5 key factors in the Premier League Top 4 race
- Liverpool are on the verge of claiming the Premier League trophy, but the race for Champions League qualification is set to go the distance.
It is one of the most-exciting sub-plots of each and every Premier League season as the clubs that have missed out on the title challenge push for a lucrative place in the UEFA Champions League. With Manchester City set to serve a ban from European competition next season, the additional place has offered an opportunity for a couple of unlikely candidates to step into the breach. Here’s a closer look at the credentials of those challenging to compete in Europe’s premier club competition.
#1 Chelsea’s youth and exuberance
Frank Lampard faced a huge challenge when he took charge of his beloved Chelsea last summer. With just a season of managerial experience behind him, his decision to accept a job that could prove to be the pinnacle of his coaching career showed just how much belief the former England midfielder has in his own ability.
A transfer ban came at a time of transition for the club, and while the situation suggested that Lampard could not lose, it also questioned if he could realistically succeed under such confines. However, as a player himself Lampard was thrust into the spotlight at West Ham United as a prodigious teenage talent, and his own experience has been crucial in bringing the best out of young players like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Mason Mount, and most recently, the exciting Billy Gilmour.
The faith shown in youth is a far cry from the traditional transfer approach of the Roman Abramovich era, and while there will be investment in the squad in the future, the excitement generated by the production of these youngsters has shown a need to continue to invest equally in the youth system. For years, Chelsea boasted one of the strongest youth teams in Europe, but failed to promote players through to the senior squad.
It has taken someone like Lampard to show Chelsea’s hierarchy that there is another way, and the fans at Stamford Bridge have more than embraced this new era. Too many big signings of the past have failed to produce under the weight of expectation and the revolving door of the manager’s office, and if this new direction in recruitment can bring Champions League football this season, Lampard’s faith will be vindicated in what would be an incredible debut campaign.
But there is more to Chelsea than just youth and exuberance, and the balance with the experienced members of the squad is credit to the work that Lampard has produced in a short period of time. His status at the club was always likely to allow him sufficient time to take the club forward, and the enforced transfer ban would have bought him more time if a step backwards had first been necessary. However, just as he did as a player, Lampard has exceeded expectations, and Chelsea are benefiting from his talent for a second time.