Lampard stresses Champions League importance for Chelsea

Chelsea belong near the top of the Premier League and new challenges should not distort that goal, according to head coach Frank Lampard.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard   -  Getty Images

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea have the quality to compensate for Eden Hazard's exit and should settle for nothing less than a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Though tasked with guiding academy prospects into the first team amid a ban on registering new players, head coach Lampard described an "intention to win" as non-negotiable for a squad blessed with talent that "can be huge" at Stamford Bridge.

That begins with keeping the club in the Champions League, a challenge made more difficult by Hazard's departure for Real Madrid.

Lampard – handed a three-year deal despite his managerial inexperience – claims the board have set no minimum expectations in terms of league position.

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But the Blues legend, who left Derby County to take the post, outlined the importance of keeping pace with the pack as he faced the media in his new role for the first time on Thursday.

"We want to be playing Champions League football year in, year out,” Lampard said.

 

"For sure there is a lot of competition at the top of the table. We also have a very strong squad of players and there is huge talent there. We haven't been decimated.

"Of course there are variables, we know about the transfer ban, we know Manchester City and Liverpool pulled away slightly last year.

"We have to be realistic about that, but we should never stop trying as Chelsea to be up there."

Much of the ex-England international's success as a player with Chelsea came under Jose Mourinho, who won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup across two spells in charge but twice exited in acrimonious fashion.

Frank Lampard with the 2012 Champions League trophy   -  Getty Images

 

Lampard distanced himself from the Portuguese's brash behaviour – wishing to avoid "self-proclaimed nicknames" – and shunned all concerns about sullying his reputation in the eyes of adoring supporters.

"I don't see it as a risk," he said.

"I'm the type of personality that loves challenges. I'm not fearful of the downside. I'm ready to stand up and accept that side of it."

Not building an Old Boys' club

Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola (R) will leave Chlesea after working as an assistant under now Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri.   -  Getty Images

 

Lampard will be joined in the dugout by assistant coaches Jody Morris and Chris Jones, while under-23s coach Joe Edwards will move up to the first team alongside Eddie Newton. Gianfranco Zola, who was Maurizio Sarri's assistant previous term, will leave the club.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, before Zola's departure was made official, Lampard said: "Jody is coming with me as assistant head coach - we have a really close relationship, friendship and are like-minded in the way we think about football.

"He obviously has a great link with the academy which is important, but more than that he is a fantastic coach. Chris will be here as coach, and again it's the trust thing. Eddie brings great experience and quality of coaching.

"It's a very Chelsea-orientated team but what I want to make clear is this is not an old boys' club. What I'm trying to put together with this staff is talent - it's fresh talent in my eyes. 

"We are relatively young but we are not inexperienced. I may have only one year in management but in Jody, Joe, Eddie and Chris we have many years of coaching within us."

READ | 'Immensely proud' Frank Lampard targets trophies at Chelsea

With just one season under his belt, Lampard denied suggestions he is too inexperienced for such a big job.

"I think football is littered with stories of inexperienced managers who do really really well, some spectacularly well, and some that don't," he said. "Then there's some experienced managers who do really, really well and some that don't.

As Chelsea embark on a new era, two more former players in Claude Makelele and Didier Drogba have also been tipped to return to Stamford Bridge in some capacity.

Lampard, who will work closely with technical and performance adviser Petr Cech, vowed appointments will be made on merit and not because of their stature at the club. 

"As a club, it's not just bringing in players who played for the club, but people who feel the club and have an incredible work ethic," he said.

"The reason Petr Cech is here is because he has an incredible work ethic. I played with him and I know that and he has a real desire to be a positive for this club. That is a first talent or attribute you need so that's how I see what we are trying to build."