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Prodigal son he might not be, but Frank Lampard is certainly an all-time favourite offspring at Stamford Bridge and his return to Chelsea as their manager is a homecoming story like no other. Yet, in the season that one darling returned to take up the slippery reins of the club, another departed for greener pastures and left behind a gargantuan void that the South London club will struggle to fill; especially with a transfer ban curtailing them from using their normally-deep pockets in the market and finding a replacement.
But, is it even possible to replace one of the best wingers in the planet who was also a talismanic presence in the club for aeons? Clearly, Eden Hazard’s big-money move to that all-consuming magnet of the best in the business, Real Madrid, is not just a loss in football terms, but also a psychological body-blow.
Hazard joined the club in 2012, while still a young talent rising up the echelons, and became the powerhouse that he is, at Chelsea. He won a ton of individual and collective honours for the club and departed after guiding the team to a final Europa League triumph last season with a 4-1 hammering of London rivals Arsenal.
Chelsea players during a pre-season friendly against Red Bull Salzburg. Reuters
But, in the big bad world of football, emotions become passé on occasions and the past truly becomes the past. Thus, Lampard must build a team with what he has got and given his ruthless Russian owner Roman Abramovic’s proclivity to sack managers, the English legend, a coach with little experience at the top level, must begin on the front foot.
Chelsea in 2019-20
Lampard is the 14th managerial appointment by Abramovic and it still seems a bit bizarre that his predecessor Maurizio Sarri left despite guiding the team to a top-four finish last season and European honours. Yes, they did finish way behind the top two, Manchester City and Liverpool – two clubs which seemed to be in a league of their own last season – yes, they were embarrassed by the champions by six goals to nil, but Sarriball was eventually imbibed by the Blues who made a very strong finish to the season.
Yet, the chain-smoking strategist from Italy has gone back to his homeland to take up the hot seat at Juventus after getting an irresistible offer and left behind a club with both strengths and egregious weaknesses.
As a custodian, Kepa Arrizabalaga is one of the best in the business. Despite his substitution-mishap with Sarri last season, the world’s most expensive goalie often showed his class between the sticks and will be source of assurance for his greenhorn ma
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