Ajax awaits a showdown in the Champions League with Chelsea on Wednesday, which is taking a new course under the leadership of club legend Frank Lampard. With an inexperienced coach, an offensive playing style and a group of youth players in the base, 'The Blues' is rapidly building a new image.
Losing a direct competitor at home and losing points for the fourth time in six games; normally it is a crisis at a top club in the Premier League, but not at Chelsea. Instead of a massive flute concert, the Lampard team was treated to a grateful applause from the fans at the end of September after the final whistle against Liverpool (1-2).
It is indicative of the current status of the six-time national champion. After a - albeit successful - season under Maurizio Sarri, which is not very popular in London, Lampard, who has arrived from Derby County, provides a breath of fresh air. That his plans did not immediately lead to good results, the fans accepted. Meanwhile, Chelsea can already book the sixth win in a row against Ajax.
"Lampard is of course still inexperienced and it remains to be seen whether he will really become successful as a trainer, but supporters think it is great that there is a club legend at the helm," sports journalist and Chelsea watcher Oliver Harbord of Football London told NUsport.
"Successes were achieved under Sarri, but it didn't click between him and the fans. Lampard has changed all that; the relationship between players, staff and fans couldn't be better. Under Sarri, the build-up was slow, while Lampard was a fast pace and wants to move the ball quickly. The game has become more attractive, so in the eyes of the fans there is no doubt that he is the right choice. "
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Youth players have a fixed basic place
Chelsea is in any case different from last season. 'The Blues' star player Eden Hazard granted his desired transfer to Real Madrid, but could not enter the market to get a replacement. Due to a penalty from FIFA, Chelsea may only attract players again in the summer of 2020, although the transfer ban does not seem to be affecting the current number four in England.
In fact: in addition to experienced forces such as César Azpilicueta and Willian, Lampard eagerly uses youth players. Defender Fikayo Tomori (21), former Vitesse midfielder Mason Mount (20) and striker Tammy Abraham (22) have all played on a rental basis at other clubs in recent years, but now finally have a base place at the club where they once started.
Top talent Callum Hudson-Odoi (18) was already transferred from the youth academy last season and after his injury is also 'just' at the kick-off, while Abraham may call himself a shared top scorer in the Premier League with eight hits. Lampard even dared to let the four talents debut in the Champions League this season despite their lack of experience.
"It is refreshing to see that youth players at Chelsea get the chance and that they also play offensive," says Harbord. "It feels like Chelsea is really building something beautiful under Lampard. Of course there is still a long way to go, but you clearly notice a positive atmosphere on Stamford Bridge. The supporters are very curious which way it will go."
Frank Lampard is busy with his first months as a Chelsea coach. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Chelsea finds its way up
After a difficult start of the season with disappointing matches against, among others, Manchester United (4-0), Leicester City (1-1), Sheffield United (2-2) and Valencia (0-1), the results are finally cooperating. The Lampard team won the last five games and is now fourth in the Premier League.
The next two games against Ajax - the team from Amsterdam will visit London on November 5 - will normally be crucial to Chelsea's aspirations to reach the final sixteen of the Champions League. Harbord expects an attractive duel in the Johan Cruijff ArenA.
"Chelsea wants to dominate in Amsterdam and won't allow Ajax to play the position game. The strength is with the fast guys in the front. In my eyes, Hudson-Odoi is clearly the most dangerous player, while Abraham is also productive this season. Scoring is the problem not, but the team is defensively vulnerable. "
The match between Ajax and Chelsea starts on Wednesday at 6.55 pm in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Lampard cannot have the injured midfielders N'Golo Kanté and Ross Barkley against the Premier League leader.
Stand in group H
- 1. Ajax 2-6 (+6)
- 2. Valencia 2-3 (-2)
- 3. Chelsea 2-3 (0)
- 4. Lille OSC 2-0 (-4)
View the program, the results and the positions in the Champions League