Frank Lampard says he never wanted Chelsea to become an “academy club”, after being forced into placing faith in youngsters, and has refuted claims that he was working under no pressure last season.
Blues legend Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019. He had just one year of coaching experience at Championship side Derby to his name, but was trusted with the responsibility of succeeding Maurizio Sarri in west London.
Lampard fared admirably in his debut campaign, which initially saw his hands tied by a transfer ban, with a top-four finish and FA Cup final appearance.
A group of young stars helped the Blues to flourish, with academy graduates stepping up, but a different approach is being taken in 2020-21. Chelsea have spent big on the likes of Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz, with the intention being to take the club to “new levels” with proven performers.
Lampard told Sky Sports: “I loved the nurturing last year, but I never wanted us to become an academy club. That story is great for five minutes and those debuts when you hand them out are really nice, but then it moves very quickly to people asking if you can win games now.
“When you see the injection of players and what they can bring - they have all brought personality with them already - that should bring a level of competition that lifts the squad to new levels.
“My feeling and my senses suggest the players are feeling that, but we have to show that on the pitch, and it is my job to manage that and take us forward.
“Last year we spoke a lot about the transfer ban, and it was very relevant. To come fourth last year was a big achievement and it certainly felt that way with the competition around us. That's done now, and now we are looking at whether we can get better, whether we can improve as a club?
“I'm a Chelsea fan and any fan should get excited about the type of players we have brought in. It's something we had a long look at last year. The ban allowed us to look at areas we wanted to improve, the profile, type and age of player we wanted to improve us in the long term.
“It feels good because it has been work, it's what you set out to do. Recruitment is a huge part of trying to be a club that is successful at the top of the Premier League.
“Liverpool and Manchester City are big examples of that, they have got big coaches and great players they have brought in at the right time. We've made positive moves, now it comes down to work and whether we can show it on the pitch.”
Sizeable investment from club owner Roman Abramovich means that Lampard is now expected to deliver tangible success, but he claims pressure has always been part of his job.
He said: “Any time should be a good time be Chelsea manager. I just got told in a press conference that I had no pressure on me last year; I don't know what world they are living in if they think this job comes with no pressure, there's pressure whatever the circumstances are.
“I also understand the expectations and pressures can change and move forward, and no matter who the person is sat in my office they will say there are pressures.
“Whether this is a good time to manage Chelsea or not, I'm very focused on working and trying to make us improve because that is what makes me excited, whether we can succeed.”
Chelsea's new-look squad are set to open their Premier League season on Monday with a trip to Brighton.