No more excuses: Pressure on Lampard after Chelsea's £200m spending spree

Frank Lampard Abramovich Havertz Chelsea GFXGetty/Goal

With Manchester City's hopes of reuniting Lionel Messi with Pep Guardiola seemingly over, there can be no doubt that Chelsea have re-emerged as the top dogs in the transfer market.

Indeed, on the same day that the Barcelona captain told Goal that he was staying at Camp Nou, the Blues completed the £70 million ($91m) signing of Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen.

Signing one of the most exciting young players to come out of Germany in years is a coup in its own right.

But when it is considered that Chelsea had already snapped up Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva - all in the middle of a financial crisis caused by coronavirus - it's easy to understand why the club's supporters are so excited about the start of the new Premier League season.

Not since Jose Mourinho swaggered into Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004 have the Blues embarked upon such an impressive spending spree.

Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Ricardo Carvalho and Petr Cech were the most notable additions to a squad that had already been significantly strengthened by new owner Roman Abramovich the previous year.

The net result was Chelsea romping to a first league title in 50 years, with Mourinho's formidable side breaking a series of records in doing so.

Frank Lampard was, of course, a key member of that team; its top-scorer despite playing in midfield.

He even came second in the 2005 Ballon d'Or, having proven himself capable of inspiring a team to Premier League glory.

Fifteen years on, he must do so again, only this time as a coach.

Kai Havertz Timo Werner Germany GFXGetty/Goal

Make no mistake about it: the pressure on Lampard has been ramped up.

He has plenty of credit in the bank, of course. He is a club legend because of his exploits as a player, while his first season as manager was deemed a success in spite of an FA Cup final loss to Arsenal, and a Champions League battering by Bayern Munich.

Lampard was rightly lauded for the way in which he dealt with the effects of Chelsea's transfer ban, and the loss of star player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.

He promoted several academy products to the first team, much to the delight of the supporters, and still managed to secure qualification for the Champions League via a fourth-place finish in the league.

The significance of that achievement should not be underestimated, as it made west London an attractive destination for transfer targets, while at the same time boosting the club's coffers.

Lampard, though, has now been backed to the tune of £200m ($260m) in the transfer market – and Chelsea have not finished yet either, with Rennes' Edouard Mendy top of their goalkeeping wishlist.

It's hardly surprising, then, that some pundits are demanding a title challenge.

That might be a bit unfair, particularly as Chelsea's new signings will need time to settle, but Lampard will, at the very least, need to significantly close the gap to reigning champions Liverpool, who finished a whopping 33 points ahead of the Blues last season.

Overtaking Manchester City is also a tall order but, given their investment, Chelsea will certainly be expected to finish ahead of Manchester United, who have only brought in Donny van de Beek so far this summer.

Lampard, of course, never had a problem dealing with pressure as a player.

In his younger days, his place in the West Ham team was often attributed to nepotism, as the manager was his uncle, Harry Redknapp. He was also accused of being a waste of money by Chelsea fans, after being signed for £11m ($14m) in 2001.

Lampard, though, shrugged off the criticism and, after two solid but unspectacular seasons at Stamford Bridge, he went to a whole other level under Mourinho, becoming Chelsea's all-time record goalscorer (211 in all competitions) in the process.

He now needs to make a similar step forward in his fledgling coaching career.

Frank Lampard Chelsea GFXGetty/Goal

Lampard's start to his Chelsea tenure was undoubtedly hindered by the club's transfer ban, but there are no such excuses on offer this time around. The deficiencies his team exhibited last season will no longer be tolerated.

In 2019-20, Chelsea continually turned the ball over in dangerous areas, making them highly susceptible to counterattacks, while they were also very vulnerable at set-pieces.

They conceded 54 goals in the league alone, which marked the Blues' worst defensive record since Abramovich took over in 2003.

Chelsea have zero chance of mounting a title challenge if their defensive deficiencies are not eradicated.

There will, of course, be plenty of pressure on the players themselves to justify their lofty wages and massive transfer fees but the buck always stops with the manager.

And Lampard knows this.

"I'm very aware that a club like Chelsea, even though we had a transfer ban, even though the year was difficult, expectations are going to go up hugely," the former England international told reporters ahead of the new season. "And I just have to accept that as part of the job, and try and go about my job as well as I can.

Chelsea formation GFXGoal

"And then, in terms of my relationships with those above me or those around me, I have to be as good as I can be in that regard, because they're really important.

"The tough times will come, and I'll have to rely on those relationships being strong, from the board right down to the kit man.

"I've seen how the dominoes can fall very quickly. And I think if you isolate yourself as a manager, and don't open yourself up to everyone, I think those dominoes fall much quicker."

For now, though, Lampard clearly has the full support of everyone at Stamford Bridge.

Abramovich has thrown his weight behind his manager and Chelsea have re-established themselves as the top dogs in the transfer market.

However, Lampard knows that, sooner or later, he has to make the Blues the top dogs in the Premier League too.