Chelsea’s Roman era has seen 13 managers in 16 years lead the club to 16 major trophies. Players and managers have come and gone, but the wins and trophies have remained constant. Another constant over the years, at least in media narrative when looked from the outside, has been the influence of the players in the dressing room.
This influence has been credited with many things, mostly good in times of winning, mostly bad in times not. It’s almost as if it can be made to fit whatever narrative we want it to fit. We have certainly seen the what a tightly knit group of players can achieve, with or without proper leadership. We have also seen what effects player discord can have, again, with or without proper leadership. So perhaps the key, as with just about every aspect of football management, is to learn how to best deal with and utilize it.
Lampard is not one to shy away from the realities of player power and in fact believes that it is the key to a successful club and chooses to look at the positive side of it. A dressing room full of strong personalities, be they vocal leaders or those who lead and influence by example, isn’t to be feared. It is to be harnessed in the quest for trophies.
“They won’t [turn on the manager]. Well, we certainly never did. I want player power in the dressing room. I think players must have personality. We had a strong dressing room, which was part of the success.”
“It’s far too easy to say that from the outside. I certainly wouldn’t say there isn’t player power or personality when you talk about players like David Luiz or Azpilicueta; Kanté, who won the World Cup a year ago; Jorginho coming into the club; Giroud, who won the World Cup; Willian.
“Players show their personalities in different ways. You don’t have to have John Terry and Didier Drogba, who were obvious powerful personalities and players. You can have players who might look slight and might have different ways about them that can be powerful. I want them to promote that. I want the players to own it.”
Modern football has seen the leadership hierarchy shift away from a strictly authoritarian top-down approach. The manager is no longer the all-powerful, all-controlling entity, especially when he’s usually the most expendable part of the whole operation. Power is earned rather than given, and like responsibility, it is shared. Leadership is a tricky business, but empowering others to work towards a common goal is the most sustainable way forward.
Lampard is keen to evolve with the times, too.
“There’s nothing wrong with an open club. The modern club is not the dictatorship of the manager, who sees everything and, if someone speaks differently, [takes it badly]. I don’t have an ego as in [being so naive as to think that] there will not be conversations going on in a club the size of Chelsea. What I can control, I will control and that is driving training every day.”
- Frank Lampard; source: Guardian
Having been on the other side and emerged as one of the biggest personalities, Lampard should be well equipped (and empowered by the club) to deal as best as possible with player power, be it real or just a concept applied when it suits the narrative.
With Lampard saying all the right things, for now, that narrative is all positive, to be sure. May it continue as long as remotely possible.