You have to go back all the way to the start of last season to begin to test the temperature ahead of Sunday’s London derby.
A much different time when supporters were allowed into stadiums and Jose Mourinho was in the Sky Sports studio and not the dugout.
Jose Mourinho was critical of Chelsea after their opening day loss at Man United last season
Mourinho said Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham lacked experience and needed to give more
The pair have gone on to become key players for Lampard even after their summer recruitment
It also happened to be Frank Lampard’s first match as a Premier League manager and he was pumped up. Pumped up because he was back in the big time but this time not as a player but also because he was working with a side that was a blend of experience and young blood.
Naturally, he was going to protect his youngsters whatever was said about them. Mason Mount had played under him the season before at Derby and he’d watched Tammy Abraham flourish at Aston Villa.
Both were in his starting XI and both would be the target of Mourinho come full-time on that Sunday back in August 2019.
‘It’s the first match at home, the first match of the season, people are excited, the stadium is on fire waiting for something positive,’ Mourinho said.
‘A little bit of experience [from Chelsea] would fit well with the team.
Lampard paid little attention to Mourinho’s criticisms and stuck with Mount and Abraham
Abraham is still playing regularly and scoring goals this season even with Timo Werner around
‘You look to the performance of Mason Mount, the performance of Tammy Abraham, you look to the performance even of [Andreas] Christensen and for matches of this dimension you need a little bit more.’
Lampard leapt to the defence of his players and hit back at Mourinho. He said: ‘He didn’t like the performance of Mason Mount? Did he say Mason Mount?
‘I don’t have to be too concerned about what anyone else says, the pundits, but what is clear is the squad is the squad we’ve got and I believe in it.’
Indeed, Lampard did believe in it and his side qualified for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish. As for Abraham? He finished as Chelsea’s top scorer with 15 goals in the Premier League. And for Mount? Well, perhaps one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt to date came in the first of two wins over Mourinho’s Tottenham last season.
Abraham and Mount have continued to – as Mourinho put it – give a ‘little bit more’. Abraham has held down the central striker position even with the addition of Timo Werner while Mount is part of a three-man midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic which is the driving force behind Chelsea’s lethal attack.
England star Mount is ever-present and his importance to Chelsea cannot be undermined
Mourinho will know the two players he was critical of pose a threat to his Spurs side on Sunday
Lampard has spent well in the summer with Hakim Ziyech (right) the pick of the bunch
Most satisfying, though, for Lampard is how he has carefully added to his squad this season. He has spent big, forking out a whopping £253million on signings but each of them – except for Malang Sarr who is on loan at Porto – have helped to improve the team so that it is competitive enough to challenge for the title.
There was really no need for a full renovation of the side. It required delicate touches in the places a side needs to be able to contend in the biggest competitions.
It has been upgrade after upgrade. Edouard Mendy’s return after replacing Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal has been four clean sheets in five league games.
The addition of the experienced, multiple medal-winning Thiago Silva – although a free agent – has given Chelsea a toughness and intelligence at the back while also providing them with an extra threat from set pieces.
Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech had already graced the top level of European club football when they joined Lampard’s new crop of stars. Both have shown what they are capable of with Ziyech, who cost £38m from Ajax, perhaps the pick of the two now he is fully fit.
Thiago Silva provides Chelsea with the experience Mourinho felt their young side was missing
Edouard Mendy is an upgrade on Kepa and gives them the stability they need to challenge
Werner was electric for RB Leipzig last year and he could cause Serge Aurier all sorts of problems on Sunday.
Chelsea’s list of star additions doesn’t end there either. Ben Chilwell joining from Leicester was further evidence that Chelsea remain a highly attractive proposition for young and emerging English talent. Chilwell is the best left back in the country and has slotted in seamlessly to Lampard’s style of play – one which sees both full-backs encouraged to support the attack whenever possible.
There can be no doubt that the supposed issues or problems Mourinho flagged last year are next to non-existent. Of course, Mourinho would point to money spent to find such solutions but he’s been rather quiet about Abraham and Mount.
Maybe that’s because whatever Mourinho says both have risen to the demands of Lampard and are now established as first-teamers alongside those who commanded a hefty price tag.
Put simply: Lampard’s side are better for the additions he’s made but also for giving those who served him so well last year a chance to push on.