Few expected a youthful squad at Stamford Bridge to position themselves among the Premier League frontrunners this season, but that is where they are
Frank Lampard admits Chelsea are “slightly ahead of the curve” as his youthful Blues squad continue to exceed expectations in 2019-20.
Having been stung with a two-window transfer ban and seen Maurizio Sarri leave for Juventus, those at Stamford Bridge found themselves facing up to an uncertain future.
Assistance and inspiration was sought from a club legend, with Lampard brought back to familiar surroundings over the summer.
With his hands tied when it comes to recruitment, the Blues icon took the decision to place considerable trust in promising academy graduates.
That faith has been richly rewarded, with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount starring on the Premier League stage.
It has not been completely smooth sailing for Chelsea, with a 2-1 defeat suffered in their most recent outing away at Manchester City, but Lampard’s side are sat inside the top four.
That is considered to be positive progress, with their relatively inexperienced coach telling the Blues’ official website of a team that remains on a steep learning curve: “It’s hard to explain my expectation at the start of the season, because until you’ve worked daily with the players – and you bring players who were playing in the Championship last year and younger players that have never been here – you don’t quite know how that’s going to drop and how it ends up.
“I’ve been really happy with a lot of our stuff this season, so maybe that means we’re slightly ahead of the curve.
“But in football, the curve will go downhill very fast if you don’t keep on yourself and take a lot of the lessons from this game and move forward. Now our test is: can we really bounce back from a defeat when we’re used to winning? That’s another challenge for us all.”
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Lampard admits to being disappointed at seeing Chelsea edged out at the Etihad Stadium, having restricted Pep Guardiola to a career-low when it comes to possession, but is expecting a positive response from his players in a Champions League clash with Valencia and derby date with West Ham.
He added: “The feeling in the dressing room [after the City defeat], it looked like they were very disappointed. That’s probably a simple answer, because we lost, but also I think they expect a lot of themselves.
“I think they will take an amount of confidence, but where we want to go to means that we might come here and win, and it might mean we can actually win titles going forward. I like to see them disappointed – it just shows the next question is the reaction we have.
“I expected us to compete in the game, because I’ve been watching us training daily, getting performances and playing well. I’m confident in the players we’ve got. I wanted us to win, so I probably haven’t changed my [long-term] mindset too much.
“I know this Premier League is hard and next week against West Ham will be a huge challenge, different to this, but we have to try and win it. I don’t want to jump ahead of ourselves. We’ll just go back to the training ground, back to our work and see where we can get to.”