Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard says that experience can be “overrated” and believes that his squad’s youthfulness could help them challenge for the Premier League title in the future.
In his first campaign as a Premier League boss, Lampard has guided Chelsea to third place with three games remaining, leaving them in control of their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Chelsea academy products such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have been successfully integrated to the first-team this season, but the signings of talented attacking duo Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner – with more arrivals possible – are likely to see expectations rise at Stamford Bridge.
Asked whether the need to step up from top-four contenders to title challengers could see some players let go by the club, Lampard was keen to focus on the positives of having a young squad.
He told Sky Sports News: “I think it’s part of the situation we’re in and the process we’re in here at the minute with the lot of younger players we have and players that are probably playing their first year in the Premier League, let alone playing for Champions League spots and what have you, which is a lot of pressure, is them adapting to that.”
“They need to be helped by the players that have been there and done that and won World Cups or won Premier Leagues like some of the players have in our squad.
“In certain times, experience is overrated, in my opinion. It’s good to have it within the group but sometimes it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the answer and that gives you success.
“Sometimes it’s a bit of innocence, a bit of youthfulness and a bit of real desire without the feelings of past campaigns and successes and failures that can be something really positive within.”
Chelsea’s top-four hopes appeared to have been dented as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Sheffield United on Saturday, but Leicester lost 4-1 to Bournemouth on Sunday before Manchester United drew 2-2 with Southampton on Monday night to leave Lampard’s side third – a point ahead of both of their rivals.
Monday’s confirmation of Manchester City overturning their two-year ban from European competition ensured only the top four will qualify for next season’s Champions League, intensifying the race.
Chelsea face Norwich, live on Sky Sports, on Tuesday evening, before finishing the season with matches against champions Liverpool, and Wolves, who retain slim hopes of a top-four finish as they sit four points behind Leicester and United in sixth.
“There’s twists and turns every game,” Lampard said. “These three games are so important for all of us.
“I did expect Manchester United to be in the race. They can’t not be in the race with the quality of players they’ve had this season and the second half of the season with the incoming of Fernandes and his impact, and the way they’re playing they were always going to be in the race.
“Leicester are a fantastic team as well, so I think the race remains on. Wolves are there, Wolves are pushing. It is what it is, it’s who performs over these three games, it’s so tight.”
‘I’m not a gung-ho coach’
Following what was a humbling defeat to Sheffield United, Lampard also insisted that he is not a “gung-ho” coach and has the answers to Chelsea’s defensive frailties.
Chelsea have conceded 49 goals this season – more than any other side in the top half of the table, and their poor goal difference could yet cost them in the final standings.
While Lampard believes he can solve Chelsea’s defensive conundrum, he believes the era of stand-out partnerships like the one between his former team-mates John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, are a thing of the past.
“In terms of defensively, there is a way that I want us to play and it’s not gung-ho, it’s not crazy,” said Lampard.
“A lot of the goals are the balls that come into our box that maybe we don’t defend right at that moment and that’s something that has to improve and I feel I know the answers to it.
“Some of it is work and that’s something we will see and it’s part of the process we are in. I don’t like it, I hate conceding goals but we have to work harder on it.
“I don’t think any team in modern football are going to say ‘We’ve got that one defensive partnership’.
“You go back and talk about a John Terry-Ricardo Carvalho partnership, but in the modern day, I don’t think you will find too many clubs to name the two.
“It’s a difficult season and a demanding season, so I’m not saying I just want to pick two centre-backs because you need competition of probably four centre-backs within a squad and then you need them knocking on the door.
“You want to be able to say to players ‘You are not doing enough’ or the two that are playing keep deserving to play.
“I don’t think it’s about just a partnership. Can we be more settled if we improve? Yes, for sure.
“Will it be just two players who are going to be your centre backs? I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”