Frank Lampard was always aware that countering the loss of Eden Hazard was going to be difficult at Chelsea, but he is delighted to have silenced those who were quick to write the Blues off.
A talismanic figure headed through the exits at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019, with Real Madrid acquiring the services of the highly-rated Belgian forward.
With a sizeable void left behind in west London, and Chelsea working under the constraints of a transfer embargo, Lampard was handed an unenviable task when taking the reins in west London.
The Blues legend never shied away from that challenge, though, and set about piecing together an exciting young squad that would ultimately deliver a top-four finish and FA Cup final appearance.
Christian Pulisic has starred in the position that Hazard vacated, with the United States international drawing obvious comparisons to a former fan favourite, while plenty of others have raised their game.
“When you lose a player of the impact of Eden Hazard, we knew the players sometimes relied on his moments of magic to win us games,” the Chelsea boss said in the season review ‘Frank Lampard: Coming Home’. “It was a case for me of how can I fill that gap? I fully understand why some pundits didn’t give us a chance to come in the top four.”
Along with Pulisic, home-grown stars such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James have also come to the fore.
Lampard added: “When you have players coming back from loans in the Championship who need to play 50 games, there will be difficult times.
“To be able to sustain Champions League football was a huge achievement for the club, but at no point was I forced to play the academy boys. I felt if they were going to play for us they would have to do so on merit.”
Lampard’s youngsters proved themselves to be more than capable of competing among the domestic and continental elite, with Chelsea preparing for more Champions League outings in 2020-21.
“To be able to sustain Champions League football next year was a huge thing for the club,” said Lampard. “It should give confidence now. Fourth was an achievement this year but I don’t want to be saying that next year.
“If we keep moving forward, we want to be saying, ‘how do we close the gap going forward?’ and that’s now our challenge.
“Personally, I have a real desire to never settle on where we are today. I always want more. I don’t want to set huge markers on we are going to be, that would be the wrong approach.
“Let’s work daily to improve, close the gap above us and find more consistency in ourselves. Lots of things this year give us reason to believe. I have a very clear idea about where I see a need for improvement.”
Chelsea’s bid to scale even greater heights in the next campaign has seen them put deals in place for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, with there the promise of more fresh faces to come as Lampard is finally freed to spend.