London (AFP/APP): Frank Lampard insists Chelsea are on course to finish in the Premier League’s top four despite their spluttering start to his reign.
Lampard’s side are languishing in 11th, 10 points off early leaders Liverpool, after winning just twice in their first six league matches. However, they are just three points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal and level on points with traditional top-six rivals Manchester United and Tottenham.
“No, of course not,” Lampard told reporters on Friday, when asked if he was concerned about Chelsea’s prospects of qualifying for the Champions League. “Look at the other teams around us. Arsenal, Man United. We understand we’re in and amongst it. “Having seen the young players, I’m as confident as I was before. We want to be competitive and get into the top four.”
If Chelsea are to climb the table, Lampard will need his gamble on the club’s promising youngsters to pay off. The Blues all-time top scorer spent 13 years at Chelsea as a player. He coached Derby last season but left to return to Stamford Bridge. He believes the current crop of Blues youngsters are the best in his time at the club.
Tammy Abraham, who has scored seven times this term, and Mason Mount have been the most high-profile of the academy graduates. But Fikayo Tomori has also established himself, while the highly-rated Callum Hudson-Odoi returned from injury to score in the League Cup win over Grimsby on Wednesday.
Lampard has also brought through Reece James, Marc Guehi and Billy Gilmour, who all impressed against Grimsby. “The fact that we are seeing the numbers of them in the first team speaks for itself,” added Lampard.
“It is a nice sign. We are all happy at the club. But as always with these things, the step into the first team, even though it feels like a hard one, is actually the easiest one.
“For me now, sustaining, improving and really showing they are players capable of taking Chelsea to where we want to be is the next step.
“From where I see it age is not a huge factor. There is competition in the places these young lads are playing. Abraham has competition in (Olivier) Giroud and (Michy) Batshuayi, and Mount has competition in (Mateo) Kovacic and (Ross) Barkley.”
The next test for Lampard’s young prodigies comes against Brighton on Saturday as they look to secure a first home league win this season at the fourth attempt.
Brighton have not beaten Chelsea since 1933 and are without a victory in the top-flight since the opening weekend.
“Every week is important and the fact that we haven’t won at home in the league is something that we obviously want to correct,” Lampard said. “If we are going to be where we want to be then we are going to need home wins.”