Frank Lampard has done a very good job at Derby County.


It is very easy, from the outside at least, to look at the fact he inherited a squad that finished sixth in 2017-18 before Lampard took over, see that they finished sixth again under him and conclude that he has not changed much.



In fact, he has changed a lot.

The Job At Derby

Predecessor Gary Rowett leaned on a powerful, experienced spine: Scott Carson in goal, Richard Keogh and Curtis Davies at centre-back, Tom Huddlestone and Bradley Johnson as the double-pivot with David Nugent leading the line – the profile of players used necessitated a direct style of football.


After Rowett left for Stoke, chairman Mel Morris wanted to reduce the squad’s average age to help comply with Financial Fair Play – he sought a more possession-based brand of football, too.



Lampard appeared to share Morris’ values: he encouraged his team to play out from the back, to press high, to play at a fast tempo and to keep fans excited.


It is impressive that the rookie has not only overseen the required results to reach the Play-Off Final, but also manage the stylistic and personnel-based alterations.


For example, for all bar five of Derby’s games in 2019 he has played Kelle Roos in goal for his quality of distribution ahead of Scott Carson – arguably the more accomplished shot stopper – which shows Lampard has conviction in his beliefs.


It would have been easy to pick right-back Andre Wisdom, now experienced at Championship level, but instead he has plumped for the first-choice option of academy graduate Jayden Bogle in his debut season, mainly because of what he offers going forward.


The reason Lampard has been able to implement these changes so effectively is because he commands the respect of the players he coaches, partly through his footballing status but also because he speaks with real authority.


He can change games


Maurizio Sarri has one of the greatest minds in European football: he has enjoyed a lot of success in Italy without ever shopping at the top of the food chain.


He has delivered an attractive brand of football with each of his previous teams, who have all shown the capacity to play out from the back then slickly play through the press.


However, where Sarri has perhaps struggled at Chelsea is in the way he implements his ideas.


The Italian is very consumed by precise details and perhaps gets frustrated when his system is not being executed in the right way, rather than being able to step back, see the bigger picture and consider what needs to change.


By contrast, Lampard replaced midfielder Duane Holmes with striker Jack Marriott in the first half last Wednesday, when his side were two goals down in the tie – Marriott scored within a minute of coming on and grabbed a brace as the game changed in Derby’s favour, showing Lampard’s flexibility.



Lampard will develop top EFL talent


The Blues are likely to serve the next two transfer windows under an embargo, which means they will not be able to make new signings – if Eden Hazard were to leave, they will not be able to find a direct replacement straight away.


For that reason, they need a manager with the skill set to develop future stars – something Chelsea have not done particularly well under Roman Abramovich’s 15-year reign as chairman.


They do, though, have plenty of players in their ranks who have not been used in the first team, yet have the long-term potential to be world-class.


Tammy Abraham, for example, is a better, more athletic and potent centre-forward than Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata and arguably Olivier Giroud right now – at 21, the Aston Villa loanee has far more scope to improve than each of those players and should perhaps already be in the XI.



Cesar Azpilicueta starts almost every game at right-back for his influence as captain yet his attacking contributions are relatively limited in comparison with 20-year-old Reece James, who has had an outstanding season with Wigan Athletic – Dujon Sterling is another quick, exciting talent for that position.


If Kepa Arrizabalaga had failed to respect Lampard’s instructions, the boss would not have been afraid to blood Bradley Collins, who has had an outstanding season on loan at Burton, moving impressive teenager Nathan Baxter further up the pecking order too.


Mateo Kovacic has started 35 games this season in all forms as an advanced midfielder, yet has created little and scored no goals – Mason Mount would be a far better option after being such a driving creative force in Derby’s midfield.


Fikayo Tomori, also on loan at Derby County, would be a strong centre-back option for his ball-playing qualities.


Chelsea have a host of potential future world-class performers right under their nose – and with the transfer ban, they have a wonderful opportunity to blood the cream of the crop.


Introducing young players with a view to reaching the elite level is a project that will take one or two years of transition, during which time an element of patience with the manager will be required.


It is difficult to see Chelsea fans having that patience with Sarri, who has perhaps not inspired them in quite the way they might have hoped and a bad run next season would leave some calling for change.


Under Lampard, there will be perhaps a greater incentive for supporters to stay behind the team during the testing periods that inevitably come their way – stability is required for Chelsea to build a team that can challenge Manchester City.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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