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It’s a new era at Stanford Bridge. Fan favourite and former England star Frank Lampard begins his reign as manager in the wake of a transfer ban and the sale of star forward Eden Hazard. If Lampard wanted a challenging start to his career in the manager’s hotseat, he couldn’t have asked for a tougher beginning. After all, amidst the obstacles of navigating a summer without the ability to sign new players, Chelsea begin their 2019-2020 season with a tough set of matches.
Despite this, until Manchester United broke the record for a centre-half with the £80 million signing of Harry Maguire, Chelsea were well-fancied to finish in the Champions League spots.
While fourth place isn’t an easy spot to predict, everyone appears to agree the top three are locked in with Manchester City ahead of Liverpool and Spurs, while betting advice from Betfair places Chelsea at 13/10 odds to join them in the top four.
After that, it’s a dogfight for the last Champions League spot, and Chelsea are favoured by many. That is in spite of both the Gunners and Red Devils spending lavishly during a summer when blues owner Roman Abramovich’s cheque book remained shut.
It’s encouraging for Chelsea fans to know the bookies and the pundits have faith in blues overcoming this period of flux. The Guardian, for example, say it’ll be tough to finish third once again but are confident the Londoners can remain consistent enough to gain the fourth spot.
The BBC pundits – led by sportswriter Phil McNulty – have also gone with Chelsea to finish ahead of Manchester United and Arsenal. McNulty says despite the blues losing the “X factor” of Eden Hazard, the side has “an uncanny habit of achieving against the odds”. He feels it’s a gamble to make Lampard manager but that he possesses a “romance” within the club that makes his appointment an instant fan-favourite.
Certainly, Chelsea will hope Lampard has a similar effect on the team as Ole Solskjaer had at Old Trafford. Manchester United went on a long winning run when the Norwegian came in including a miraculous comeback victory against PSG in Paris. The Stanford Bridge faithful will also be eager to see how Christian Pulisic, the American soccer star, will adapt to the English game. If Lampard is looking for the “X factor” after Hazard’s exit, Pulisic could be it.
Indeed, despite the transfer ban, imposed for breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of under-18 players, Pulisic feels like a new recruit having been purchased in January but then loaned immediately to Borussia Dortmund.
The attacking winger who can play in various positions upfront is an ideal replacement for Hazard, if not a readymade one. He’s still young at 20 years of age but will benefit from Lampard’s understanding of the Premier League and the fact both share a keen eye for goal.
The great thing about the former blues talismanic midfielder being the manager of Chelsea is that, come the team’s first home game, fans at Stanford Bridge will quickly forget about the loss of Eden Hazard. Now they have a club legend in charge, and this new era is a cause for excitement.
Of course, if a string of bad results begin to be the norm not the exception, sentiment, as we all know in football, can quickly change. But despite the challenges ahead of them in 2019-2020, there’s clearly optimism inside and out that the club will find itself in amongst the top four once again.