After a frustrating summer transfer window, Frank Lampard and Chelsea are wasting no time in making additions for next season.
Ajax star Hakim Ziyech has already been snapped up, a move for RB Leipzig’s hotshot forward Timo Werner is nearing completion and there are continued rumblings of a bid for fellow Bundesliga star Kai Havertz.
Add to that a further reinforcement in the form of Leicester’s Ben Chilwell, and it looks like it may well be a very busy summer ahead at Stamford Bridge.
Yet, while Roman Abramovich begins to open his never ending sack of cash for a 2004-style transfer reboot, it begs the question: what of Chelsea’s youth talent?
With this year’s transfer ban preventing new acquisitions for the 2019/20 season, Chelsea head coach Lampard instead turned to the plethora of young talent at his disposal.
For many Blues fans the arrival of their legendary midfielder as manager signalled a changing of the guard – and of the times – in favour of a more youthful approach. Lampard was also installed to provide stability, in the aftermath of Maurizio Sarri’s chaos, though many speculated that the prolific England international was only handed the job because of the club’s transfer embargo.
There’s no denying that Lampard was an advocate of youth during his time at Derby County, bringing in the likes of Harry Wilson and Mason Mount on loan – as well as Fikayo Tomori – as the club reached the Championship play-off final.
Lampard has continued to champion youth at Chelsea, too, handing the lead striking berth to young Tammy Abraham, while also handing a debut to talented midfielder Billy Gilmour.
The Blues currently lie in fourth place, indicating that his methods have been a relative success – albeit because the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal have all been in dire form.
Yet, was this youthful tact always Lampard’s intention or was it simply the hand he’s been dealt?
While we sadly cannot rewind time, you wonder whether the Chelsea boss would have had the same trust in his academy graduates had he had funds at his disposal. Although we will never know, the upcoming window may offer an indication of Lampard’s true intentions – with the Blues seemingly intent on splashing the cash.
You could argue that 24-year-old Werner and 20-year-old Havertz fit the youthful mould, but there’s no denying that while their arrival – and status within the game – would be a huge lift to the club, they’d be an underlying dent knocked into the confidence of the existing players in west London.
Can you blame Lampard is the real question. As the gap between Chelsea and the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City becomes wider and wider, perhaps a ruthless window of spending is what is required.
Take Abraham for example. He enjoyed a blistering start to the season – and currently has 13 Premier League goals to his name – but doubts remain over his ability to carry the goalscoring burden on a long-term basis.
Similarly, the highly touted Callum Hudson-Odoi has endured a difficult year because to injury, and will need a big end to the season to truly prove his much talked about credentials.
Likewise, young centre-back Tomori has had a relatively positive spell in the first-team, yet has at times been found wanting in the backline – an area the club desperately needs to strengthen.
Aside from Mount and talented full-back Reece James, this crop of gifted youngsters are possibly not ready to take the club back to the top of the table, despite their promising displays. The reality is that securing a top four finish would be a wonderful accomplishment for this current crop, given the adjustments that have been needed to compete at the highest level.
But just securing Champions League qualification is not good enough for Chelsea, not in the long-term anyway. This is a side that’s won multiple Premier League titles, after all.
While Chelsea supporters will no doubt be aware of the need to replace the likes of Willian and Pedro – who will depart for free this summer – there will be a feeling of why aren’t we looking from within if these players are bought.
For too long, the Blues’ faithful have had to sit back and watch as a conveyor belt of unfulfilled young talent has been shipped out on loan, never to see the light of day. The prospect of seeing Ziyech, Havertz and Werner playing for the club is mouthwatering, granted, but must not come at the expense of Chelsea’s new found identity.