Chelsea fans will turn on players before turning on Frank Lampard, says Paul Merson
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Last Updated: 05/07/19 10:49pm
Chelsea fans will turn on the players before they turn on head coach Frank Lampard, says Paul Merson.
Club legend Lampard left Derby to sign a three-year contract at Stamford Bridge replacing Maurizio Sarri as the Blues' head coach.
The club's all-time record goalscorer, who won 11 major trophies in west London, takes the job with Chelsea in the middle of a transfer embargo having sold their prized asset, Eden Hazard, to Real Madrid for £130m.
Merson says Lampard's "legend status" could be diminished by a poor run of results but believes fans will sooner turn on the players than the manager.
Will Roman Abramovich be patient with Lampard?
"I don't think so. His legend status will soon go out of the window if he loses six games on the trot.
"It's all about the players. If you have the players with you and they are going to work hard and run through brick walls for you then you have a chance with their talent.
"The problem is, like at Manchester United, if they lose six on the trot the fans will turn on the players and not the manager. Then the players will get the hump."
Is the timing right for both parties then?
"It is a big risk. You have to take the chance. I'm a Chelsea fan - we finished third, lost in the final of the League Cup and won the Europa League. That's a good season.
"He's coming in now having lost one of world's top five players in Hazard and he can't bring any players in.
"It is a big, big gamble but it's one that you have to take. When you are a manager you dream about managing the team you used to play for and getting the England job.
"He's come in at a bit of the wrong time because he cannot buy players. I don't know who else would have taken the job if I am being honest."
Will Lampard be judged on results or youth development?
"When you are the manager and the younger players are not better than what you already have - which they are not, let's be honest - are you going to play [Tammy] Abraham over [Olivier] Giroud?
"That's the problem. Reece James will be special but is he going to take [Cesar] Azpilicueta's place at moment? I don't think so.
"If you are Frank and you're throwing these youngsters in, you still need to finish in the top four. You can't just bed them in with the season not going great and then all of sudden Frank gets the sack.
"Someone else comes in and reaps all of the benefit with the transfer embargo being lifted - he'll then have the best job in the world."
Does that transfer embargo ease pressure?
"He does not have the added pressure now of going out and buying £80-90m players. He has a year to bed players in.
"I hope he isn't just there as a stop-gap. As I said before, who else would have taken this job?
"I think this is why the negotiations took such a long time. Everyone thought when Lampard went into talks with Chelsea it would take two minutes.
"I quite like how Frank has taken his time. He does not want to be the stop-gap for someone like [Massimiliano] Allegri who has taken a year out. He's not there to steady the ship.
"He said in his press conference that these younger players need to be good enough to train with and then get into the first team.
"These young kids are at Chelsea with international players, it's not a club like Bournemouth where there isn't much between them."
Is Chelsea's squad still full of experience and quality?
"Do you think (Matteo) Kovacic would have signed for Chelsea without there being a transfer embargo? I don't think he scored a goal and they've paid upwards of £40m. They've signed him because they need another body, surely?
"It's not all about this year, it's a three-year contract, and as a Chelsea fan it feels like a good opportunity to steadily, steadily bring these players through. One at a time, not bringing a four or five and then suddenly Chelsea are a mid-table team.
"It's going to be hard. It's such a jump from Derby to Chelsea, it's unbelievable. You are training superstars and have to get them motivated. It's a different job.
"At Derby they would have looked at him with an aura, it won't be like that at Chelsea."