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Frank Lampard Chelsea manager: The conversation with Roman Abramovich that got Blues legend the job

Frank Lampard Chelsea manager: The conversation with Roman Abramovich that got Blues legend the job

It is a Chelsea manager with a difference that stems from a conversation with a difference.

When Roman Abramovich has his customary conversation with prospective appointments, the discussion is usually about the club’s objectives, and the club’s signings. Not so with Frank Lampard, the first English manager of the Russian’s era, but also – crucially – the first former Chelsea player to take over in the Russian’s era. Maybe the greatest Chelsea legend at that. Abramovich did not issue any major objectives as regards trophies, because the club can’t make signings with the transfer ban. What is said to have struck the Russian was that Lampard did not see this as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity; a challenge.

The vibe is very much let’s see what we can do with what we’ve got, which is still a very good squad, with a lot of very good young talent coming through.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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Crucial to this conversation were Abramovich’s guarantees that Lampard will not be judged on his first season, which is likely to be a difficult one. The former captain can of course take this at face value, because he has a long relationship with the Chelsea owner, and a much better one than any previous manager.

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1/26 Chelsea 2018/19 player ratings

How did Chelsea’s players perform this season? Ahead of their final match of the 2018/19 campaign, the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, we give each member of the Blues’ squad a rating out of 10.

EPA

2/26 Maurizio Sarri 7/10

A shortened pre-season as his arrival dragged on throughout the summer, Sarri hit the ground running, attempted to change a decade-long style and, eventually, provided invaluable minutes to academy graduates Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – something the fanbase has craved for years. His stubbornness and lack of variety frustrated many, but eventually he adjusted, pushing City mightily close in the League Cup final and leading the Blues to third and the Europa League final. A satisfactory debut season under difficult circumstances

Getty Images

3/26 Kepa Arrizabalaga 7/10

He arrived with the enormous weight and expectation from his price tag as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Yet Kepa settled quickly, making very few mistakes and proving quietly productive with his feet. The incident at Wembley to not accept Maurizio Sarri’s substitution vs Man City was regretful, yet he bounced back and was pivotal in ensuring the Blues won the shoot-out vs Frankfurt to reach the Europa League final. Still a long way to go to justify the price tag and prove Chelsea have a long-term solution, but he’s made a decent start

Bongarts/Getty Images

4/26 Willy Caballero 7/10

Handled the Kepa fiasco maturely and proved reliable when he stepped in, five clean sheets in eight appearances – about as solid as you can find as a No 2 without the realistic ambition to surpass the No 1

Getty Images

5/26 Rob Green n/a

No first team appearances, but seemingly slotted in to his role and proved likable in the dressing room. A send-off in Boston in the friendly vs New England Revolution was deserved

Getty Images

6/26 Antonio Rudiger 8/10

Emerging as one of the top five centre-backs in the Premier League with little fanfare. Excellent at recovering, efficient with the ball and even able to stroll out from the back, a cornerstone for Chelsea moving forward. Cruelly denied

REUTERS

7/26 Marcos Alonso 5/10

A season of regression with his place now under serious threat despite signing a new five-year deal. Productive nonetheless with four goals and seven assists, but a liability at times when defending

Getty Images

8/26 Emerson 6/10

Has impressed Sarri enough to nudge Alonso out of the starting line-up at times, but is yet to fully lock down a starting role. Has at least proven to be decent competition and cover

EPA

9/26 Cesar Azpilicueta 6/10

Has shown signs of decline but still a favourite under Sarri. Starting to show defensive fragility for almost the first time in his Chelsea career and when the side became predictable, his lack of penetration going forward became evident

Getty Images

10/26 Davide Zappacosta 5/10

Has been an option late in games when Chelsea are chasing and can cross well from deep areas, but will surely be moved on this summer with Reece James and/or Ola Aina natural squad options

Getty Images

11/26 Andreas Christensen 5/10

Has been frustrated at his lack of starts behind Luiz and Rudiger. Has filled in well to an extent when called upon though, but lacked consistency

Action Images via Reuters

12/26 David Luiz 7/10

Has been Sarri’s mind on the pitch and key to the style transition. Very few defenders better with the ball at their feet and for that reason his extension has proven shrewd. Occasional lack of concentration, but that will not change at this stage of his career. One of the few leaders left at Chelsea and was pivotal in stopping this side fully unravel at times

REUTERS

13/26 Gary Cahill 5/10

Harshly treated by Sarri, but not a fit for the way he wanted to play, will be fondly remembered after winning everything with the Blues and eventually received the send-off he deserved

EPA

14/26 Jorginho 6/10

Started brilliantly to inspire a new style at the Bridge. But has been treated ridiculously by some Chelsea fans, who have bizarrely booed him at times this season. Responded well in the last few months and appears to have now settled, will play a vital role in the outcome in Baku

PA

15/26 N’Golo Kante 7/10

Embraced his new, more adventurous role to the right of Jorginho. Added craft to his game and his energy was critical to Sarriball showing promising signs in year one. Injury is a concern ahead of Baku, but he seems set to recover in time

Action Images via Reuters

16/26 Mateo Kovacic 6/10

Has not shone much, but always reliable in possession. Just lacks that cutting edge in the final third and has almost no production in terms of goals and assists despite the freedom of his role. Sarri remains a fan and they will try to sign him permanently

Getty

17/26 Ethan Ampadu 6/10

The Blues youngster was part of the first team squad throughout the season and impressed in the Europa League: brave on the ball and demonstrating excellent positioning – hasn’t played since suffering a back injury in February

Getty

18/26 Ruben Loftus-Cheek 8/10

Flourished in the second half of the season to show real signs he can blossom into one of the game’s best box-to-box midfielders, scoring 10 goals in the process. Cruelly injured before the Europa League final and will be out for many months with an Achilles injury

AFP/Getty Images

19/26 Ross Barkley 6/10

Scored the late equaliser vs United and won his England place back, but rarely felt like a ‘starter’, doing little to justify leaving out Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic for long spells. Will need to step it up next season or he will likely be moved on

Getty Images

20/26 Pedro 7/10

Scored 12 goals and made five assists. His strikes against Tottenham and Frankfurt proved especially important and with Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud blunting the Blues’ attack, he has emerged as probably the best finisher in this squad, supporting the burden on Eden Hazard

EPA

21/26 Gonzalo Higuain 5/10

Has not settled at all, looking slow and offering little outside his movement inside the area, he looks set to return to Turin this summer, even if the transfer ban is held

Getty Images

22/26 Olivier Giroud 7/10

Unable to convince Sarri he was worth a permanent role to spearhead the side’s attack, yet always proving useful when called upon, especially so in the Europa League, where he became the top scorer in the competition with 10 goals alongside Luka Jovic – deserved a longer run in the side in the league

PA

23/26 Alvaro Morata 4/10

Suffered a woeful spell of form and loss of confidence and eventually accepted a move to Atletico in January. Ends his Chelsea career with 24 goals in 72 appearances

Getty

24/26 Callum Hudson-Odoi 7/10

He had to show great patience before a sustained run in the side came, but he justified the hype and showed himself to be worth of starts ahead of Pedro and Willian at times. Quick feet and a refreshing willingness to go on the outside and cross the ball – which would have helped Higuain and Giroud in the closing stages of the season. Will be forced to show more mental resolve to come back from an Achilles injury next season, with his future yet to be clarified entering the final year of his contract

Getty Images

25/26 Willian 6/10

A frustrating presence in the side during Chelsea’s predictable spell when sides began to work out Sarriball and also blocked Hudson-Odoi’s opportunities at times. Still provides hard work and neat in possession, but rarely able to provide a cutting edge. Another player with an uncertain future and only one year remaining on his contract

REUTERS

26/26 Eden Hazard 9/10

Outstanding at times and back to the form to suggest he is the best player in the Premier League, has done enough to earn his move to Real Madrid and will be sorely missed. Without him and his 19 goals and 16 assists, Chelsea would have surely fallen short of top four and been unable to compete with Man City in two of their three meetings

REUTERS

1/26 Chelsea 2018/19 player ratings

How did Chelsea’s players perform this season? Ahead of their final match of the 2018/19 campaign, the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, we give each member of the Blues’ squad a rating out of 10.

EPA

2/26 Maurizio Sarri 7/10

A shortened pre-season as his arrival dragged on throughout the summer, Sarri hit the ground running, attempted to change a decade-long style and, eventually, provided invaluable minutes to academy graduates Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – something the fanbase has craved for years. His stubbornness and lack of variety frustrated many, but eventually he adjusted, pushing City mightily close in the League Cup final and leading the Blues to third and the Europa League final. A satisfactory debut season under difficult circumstances

Getty Images

3/26 Kepa Arrizabalaga 7/10

He arrived with the enormous weight and expectation from his price tag as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Yet Kepa settled quickly, making very few mistakes and proving quietly productive with his feet. The incident at Wembley to not accept Maurizio Sarri’s substitution vs Man City was regretful, yet he bounced back and was pivotal in ensuring the Blues won the shoot-out vs Frankfurt to reach the Europa League final. Still a long way to go to justify the price tag and prove Chelsea have a long-term solution, but he’s made a decent start

Bongarts/Getty Images

4/26 Willy Caballero 7/10

Handled the Kepa fiasco maturely and proved reliable when he stepped in, five clean sheets in eight appearances – about as solid as you can find as a No 2 without the realistic ambition to surpass the No 1

Getty Images

5/26 Rob Green n/a

No first team appearances, but seemingly slotted in to his role and proved likable in the dressing room. A send-off in Boston in the friendly vs New England Revolution was deserved

Getty Images

6/26 Antonio Rudiger 8/10

Emerging as one of the top five centre-backs in the Premier League with little fanfare. Excellent at recovering, efficient with the ball and even able to stroll out from the back, a cornerstone for Chelsea moving forward. Cruelly denied

REUTERS

7/26 Marcos Alonso 5/10

A season of regression with his place now under serious threat despite signing a new five-year deal. Productive nonetheless with four goals and seven assists, but a liability at times when defending

Getty Images

8/26 Emerson 6/10

Has impressed Sarri enough to nudge Alonso out of the starting line-up at times, but is yet to fully lock down a starting role. Has at least proven to be decent competition and cover

EPA

9/26 Cesar Azpilicueta 6/10

Has shown signs of decline but still a favourite under Sarri. Starting to show defensive fragility for almost the first time in his Chelsea career and when the side became predictable, his lack of penetration going forward became evident

Getty Images

10/26 Davide Zappacosta 5/10

Has been an option late in games when Chelsea are chasing and can cross well from deep areas, but will surely be moved on this summer with Reece James and/or Ola Aina natural squad options

Getty Images

11/26 Andreas Christensen 5/10

Has been frustrated at his lack of starts behind Luiz and Rudiger. Has filled in well to an extent when called upon though, but lacked consistency

Action Images via Reuters

12/26 David Luiz 7/10

Has been Sarri’s mind on the pitch and key to the style transition. Very few defenders better with the ball at their feet and for that reason his extension has proven shrewd. Occasional lack of concentration, but that will not change at this stage of his career. One of the few leaders left at Chelsea and was pivotal in stopping this side fully unravel at times

REUTERS

13/26 Gary Cahill 5/10

Harshly treated by Sarri, but not a fit for the way he wanted to play, will be fondly remembered after winning everything with the Blues and eventually received the send-off he deserved

EPA

14/26 Jorginho 6/10

Started brilliantly to inspire a new style at the Bridge. But has been treated ridiculously by some Chelsea fans, who have bizarrely booed him at times this season. Responded well in the last few months and appears to have now settled, will play a vital role in the outcome in Baku

PA

15/26 N’Golo Kante 7/10

Embraced his new, more adventurous role to the right of Jorginho. Added craft to his game and his energy was critical to Sarriball showing promising signs in year one. Injury is a concern ahead of Baku, but he seems set to recover in time

Action Images via Reuters

16/26 Mateo Kovacic 6/10

Has not shone much, but always reliable in possession. Just lacks that cutting edge in the final third and has almost no production in terms of goals and assists despite the freedom of his role. Sarri remains a fan and they will try to sign him permanently

Getty

17/26 Ethan Ampadu 6/10

The Blues youngster was part of the first team squad throughout the season and impressed in the Europa League: brave on the ball and demonstrating excellent positioning – hasn’t played since suffering a back injury in February

Getty

18/26 Ruben Loftus-Cheek 8/10

Flourished in the second half of the season to show real signs he can blossom into one of the game’s best box-to-box midfielders, scoring 10 goals in the process. Cruelly injured before the Europa League final and will be out for many months with an Achilles injury

AFP/Getty Images

19/26 Ross Barkley 6/10

Scored the late equaliser vs United and won his England place back, but rarely felt like a ‘starter’, doing little to justify leaving out Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic for long spells. Will need to step it up next season or he will likely be moved on

Getty Images

20/26 Pedro 7/10

Scored 12 goals and made five assists. His strikes against Tottenham and Frankfurt proved especially important and with Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud blunting the Blues’ attack, he has emerged as probably the best finisher in this squad, supporting the burden on Eden Hazard

EPA

21/26 Gonzalo Higuain 5/10

Has not settled at all, looking slow and offering little outside his movement inside the area, he looks set to return to Turin this summer, even if the transfer ban is held

Getty Images

22/26 Olivier Giroud 7/10

Unable to convince Sarri he was worth a permanent role to spearhead the side’s attack, yet always proving useful when called upon, especially so in the Europa League, where he became the top scorer in the competition with 10 goals alongside Luka Jovic – deserved a longer run in the side in the league

PA

23/26 Alvaro Morata 4/10

Suffered a woeful spell of form and loss of confidence and eventually accepted a move to Atletico in January. Ends his Chelsea career with 24 goals in 72 appearances

Getty

24/26 Callum Hudson-Odoi 7/10

He had to show great patience before a sustained run in the side came, but he justified the hype and showed himself to be worth of starts ahead of Pedro and Willian at times. Quick feet and a refreshing willingness to go on the outside and cross the ball – which would have helped Higuain and Giroud in the closing stages of the season. Will be forced to show more mental resolve to come back from an Achilles injury next season, with his future yet to be clarified entering the final year of his contract

Getty Images

25/26 Willian 6/10

A frustrating presence in the side during Chelsea’s predictable spell when sides began to work out Sarriball and also blocked Hudson-Odoi’s opportunities at times. Still provides hard work and neat in possession, but rarely able to provide a cutting edge. Another player with an uncertain future and only one year remaining on his contract

REUTERS

26/26 Eden Hazard 9/10

Outstanding at times and back to the form to suggest he is the best player in the Premier League, has done enough to earn his move to Real Madrid and will be sorely missed. Without him and his 19 goals and 16 assists, Chelsea would have surely fallen short of top four and been unable to compete with Man City in two of their three meetings

REUTERS

The key is that it does not just give Lampard time, however, but also gives Chelsea time.

That is the value of appointing such a figure, at such a complicated time.

It means this is a rare case of so much aligning for all parties, almost because the club are going through such difficulties. After a spell of such discord under Maurizio Sarri, they have a manager who will enjoy complete support from the crowd.

He has been given the rare room to err, and that has in turn given the club the space to evolve.

He’s also been given sufficient internal support for all of this.

Lampard and the Chelsea owner have a close relationship (Getty)

Chelsea have effectively done what Manchester United have been striving to do for so long, and very quickly introduced a modern technical structure around their manager, populated by likeable – but also extremely shrewd – figures.

Jody Morris will help with the tactics as well as the promotion of young players, with the former midfielder also enjoying the major benefit of having worked in the club’s youth system before.

Didier Drogba will help with the running of the team, and to set a certain standard and Petr Cech will meanwhile help with the technical planning, and liaise with Marina Granavskaia.

This is effectively what United have been idealising with former players like Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand… and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba were part of Chelsea’s most successful team (Getty)

Which brings us to Lampard, and one of the more interesting questions about this choice, and all similar such choices.

A large part of the appeal with Lampard is that, just like Solskjaer, he is a unity candidate. His very appointment just brings everyone together after such a difficult time. It has an obvious power.

But, as we’ve seen with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, and even Solskjaer already with United, that power only goes so far.

It remains relatively superficial, against football’s only real truth: results.

So, it has to go deeper.

Chelsea are implementing the structure that Manchester United have tried and failed to build (PA)

And it raises a deeper issue with this growing trend of inexperienced playing legends taking over at their former club.

Part of the appeal is, and why they are “unity candidates”, is how well they know the clubs, but also how they know what to say.

We’ve all heard the appeals to history, the anecdotes about the ultimate education being having worked with the greats.

Lampard, as befitting someone who so looks and sounds the part, has already made all the right noises in this regard.

At a recent Nordoff-Robbins charity dinner to celebrate his playing career, he spoke predictably well about all his former Chelsea managers, and how he picked up something off all of them. There was the tactical mind of Claudio Ranieri, the will and drive of Jose Mourinho, and even the humanity of Avram Grant.

It raised the tantalising theory that Abramovich’s very willingness to so quickly discard Chelsea managers may have actually helped create the most fully-formed Chelsea manager.

Except the issue with just copying your previous managers is that you end up as a mere photocopy.

Lampard’s management style has been popular with the players he has worked with (Getty)

Being able to draw on such predecessors is really only valuable as regards more specific cases of micro-management, how to deal with certain problems.

The macro of management, however, is about something deeper within a coach – that can’t really be copied, or even learned. Taking some example on doesn’t necessarily mean taking it in.

Management is really about personal charisma, decision-making, ideas, and being able to implement them.

It is why Solskjaer can talk at length about what Sir Alex Ferguson would do, but never really know why he does it.

This is why it all goes so much deeper.

This is the real interest of appointments like this. This is the true intrigue of Lampard’s time at Chelsea, once we’re past this initial season.

There, he will do everything desired. As with his personality, he will tick all the boxes. He will finally bring through the graduates. He will guide the club through a difficult period, while re-asserting its standards. He will excite the support more than anyone else, at what otherwise would have been the most unexciting and depressing time.

But, again, those are all relative superficialities.

The real difference will go much deeper.

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