Friday, September 6, 2019

Is Frank Lampard turning into the new Tim Sherwood?

The similarities between the men run much deeper than defensive naivety

CHELSEA'S collapse at home to Sheffield United was unforeseeable and yet completely predictable at the same time. The Blues are expected to win every match played at Stamford Bridge, especially one which saw them 2-0 up at half-time, but the start to Frank Lampard’s tenure at the club has hinted at a soft core. Just as they did against Leicester City, Chelsea were pegged back in the second half.
Four games into the 2019/20 Premier League season and Lampard has only led his side to one win. This season was always likely to be one of transition for Chelsea, but the former midfielder is already facing questions. There have been moments of promise, most notably through Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, but this has been countered by an extreme sense of naivety.
Lampard continues to talk a good game, but the performances of his team haven’t been so convincing. He is at risk of turning into Chelsea’s Tim Sherwood, a man who had good intentions for Tottenham Hotspur, but was ultimately found out at the top level. The former England international lasted just six months in the job, failing to organise a team good enough to make a mark at the top end of the Premier League.
Parallels can be drawn between the two men. As Spurs boss, Sherwood placed an emphasis on youth, fast-tracking a number of academy graduates into the first team, and wanted Tottenham to play an expansive, modern style of football. These are things Lampard also wants for Chelsea.
There are even similarities between the two men in terms of their public persona. Indeed, there is more than a hint of middle-class sensibility to both Lampard and Sherwood, although the Chelsea manager has yet to be spotted in a gilet on the touchline. Sherwood was quicker to borrow a cliche, to come up with a soundbite, but he, just like Lampard, articulated things through idealism.
Of course, having taken Derby County to the Championship play-off final last season Lampard was appointed Chelsea manager with more of a managerial track record than Sherwood was at Spurs. Sherwood was a shot in the dark, while Lampard’s hiring was more of a calculated gamble. Nonetheless, the Blues boss must ensure he doesn’t make the mistakes Sherwood did.
Chelsea’s defence must be Lampard’s first point of order. Jose Mourinho pointed out after the opening weekend thrashing at the hands of Manchester United that the Blues did not perform even the “basics” and there has been little sign of an improvement on that front in the three games since. 
It’s possible that Chelsea’s defensive frailty is down to personnel rather than tactics. Kurt Zouma, for instance, looks somewhat out of his depth as a first-team figure for the Blues, with Cesar Azpilicueta also highly suspect over the early part of the new season. The return of Anthony Rudiger from injury could help steady things.
Some have benefited from Lampard’s stewardship - most notably Abraham, Mount and Mateo Kovacic - but there are parallels to be drawn with Sherwood here too. In retrospect, he provided a platform for Mauricio Pochettino to build on. It was, after all, Sherwood who gave Harry Kane his first chance in the Spurs first team. That has paid off in the long term.
The opportunities afforded to Chelsea’s youngsters by Lampard early on this season will give the club with a basis for the future, but there’s no guarantee that the 41-year-old will be the one to lead them into that future. Only four games of the new season have been played and it already feels like Lampard is fighting for that right. 

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