Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have been a breath of fresh air this season, but performances have started to dip of late and alarm bells will be ringing for the young English boss.
In their last three outings, the Blues have succumbed to disappointing defeats at the hands of two of the most out of form Premier League teams, West Ham and Everton, while in-between was a nervy victory over Aston Villa.
And the young side’s leaky defence has yet to be resolved.
Lampard is still unsure of his best back four. Andreas Christensen was again like Bambi on ice at the weekend, while Kurt Zouma has repeatedly been suspect in recent weeks and there are still question marks over the ability of Fikayo Tomori, despite his promising start to the campaign.
Antonio Rudiger’s return from injury cannot come soon enough, but now that the transfer ban has been halved, Stamford Bridge chiefs must surely be on the hunt for a new commanding, experienced central defender to partner the German.
Nevertheless, the transfer ban’s halving now poses a serious danger to Lampard that he hasn’t been confronted with before.
The ban effectively gave the Englishman a free ticket to experiment with his young squad this season – and he reaped the rewards of his bold selection, but what happens to the mentality of these players now they know they can be readily displaced by a multi-million pound signing in the line-up?
As soon as the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced their verdict, media outlets were sent into a overdrive and dozens of world class players were immediately linked with a move to the club.
Chelsea will reportedly have a £150m war chest to spend in the January market, but how will that impact on the squad?
What will Callum Hudson-Odoi be thinking knowing his mate Jadon Sancho could be on his way for £100m at the turn of the year, potentially putting his already limited minutes in the first-team under more threat?
What will the Premier League’s second top scorer, Tammy Abraham, be feeling now that a world class striker in Timo Werner has been linked with a big-money move to Stamford Bridge?
The deficiencies in Chelsea’s squad undoubtedly need to be addressed. But focusing too much on these issues in the mid-season market could ruin Lampard’s first season in charge.
Ben Chilwell is flying this season and would be a brilliant acquisition for Chelsea, but there’s no way he is sold by Leicester in January.
Would signing an emergency alternative in January be worth it? Probably not.
Abraham has been brilliant this season, would buying an expensive replacement help or hinder the progress of young forward?
Lampard has a choice, to recruit in January and most likely fail to sign his top targets, or stick with his young squad in the hope they can shine and deliver in big matches later on in season.
So far this campaign, Chelsea’s record in big games has been telling. Two defeats to Manchester United, two losses to Liverpool and a loss to Manchester City have illustrated the side’s inexperience.
With Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on the rise and Manchester United’s mini-revival emerging in recent matches, one thing is certain, Lampard faces the biggest month of his managerial career in three weeks time – and it could make or break Chelsea’s season.