Chelsea has spent big to advance the Frank Lampard project, but will this be another little horse year or are the Blues ready to race?
Jose Mourinho, before his turn into documentary star, used to have some of the best quotes in the game. Sometimes it was about eggs and needing the right ones to make an omelet. A similar, albeit even better one, involved horses.
The 2013/2014 season was his little horse season. He said his side was not yet ready to win the title, but with some milk and learning how to jump, they could race the next year. And race they did as the Blues burst out of the gates leaving their rivals in the dust.
Fast forward to Frank Lampard who has seen his club spend big in what is supposed to be year two of a three year plan. The main question is are the Blues still little horses, or are they ready to race after all the, erm, milk that came in this preseason?
First of all, why was the 2013/2014 season the little horse season? After all, it is not as though Chelsea was miles away from the title race under Rafa Benitez. They didn’t even fall out of the Champions League by being bad either. It came down to the finest of margins in head to head results. What the Blues struggled with most in Mourinho’s first year back was not being poor, it was being inconsistent.
The Blues were able to adapt and hold their own against the top six, but the rest of the league proved difficult. Chelsea simply could not break an opponent down. They seemingly only had a plan for if the opponent came at them. Anything else and they would struggle.
Lampard saw something similar in his first season. Chelsea more or less did fine against teams that tried to come out and play. But when a team sat off and dared the Blues to break them down, they had no answer. Even worse, they left themselves exposed at the back for a counter that all too often found itself in the back of the net.
Both Mourinho (in his second stint) and Lampard’s first seasons saw this inconsistency. Chelsea simply struggled to beat the teams they should be beating. Mourinho and his former star both found similar solutions as well in the transfer market.
Mourinho brought in Cesc Fabregas to crack opponents open. Diego Costa also joined to be the battering ram in attack. And the signing of Didier Drogba and the added leadership behind the scenes can also not be dismissed. If this sounds like the signings of Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, and Thiago Silva, then that may be intentional.
Furthermore, Mourinho was able to use a player like Eden Hazard to add magic to a match around these new pieces. Lampard had to get his own in Kai Havertz but the effect should be the same. Mourinho put all these pieces together and his side was not only able to race, but win.
The question is whether or not Lampard can see his side race yet or not. It cannot be ignored just how big the head start of Manchester City and Liverpool is. It took Jurgen Klopp a few years of roster changes to get his side fighting for the title. It only took Pep Guardiola one, but that was created across two summer windows. Lampard is being forced to shove it all into one.
Besides, Chelsea has been adamant that this is a three year plan. It could possibly be ahead of schedule, but it would be a big ask for so many new players (to each other and the league) to immediately click and get Chelsea into the race. It is possible, of course, but unlikely.
So, overall Chelsea exists somewhere between Mourinho’s 2013/2014 little horse season and 2014/2015 race season. The pieces are all there to race, they just might not be fully warmed up yet. But stranger things have happened and with a good start, especially a win over Liverpool on match day two, anything can happen.