The Liverpool Offside: The biggest storyline of Chelsea’s offseason has seemingly continued into the beginning of the season. They sacked Sarri and replaced him with some guy named Frank Lampard. How’s Frank doing in charge? Are the kids going to be alright?
We Ain’t Got No History: I must admit I hated the idea of signing Lampard, if only because it seemed an obvious setup to ruining a relationship with one of Chelsea’s most important figures. Though that’s still a concern — we are, after all, Chelsea Football Club — I like what he’s doing/trying to do. Pulling Chelsea into this era of rapid football is not easy, even Maurizio Sarri struggled, but Frank will should get time if for no other reason than our situation (Eden Hazard and Sarri bolting, the transfer ban, a squad that’s needed replenishing for several years, etc.).
As for the kids, well, they’ve scored all of our Premier League goals. Which is equal measures fun, worrying, and hilarious.
TLO: What are your realistic expectations for this season?
WAGNH: I know as a delusional Chelsea fan (some might say that’s an oxymoron) I’m supposed to answer ‘TO LIFT A TROPHY AND FIGHT TIL THE END.’ But though this club has surprised me before en route to hardware, not only is this very much a transitional period, but two PL teams are essentially untouchable and the rest improved their squads (at least incrementally), meanwhile Chelsea is relying on a couple academy players to churn out the production of +£50m players.
The other trouble with predicting outcomes is that we’re still learning about Frank as a manager, and he’s doing the same. He’s already shown tactical flexibility in switching to a 343 to completely neutralize Wolves last weekend, but believed in it too much, used it against Valencia in the Champions League, and lost. Speaking of which European competition, my prediction for next season is a return to Thursday night football.
TLO: This Christian Pulisic kid is all the rage in America. He started a few games but hasn’t played recently. Does that make him the next Freddy Adu or is he taking time to adapt to a new league?
WAGNH: Excuse me, we don’t say that name around these parts — ever — EVER!
As for Christian Pulisic, I genuinely would not want to be him right now. It has to be such a weight to exist beneath the expectations of an entire nation that only cares about a sport still climbing its way from the fringe (with regards to men’s football) when you’re excelling and giving them a reason to wave the flag around. It’s what he wanted and what he felt he was ready for, but it’s real now, and coping with it is another thing entirely.
Another factor is Lampard’s instructions for his wide players, who are playing more like inside forwards, which isn’t Pulisic’s strength in European football (yet). A lot of his touches tell the story that he hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the league quite yet; which is fine, it’s five matches old and he’s started three. Also, for what it’s worth, his best match was against Liverpool in the Super Cup (his goal was not offside and you all know it!), so even if he only plays well against you Reds then it is still money — and patience — well spent.