Avram Grant: Frank Lampard will be very successful at Chelsea and Hakim Ziyech set to be ‘sensation of the year’

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has tipped Frank Lampard to be a major success in the dugout and believes the London club are serious contenders for this season’s Premier League title.

Lampard, one of Chelsea’s most celebrated players, guided his side to a fourth-placed finish during his debut campaign as manager at Stamford Bridge, and has overcome an indifferent start to this season to sit fifth in the table after eight matches.

Unbeaten in six in the league, and eight in all competitions, Chelsea are only three points off the summit.

Grant, who in the 2007/08 season took a Lampard-inspired Chelsea to runner-up finishes in the Premier League and the Uefa Champions League, says he knew even back then that the decorated midfielder, 42, would one day make a successful transition to management.

“Frank will be a very good manager – now he is a good manager – but with the experience because he’s an intelligent guy,” Grant told The National on Monday during a visit to Dubai. “He has a good brain for football, he knows the game, he’s played under a lot of coaches, [and] each one gave him a different perspective.

“Even people say he is young: he didn’t start immediately in Chelsea – he was one year in Derby [County, in England’s second tier]. He did a good job. And last year, with the transfer ban, was a good experience for him.

“So I see Frank developing. And it’s a good idea for Chelsea to take a coach who will develop himself and the team at the same time. You see the results now, what Chelsea have done this year. They did a very good job in the transfer window, and no doubt they will fight for the championship. I’m sure about this.”

Chelsea were one of the biggest spenders this summer not only in the Premier League, but in Europe, with a number of high-profile additions to the squad. Recruiting the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell, the club were said to have spent in excess of £200 million ($263m).

Grant, 65, began his employment at Chelsea as director of football in July 2007, but within two months had replaced Jose Mourinho as manager.

Having stayed until the conclusion of the season, he says the club’s substantial investment in the most recent window means they are well placed to capture a first top-flight title in four years. Intriguingly, Grant predicts former Ajax midfielder Ziyech, who starred in Saturday’s 4-1 victory against Sheffield United, will be the “sensation of the year”.

However, the Israeli concedes that, with the huge outlay, comes the pressure to deliver. Asked what Lampard needed to do to keep happy Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s notoriously demanding owner and someone with whom Grant knows particularly well, he said: “To win games. But you cannot win all the games; not even one coach can.

“I know there is a pressure in Chelsea, a pressure in that they bought a lot of good players, but think about the other side – no pressure and not good players. What do you prefer?

“To live with this pressure is good. The pressure is coming because you want to achieve something, because the club wants to achieve something, the owner wants to achieve something, Frank himself wants to achieve something.

“So it’s a good pressure. Sometimes it’s a problem – like too many players on the bench – but it’s better this problem rather than not having the players. And Frank will deal with it.”

Grant says he expects this season’s Premier League to be one of the most open for some time, given the short turnaround between campaigns because of the coronavirus pandemic – something he attributes to the plethora of high-scoring matches thus far.

The former Portsmouth and West Ham United manager also backed a host of managers – including Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in calling for a return to five substitutes – which was utilised during the delayed end to last season.

The Premier League, though, reverted to its traditional three following a clubs’ vote, the other top leagues in Europe remain at five, and has since witnessed a slew of injuries to prominent players.

“[The managers] are absolutely right,” said Grant, who advocates too for each half of a match to have timeouts, as the league did in the summer. “Yes, it’s dangerous, but it’s a good challenge for the medical departments, who now need to be at their best.

“It’s a big challenge, for how you analyse training, how you analyse the amount of minutes the players need to play. At the end of day you need the good football players at their best.” 

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