Frank Lampard stated Chelsea do not have players to compare to the calibre and experience of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa as he again sought to temper expectations around his youthful stars.
A 1-0 win over 10-man Fulham last weekend was the Blues’ first three-point haul since before Christmas and they are seventh in a Premier League table they briefly topped early in December.
Throughout the subsequent slump, when critics have highlighted a moderate return on considerable transfer investment, Lampard has pointed to the fact the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner – the Germany duo who have underwhelmed since arriving for a combined cost in the region of £125million – and a host of other youngsters still have their best years ahead of them.
For now, though, he feels the elite winners from his own playing days at Stamford Bridge are something Chelsea lack and must work towards
“When you look at the Premier League going forward, around us, when people were sort of lauding us to be title challengers and stuff like that, we do have a squad when you look at the composition of it that is very young, particularly in the forward areas,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s match against third-placed Leicester City.
“We don’t have that history of players: goal machines or assist machines or those things that win you games. With our team, it’s potential.
“The club hasn’t got an Eden Hazard contributing 50 per cent of goals and assists, it hasn’t got a Costa scoring 30 goals.
“We’re trying to develop those players and I believe in them strongly, but at the moment we’re not quite there, where other teams around us possibly are at the front end of the pitch.
“I think for us, and I should just focus on us, there could be tough times. That’s why it’s important for me, and I’ve said this to the players, to keep working, but also to be patient and stay calm around that.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 18, 2021
Another figure from the club’s past, Brendan Rodgers, will be in the opposite dugout to Lampard at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester manager Rodgers was appointed to Chelsea’s academy staff during Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge, although he infamously said he did not wish to “destroy” his career when touted as a possible replacement for Andre Villas Boas in 2012 while at Swansea City.
“I don’t know, that’s a difficult one, I’ve got to be careful with this one,” Lampard replied when asked whether the Chelsea he leads is a more “nurturing” environment than the one Rodgers experienced.
“I don’t want to speak for Brendan when he said that. I suppose at that time, there was a turnaround of managers. I was a player here, so I get that.
“Whether he would give the exact same answer tomorrow after the game, maybe not. For me, all I can do is tackle the job that’s in front of me and at the moment we, as Chelsea, are not the Chelsea of when Brendan made those quotes.
“I’m presuming they were made at the time of Chelsea having [Didier] Drogba, [Petr] Cech, [John] Terry, I’m not going to name myself, [Claude] Makelele, whoever, and it would have been a team that was always challenging and the benchmark was different.
“At the moment, we’re not a team that has Costa, [Cesc] Fabregas, Hazard, any of the era that came slightly after that.
“We’re a team relying on players at the front end of the pitch [who] are clearly new to the Premier League, young to the Premier League.”
Lampard was keen to highlight his pitch was not one for sympathy.
He added: “We’ve seen a couple of big clubs and big managers be questioned within one or two or three weeks, a couple of results this year.
“That’s the modern world; I’m not crying about this because it’s the Premier League, we all have different expectations, [and] if we’re seen to not be getting to them, the pressure comes. That’s why we’re in this job.”