With a busy international summer underway, Frank Lampard’s rumored appointment as the manager of Chelsea FC has slowly been making the rounds. After just one year of managerial experience in last year’s failed promotion bid with Derby County, fans and pundits alike have wondered whether he is the right person for a club that has so clearly fallen behind the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool FC.
By Greg McKay
The appointment of Lampard at Chelsea would be a highly unusual choice for an owner that so often goes after the big name managers in Europe. Coaches with bags of top-level experience like Scolari, Ancelotti, Hiddink and Mourinho have all graced the sidelines at Stamford Bridge under Roman Abramovich’s reign. Lampard, on the other hand, has managed a grand total of fifty-seven matches for Derby County in England’s Championship.
Though experience doesn’t equate to competence or results, the managers who have successfully led other top clubs to silverware have a certain authority with the players and more importantly the ability to navigate the complicated inner workings of the multi-billion dollar enterprises that are EPL football clubs.
Though Lampard spent years with Chelsea and Manchester City in England as a player, he will be facing a steep learning curve in terms of front office experience.
Lampard’s relative inexperience, however, may be part of the reason he has been voiced as the likely successor to Sarri. Chelsea FC are miles behind Liverpool and Manchester City and facing a potential transfer ban, not to mention the fact that the club lost its best player in Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. The rest of the squad consists of either aging squad players or promising young talents.
No reasonable observer could see Chelsea competing for an EPL title in the next several years, nor attracting a true world-class candidate. Lampard showed an ability to put trust in, and develop, young talents at Derby and may be able to do the same with Chelsea’s squad, without necessarily pushing for a title immediately.
The real challenge for Chelsea, and Abramovich in particular, will be how to deal with the inevitable struggles that lie ahead for Lampard and Chelsea. While patience is a virtue that Abramovich certainly does not possess, the size of his ego has never been in question. It is difficult to see Abramovich sitting by if Lampard does not challenge for top four next season. Other more seasoned managers like Benitez may be anticipating a call by Christmas time.
For Lampard, on the other hand, the Chelsea job is no doubt a dream appointment but one wonders if the window opened too soon. After seeing former club legends like Zidane and Guardiola find massive success after relatively minimal managerial experience with reserve teams at Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, the world of European soccer has seen a wave of nostalgic managerial appointments with mixed results, most recently Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s at Manchester United.
The better model for Lampard to follow may be none other than his former England midfield partner and Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard, who after cutting his teeth in a role with Liverpool’s academy has been managing the storied Glasgow Rangers.
Managing a club that has won more titles than any other team in Scotland but struggled in recent years has presented Gerrard with a real challenge. The fact that he has brought Glasgow Rangers back into contention for league titles shows his growth as a manager. No doubt Gerrard will get a chance to manage Liverpool and may be in a much better position to be successful than if he jumped in prematurely.
The status Lampard holds at Chelsea means if he showed promise as a manager he’d always get a chance at leading the club but if he fails in a first stint, that opportunity may not come around again.
Regardless, the move, if finalized, would present just one more tantalizing storyline heading into next year’s EPL season.