It’s been hard to think about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic, the fragility of healthcare systems, or the global economic collapse over the past month, and while we may be approaching what many believe is the “peak”, we’re far from clear of the disease at the moment.
Still, there are signs of life in certain places, and not just in East Asia. Bundesliga teams have returned to socially distanced training last week, and teams in Spain might start doing so soon as well. On the West Coast of the USA, plans are about to be unveiled about the slow re-opening of the economy and the relaxing of lockdown measures. This isn’t the end, nowhere near it, but we may be past the worst of it, or at least getting close. We can start to look for that light at the end of the tunnel.
Once that happens, we can return to baser concerns as well, such as can Chelsea finish in the top four this season (assuming there is a “this season” still) and, even more importantly, can Chelsea challenge for something greater than just a spot in the top-four in future seasons.
Idle head coach Frank Lampard has been mulling over similar thoughts as well during quarantine, as he revealed on a virtual chat with Sky Sports.
“What’s going on in the world has made it very difficult to plan on that front. But going into this break I certainly felt we were moving in the right direction and with continued progress and work on the training ground, as well as potentially bringing in some players in key areas to try and help us bridge that gap, yes, I’ve got a strong belief that we can [challenge].”
The gap Lampard’s referring to is of course the gap to Liverpool (and, to a lesser extent this season, Manchester City), who have been the dominant force in the Premier League for the last two years. In each case, their success was the result of long-term planning and proper execution, both on and off the pitch.
It’s a gap that exists beyond the level of just points in the table, and bridging it was never going to be a quick or easy task. And that remains true today as well.
“I don’t want to jump the gun because what Liverpool and Manchester City have done has been clear; I’d be a fool to suggest we can bridge that gap quickly because there has been a lot of hard work at those clubs in terms of recruitment of top players, of great coaches.
“We have to be part of that process. We have to do it our way, we can’t try to copy. We have had experienced players around this year to help the youngsters but we know there are little areas within the squad… some of that’s what we have on the ground here already, some of that is how we might look to recruit.”
Lampard might claim that we will do things our way, but the only difference is (or should be) that the pieces we do have in place already are of the young and/or homegrown variety.
Sustained success will only come through long-term planning, not short-term firefighting.
“How can we progress from here? We have youth; we’ve been searching at times for consistency, which I think can happen with a young team. I’m pretty happy with where we’re at but I want a lot more. As a manager, you’re never ready to settle.
“This situation has given us time for reflection but you do miss that day-to-day feeling of being with staff and players. I’ve tried to use some time to reflect and start planning and looking forward.”
And of course we should not forget that technically, the season is not over yet. It might feel like it is, and it might feel like we’ve achieved that minimum fourth place finish, but there are still nine games left on the calendar and we only have a three-point lead over fifth place Manchester United.
If and when the season resumes, we’re going to have to get right back to it, to keep ahead of the chasing pack.
“I’m always the first to criticise myself and look at what we could have done better. I’m pretty happy with where we are in fourth [...] It was always going to be a difficult, competitive year for us to be in and around that top four and we’re there at the moment.”
“It’s very hard to manage fitness. You have to have a big element of trust in the players. They are good professionals. They’re all trying to be in as good a condition they can be coming back and the one good thing is that we had four or five major-ish injuries and it’s given them time to have a bit of rehab work. Hopefully that gets us a bit fresher when we come back.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Sky Sports
Let’s hope so, on all fronts!
P.S.: The lads may be on break, but Lampard’s already in midseason joke-no-but-seriously interview form! The man’s a master.
Lampard is absurdly consistent. Even his interviews are always the same:— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) November 30, 2014
Serious point, light-hearted point [chuckle] but, no, serious point