Frank Sinclair on Chelsea, Lampard, Leicester and Burnley
It’s a big season for Chelsea and Frank Lampard. After a fourth-placed finish last term, the Blues have bagged their manager with a series of big-money arrivals.
We sought the thoughts of former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair, who also gave us his take on his other former clubs, Leicester and Burnley…
On Chelsea prediction for the season
Initially when Frank Lampard brought in a few new faces I was really excited, but then you have the realisation that it’s going to take time for things to work out – especially in an attacking sense.
You need to give them time to settle into the team. It’s pretty evident in recent results that they have done that and I can only see Chelsea kicking on and getting stronger throughout the season and I think they can be real contenders for the title because for me, there’s no outstanding side.
Obviously Liverpool are the main team you’ve got to try and overtake to win the title but with them losing Virgil van Dijk I think it opens things up for a few sides to be involved in the title race.
I think Chelsea will be in and around it; they’ll only get stronger throughout the season and for me they’ve got arguably the best attacking lines in the country – along with Liverpool. The more they get used to playing under Frank, the better they’ll get.
You look at what it might do to the morale of some of Chelsea’s younger players who maybe aren’t playing as much as they’d like right now; Tammy Abraham, for example.
But I think there’s an understanding amongst the big clubs in the league that you won’t achieve anything as a collective unless you’ve got depth in your squad. Obviously with young players, initially last season, for me they were fast-tracked into the first team at Chelsea for obvious reasons.
So yes they’ve had a taste of it, yes they’ve been exposed to it, yes they will want more – but when you’re at a club like Chelsea, you know there’s always going to be marquee signings every season and that’s what you’re up against.
You have to treat each individual case differently. Some players will be more interested in fast-tracking their own careers and thinking about themselves, and then others will be happy to be around such a great squad, and happy to be around these quality players because you’re training with them every day and improving yourself.
If I was someone like Tammy Abraham, I would want to stay in and around a football club like Chelsea. I left Chelsea when I was 26 because I was coming into the peak of my career and I did not want to be a bit-part player at that stage. These guys, your Mason Mounts, your Tammy Abrahams, your Rhys James’ and your Billy Gilmours are all still very young in football terms and they have a lot of developing to do.
I don’t think there’s a better place for them to be than where they are right now. So me personally, I’d 100% want to be in and around Chelsea. If Abraham gets to 26/27 and he’s still in scenario where he’s not playing week-in, week-out, then yeah, you would want to look at other options.
I think one key issue that Liverpool may have this season is that without Van Dijk, they look a very normal Premier League defence. Without him in the side, they don’t look as strong – and I think that could be a key element when it comes to who could challenge them for the title.
Unless they can go and replace Van Dijk with someone in world football who is just as good as him – and I can’t think of anyone who is – I think that they’re obviously not going to be as good, which brings Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea right into the mix and bridges the gap.
On Lampard pressure
I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s massive pressure on Frank Lampard this season, but there’s an expectation there, that’s for sure.
Even when Frank came in last season, there was an expectation to finish in the Champions League spots, even though he had obvious restraints and had to work with what he inherited as a squad.
And fair play to him for finishing in the top four – not only that but he was always there or thereabout last season as well. You could tell there was a standard of consistency throughout the season and obviously when you get the opportunity to sign some of the best players in the world then that expectation is going to be there once again.
The next level from finishing in the Champions League is obviously winning the Premier League so I do think there’s going to be an expectation there that Chelsea push on and make a challenge of it along with Liverpool and Manchester City.
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with spending an owner’s money – they expect to see value for that money, so Frank has to deliver.
The days of Roman Abramovich being ruthless with managers are gone. It seems he’ll have a lot more patience with Frank, being a lot younger and inexperienced. He’s pretty much learning on the job and getting better and better with each game, so I’d be surprised if Roman was to get rid of him just for not winning the league or finishing in the top four.
Outside of the football club of course there’s going to be pressure and speculation, but I’d be very surprised if Frank isn’t given an opportunity at Chelsea to better the squad, better performances and, most importantly, better himself as a manager.
On Leicester City
I think Leicester are going to have a terrific season. I’m not quite sure they’re going to go and win the league again, but when you look at the job Brendan Rodgers has done, he’s been terrific.
Their problem is that they’ve got a very tricky schedule ahead, playing in the Europa League on Thursday nights. It’s obvious they’re taking it very seriously and they’re in a tough group so it’s not going to be easy, so those Thursday nights are going to be telling towards what sort of season they have in the Premier League.
Brendan really has improved everything around Leicester in the short time he’s been there and I’ve always rated him since his time at Swansea, then Liverpool and Celtic and I think he’ll go on and keep improving that club. Whether he can bridge the gap with the top sides in the league, we’ll have to wait and see.
Jamie Vardy is the main man at Leicester, as we know. The problem, or worry, is that if they were to lose him to injury, it’s going to be a massive hit for them.
When you look at Leicester’s squad, Kelechi Iheanacho is probably the obvious replacement for Vardy at the moment but he’s still a young player that’s not set the world alight in the Premier League.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Leicester aren’t seeking an alternative simply because Vardy isn’t getting any younger. Eventually they will need to replace him. It’s a difficult one because to get a top drawer centre-forward to come in and play second fiddle to Jamie Vardy is a big ask.
Leicester have been found to have to sell their best players in recent years. Whether that’s the club ethos or just player power in wanting to go to the elite clubs, we’ve seen N’Golo Kante, Harry Maguire, Riyad Mahrez and Ben Chilwell all move on for massive fees in recent years.
These are all real elite players that are obviously going to attract interest from the biggest clubs in the country and sadly there’s not much Leicester can do about it because of the ambition of the player. That’s why the recruitment is so key to the success of that football club.
It’s just terrific to see Leicester where they are now. They went through a really tough time; I think it took them around 10 years to get back into the Premier League and even that was via League One so it just shows with the right sort of financial backing and the right manager, philosophy and recruitment, you can get yourself back up there again.
Seeing Leicester being able to compete with the elite in this country is just fantastic for every supporter. It’s no secret that the key to success in the Premier League is consistency.
There are a lot of top sides in that division that struggle with that, but it’s something Leicester have managed very well. After winning the league they’ve maintained that level of consistency and it’s why they’re up there today and have been for the last few seasons.
On Burnley & Sean Dyche
It’s difficult every season for Burnley. I kind of feel for Sean Dyche because he’s never had the financial backing of other teams in the Premier League. He’s always been restricted in the squad that he can assemble, and over the years he’s done a remarkable job.
But sometimes you run out of that bit of luck, whether it be signings, whether it be on the pitch. And then when you can’t just go back to basics and rely on the ability of the players you have in your squad, that’s when it becomes a struggle.
Sean Dyche has been fantastic and there are talks about new owners possibly taking over the club who would inject a lot of money, and I think that would be music to Dyche’s ears.
If he can keep Burnley up this season, then you can start planning for the future of the football club. A lot of things are in place, there; the training facilities are first class. What they need to do now is assemble a first-class squad to be able to compete in the Premier League.
It’s no secret that Dyche has been the glue that’s kept everything together at Burnley over the past few years and he’s got his own way of doing things, he’s got his own philosophy, his own recruitment strategy, and he sticks to it.
It’s been successful for him up to now. As soon as it doesn’t become successful, that’s when the questions start getting thrown in his direction.
I’d like to think that Burnley stick by him and see out this bumpy road that they’re going through at the moment.
If they come out of the other end and get financial backing and new owners to improve the football club, then Sean Dyche definitely deserves the opportunity to spend large sums to recruit players.