Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has been linked to a move back to Stamford Bridge, joining Frank Lampard’s staff, which could mean trouble.
Chelsea’s recent FA Cup victory cannot shake off the past run of losses the team suffered. While Frank Lampard’s job has appeared to be safe so far, the English manager could have some cause for concern from not a new name, but a former manager resurfacing at Stamford Bridge.
In one of the more bizarre twists of the January transfer window, former coach and manager Avram Grant has been linked with a return to the Blues. This is not a coaching change of one in and one out, but supposedly, being done in a bid to increase the experience alongside Lampard in the dugout.
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There is history between the two men as Grant was Lampard’s manager during the run to the Champions League final in 2008. Yet, it is not Lampard who appears to have called for Grant’s return. The architect behind this plan is none other than Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, and for that reason alone, Lampard should be very mindful.
Coaching in professional football—much like any other professional sport—is very close knit; when coaches come into a new team, they bring their own staff. Rarely do head coaches come alone and work without their own assistants, they’re a package deal. For instance, Abramovich knew when Chelsea was hiring Lampard that the Blues were also hiring Jody Morris (a former Blues coach and player himself) as his No. 2. Abramovich also knew that the duo were still inexperienced at the uppermost level. Just one year at Derby for both of them, but Morris had spent time working with Chelsea’s youth players—something the club saw as massively beneficial due to the transfer ban at the time.
In North American sports—more so than in Europe—there is talk of “the rebuild” almost every year. It’s the couple of seasons where teams lose their best players and are forced to turn to youth and inexperience for the next couple of seasons. That is what Chelsea assumed it was getting into with Lampard. Eden Hazard left and the squad was the worst combination of inexperienced and aging, yet when Lampard guided the Blues to a surprising fourth place finish and Champions League qualification, reinforcements had to be made.
Enter Abramovich and cue the summer spending spree.
Lampard has gone from being a top—albeit inexperienced—dog at a small club in Derby to manager at one of the biggest clubs in football. He’s now attracted two of the most sought after players in the world; all in the span of less than 15 months. Talk about a crash course. A solid start to the campaign and then a 17-game unbeaten run. Forget the rebuild, the Blues weren’t even dark horse contenders for the Premier League, there were bona fide challengers.
Now the only person stressing the club was still rebuilding was Lampard himself, and so the string of woeful—even if expected—defeats started alarm bells at Chelsea. The perennial manager candidate names start cropping up. Talk of former Juventus manager Max Allegri and, of course, there can be no coaching change in SW6 without the name of Diego Simeone coming to the forefront. A portion of the rabid rabble of ‘#LampardOut’ fans on Twitter were calling for Maurizio Sarri, while a return to the Premier League for Mauricio Pochettino was cut short when he took over at Paris Saint-Germain. That meant that the recently deposed German from PSG, Thomas Tuchel, was being lined up as a possibility to take over from Lampard.
Since the FA Cup win over Morecambe, the noise has died down a little bit around Lampard’s future, but with a host of winnable Premier League games next on the cards for Chelsea, any stumbles could prove costly. It should come as a surprise then that, plucked from the ether, Grant falls back into the Blues’ headlights; or perhaps more aptly, the crossbeams coming from owner Abramovich’s yacht. Grant is not a managerial change to shout about, nor is it one that would send the paparazzi into overdrive. It’s a far cry from the glitz and glam usually associated with west London. That Abramovich seems to be the force behind bringing the former employee back into the club is why Lampard should be mindful.
Abramovich has never been far away from the decisions at perhaps his most prized possession, Chelsea Football Club. Attending every home game, until issues with the UK Government and his visa caused him to relocate to Israel, Abramovich was a constant at the club. When he wasn’t at Stamford Bridge, his most faithful right-hand woman, Marina Granovskaia, has been his eyes, ears and wallet. Even when Abramovich was in the stadium, Granovskaia was always close by. The point being that Abramovich cares immensely about the success of his beloved club. His patience with losing, or with managers that aren’t working, is less than short.
If behind closed doors, the Russian owner doesn’t have faith in Lampard, the same cannot be said of Grant. The Israeli national publicly backed Lampard on Instagram recently—but while the two have history, it’s important to note this is not Lampard making the call to bring him in, it’s Abramovich. Abramovich has touted the experience of Grant many times, and evidently trusts him with his club since he appointed him as manger in 2008. What should worry Lampard is that while Grant isn’t publicly angling for the job, he said he sees himself as more of a manager than behind the scenes.
All of this has come at the behest of Abramovich. Yet, what does it say of Abramovich’s trust in Lampard that the Russian billionaire is searching for some experience to bolster Chelsea’s coaching staff. An innocent attempt at making sure his football club is successful or a ploy from Abramovich to flex his control on the coaching staff he doesn’t appear to trust by inserting a trusted former employee with direct experience managing the club? Whatever the motive, coaching staff moves from a wheeling and dealing Abramovich should be cause for more concern to Lampard than any of the big names linked with the job at the Bridge.