Frank Lampard’s first season at Chelsea remains a work in progress but the emergence of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham means there are already significant positives to be drawn from the new era at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard – whose side face Sheffield United at home this weekend – promised to provide opportunities to young players when he returned to his old club this summer.
The former midfielder’s position was partly driven by the transfer embargo imposed on the club, but also a belief in the reserves of talent at in the club’s academy that has too often been overlooked by Lampard’s predecessors.
The fact that for too long John Terry was the last homegrown player to emerge through the ranks and establish himself as a first-team regular was viewed of an indictment of recent Chelsea managers from Jose Mourinho through to Maurizio Sarri.
But if early season form is anything to go by, Mount and Abraham could be features of the Chelsea line-up for some time to come.
Mount has made a particularly striking start with the midfielder’s form earning him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo.
The 20-year-old has been at Chelsea since the age of six and having spent last season on loan with Lampard at Derby County in the Championship, his abilities are well known to the manager who has demonstrated great faith in the player by starting him in all three of Chelsea’s league games so far.
Mount has responded with goals in his last two games and was joined on the scoresheet in last weekend’s 3-2 win at Norwich City by Abraham who struck his first two goals for the club at Carrow Road.
Abraham showed his potential by striking 37 league goals during Aston Villa’s promotion-winning season before returning to Chelsea this summer.
Even so, Lampard’s decision to start with the 21-year-old ahead of Olivier Giroud in the season opener against Manchester United at Old Trafford raised eyebrows.
But Abraham has demonstrated he is capable of competing with his more experienced team-mate for the main striker position on an equal footing and could join Mount in Southgate’s set-up if he maintains his progress.
The performances of the two players, together with those of Christian Pusilic, the 20-year-old USA midfielder signed for £58 million and then loaned back to Borussia Dortmund last January, has provided a lift at the start of Chelsea’s season.
Lampard has been charged with healing the rifts that opened up last season between Sarri and some of the club’s supporters who were unimpressed by the Italian’s playing style and his reluctance to give young players a chance.
The situation of Callum Hudson-Odoi came to highlight this discontent, not least because the winger pressed for a mid-season move to Bayern Munich after becoming frustrated at the lack of opportunities coming his way.
The 18-year-old was handed a more prominent role in the second half of the campaign before his season was halted by an Achilles tendon injury in April.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek suffered a similar injury, depriving the pair of the chance to make an early impression on Lampard. Both players, though, are stepping up their recovery and their return will swell the number of academy graduates vying for selection.
The challenge for the younger players – as with the rest of Lampard’s side – is to develop a level of consistency that will allow the club to maintain its hold on a top-four place.
That means backing up a promising win at Norwich by avoiding an unexpected slip-up against Sheffield United come Saturday.
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