United learned from Sir Alex Ferguson, when you have the right man, you know it, and he will make it worth the short wait.