Tashreeq Vardien

Frank's formula starting to tick at Chelsea?

2019-10-30 13:15
Mason Mount, Frank Lampard and Tammy Abraham
Mason Mount, Frank Lampard and Tammy Abraham (Getty Images)

Cape Town - It's June 2003 and the blue side of London is brimming with hope as billionaire Roman Abramovich becomes the new owner of Chelsea.

On the other end of 'The Old Smoke', the red side are on a high following Arsenal's triumphant Premier League title win.

To show his seriousness in wanting Chelsea to challenge for silverware, the Russian businessman opened his cheque book and spent £121.3 million on transfers that included Glen Johnson, Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Juan Sebastian Veron, Joe Cole, Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo, Claude Makelele and Scott Parker.

However, 12-months later, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger emphatically retained England's top crown with an unbeaten 38-match Premier League campaign - a feat never achieved before.

Despite the heavy investment in players, Chelsea experienced a turbulent year as Claudio Ranieri’s four-year stint came to an end following a sixth-place finish. Abramovich gave the go-ahead for the plan to revamp the training ground and academy complex.

Jose Mourinho then introduced himself to the Premier League in June 2004 - less than a month after guiding FC Porto to the Champions League title against AS Monaco.

The 'Special One', as he dubbed himself upon his arrival, delivered immediately and quickly become a fan favourite.

The Portuguese maestro guided Chelsea to their first league crown in 50 years at the end of the 2004/05 campaign.

An expenditure of £92.2 million on transfers that season paid dividends with Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Arjen Robben, Tiago, Didier Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho all playing crucial roles alongside captain John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard.

More of the same

What followed next was Mourinho retaining the league crown after a total of £54.2 million was spent in the transfer window with the chunk of the cash being splashed on the purchase of Michael Essien.

In 2007, Mourinho's relationship with owner Abramovich turned sour and the manager was sacked.

Abramovich had coughed up nearly £250 million on transfers during Mourinho's tenure.

Meanwhile, Chelsea's academy complex, Cobham Training Centre, began to take shape and the grounds were officially opened in 2008, at a reported cost of around £20 million for the 140-acre site revamp.

By 2012, his ninth year as owner, Abramovich's overall transfer bill since purchasing the club stood at just under £597.2 million which was already more than what former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (£546.8 million) spent on players during his entire 26 years at the Red Devils.

However, Chelsea's purchases paid off as former player-turned coach Roberto Di Matteo helped guide the Blues to a Cup double - the FA Cup and Champions League - the latter a trophy Abramovich had been obsessed about winning.

Di Matteo only lasted nine months before the axe fell as managers under Abramovich's ownership continued to fail to last beyond four years in charge of the team.

Mourinho remains Abramovich's longest-serving manager - three years and four months.

The 'Special One' returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013 after Rafael Benitez had taken over from Di Matteo on an interim basis.

It was during Mourinho's second tenure where the media began to probe why he refused to use players from the club's highly successful academy. Mourinho, in typical emphatic fashion, defended his philosophy and said that he indeed did use players from the youth system.

Nearly six years before his return, Chelsea's academy had won three FA Youth Cup's (2009/10, 2011/12, 2013/14) signalling that Abramovich's investment was bearing fruit. Chelsea's academy then claimed five consecutive FA Youth Cup's from 2013/14 until 2017/18 before Liverpool ended that reign during the 2018/19 campaign.

Frank takes a different route

In February, Chelsea were found guilty of breaching rules regarding the signing of under-18 overseas players and were fined £510 000 and banned for two transfer windows (June-August 2019 and January 2020).

The formula that had so-often assisted the club in maintaining their position in world football was taken away from them for a full year.

*Note: The European transfer windows are June until the end of August and then club's are allowed another month - January - in the middle of the season to buy and sell players once again.

Italian-born coach Maurizio Sarri, who arrived three years after Mourinho's second tenure in 2018, was lured by Abramovich to Chelsea.

However, the former Napoli manager was not a favourite with the club's fans and was often embroiled in scoffs with players and the English media.

Despite guiding the Blues to the UEFA Europa League crown, Sarri left London after just one season as Serie A giants Juventus came calling.

Abramovich then turned to former Blues legend Frank Lampard, offering him a three-year contract.

The 41-year-old Lampard had spent one season impressing on-lookers at Derby County in the Championship as he guided the Rams to a Premier League Promotional playoff final against Aston Villa with the help of on-loan Chelsea academy graduates Mason Mount and the Rams' 2018/19 Player of the Year, Fikayo Tomori.

However, it was Villa, who had Tammy Abraham on-loan, who claimed promotion to the top flight while Derby lost Lampard, Mount and Tomori to the Blues.

Lampard's first match on the biggest stage was a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, despite the defeat, there were glimpses of what Chelsea could do under Lampard's guidance.

Abraham, who was the joint-second top scorer in the Championship with 25 goals, struck the woodwork twice in that match with Mount putting in a great shift in Chelsea's colours.

Just three months into the current season and Chelsea's academy graduates are playing a starring role, and, despite the transfer ban, the Blues are currently on a seven-match win-streak in all competitions.

And in the wings, more graduates wait for minutes in Lampard's side with the injured Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Reece James and the exciting Cullum Hudson-Odoi eager to show their abilities.

Chelsea's recent 4-2 away win against plucky Burnley at Turf Moor showed just how much things have changed under Lampard with American Christian Pulisic stealing the headlines with his hat-trick.

The 20-year-old was Chelsea's only purchase from Borussia Dortmund in the 2019 January transfer window before the Blues were found guilty a month later and slapped with their transfer ban.

But that transfer ban has become a blessing in disguise.

Lampard's 4-3-3 formation which worked so well at Derby was not anything new for the Blues as they had used it under previous managers.

"I set out this season to see what these young boys could do," Lampard said ahead of Chelsea's Carabao League Cup clash against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

"If I didn't have a transfer ban and came to this club and had opportunities to bring players in during the summer, I still would have trusted the young boys and would have made decisions around that."

When their transfer ban is lifted in June 2020, Chelsea will need reinforcements to keep up with the rest of the Premier League's 'Big Six' but for now, Lampard gets to showcase the club's current crop of young players.

Tashreeq Vardien works at Sport24 and is a paper basketball dustbin champion... Follow Tashreeq on Twitter.


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