Frank Lampard's Chelsea reign got underway in Dalymount Park on Wednesday night. The Blues were held to a 1-1 draw by Bohemians, courtesy of an 89th-minute equaliser from trialist Eric Molloy.
Speaking after the game César Azpilicueta claimed that Lampard’s return to Stamford Bridge will help heal the fractured fanbase in the wake of Maurizio Sarri’s departure to Juventus. The Chelsea captain believes that feeling is massive.
“We know the fans can make the difference. It is true that last season for periods we didn’t give them what they expected,” Azpilicueta said.
“Our level and performances were not good enough and the reason they were not happy with us and negative. We turned it around and got the Europa League at the end. You can see all the fans are very happy and now that we have the gaffer back at the Bridge we have to give back,” Azpilicueta affirmed.
Since Roman Abramovich took over the London club they have become characterised for the rate at which they burn through managers. Despite the usual reports from the dressing room of disharmony between players and manager, Azpilicueta claimed the Chelsea players do not choose their managers.
“We won the Europa League, we finished third and his [Sarri’s] choice was to move on, to go back to Italy. We are the players, we are not here to choose the manager or the others so now I think this it’s in the past. We are grateful for him and the staff for all the work they did in Chelsea and now we have an exciting season ahead,” he said
With a transfer ban looming over the club and the loss of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid over the summer, questions were asked about hiring an unproven manager. Azpilicueta reminded everyone that Chelsea have been in tough positions in the past when John Terry, Petr Chech and even Lampard himself left the club.
“At that moment no one could imagine a Chelsea side winning a trophy without players of their quality and we have to try to keep the level and replicate the success all the players in the past have had.
Azpilicueta added, “it was difficult but every year we had a chance to bring back trophies to the Bridge and I think we’ve been doing quite well. Obviously, sometimes we could have done better and now we have something unusual that is a transfer ban and we have a chance to see a lot of young players that are coming back from loan.”
But Azpilicueta is optimistic Lampard’s experience as a Chelsea player will make up for his inexperience as a manager.
“I think the experience he has as a player playing at the highest level, playing under a lot of very good managers - his personality, his behaviour, his confidence - I think there is nothing to be worried about.
“I’m sure his desire, his passion, for being a manager to have this chance to be the manager of Chelsea - the club that he loves and the fans love him - everyone at the club is very excited and the only way we can get it started is by winning. And being together and getting that feeling back of being all together as a club and then we know every year it’s harder and harder and we have to be ready,” the Chelsea captain claimed.