Lampard’s Chelsea a success in Year 1, but now expectations will rise

This season might have begun with only minimal expectations for Frank Lampard and Chelsea, but by the end they were banking on Champions League qualification, and Lampard delivered.

The evidence of that change in mindset was sat in the stands here at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea spent around £50 million to acquire Timo Werner from Red Bull Leipzig, a striker who is so desperate to hit the ground running next season that he sacrificed playing in the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League to prepare for the next. How embarrassing it could have been for all sides had they fallen short at the final hurdle, but in the end, Werner was left to marvel at what he describes as his “new home” with renovation plans firmly on track.

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Werner was the second arrival after Hakim Ziyech signed from Ajax for £37 million in February, and he won’t be the last. Chelsea have been progressing on a deal with Bayer Leverkusen for Kai Havertz over the past few weeks and will now step up their attempts to finalise a fee — which could easily surpass £70m — with the future picture now clear. They may well have attempted to pursue Havertz regardless but Champions League qualification makes them a much more attractive proposition, frees up further funds to continue their squad overhaul and validates Lampard’s first season in charge of a Premier League club.

“In brutal honesty, I would say yes [Champions League qualification makes attracting players easier],” said Lampard.

“Not to say exactly where that will go because that’s not a conversation for today off the back of the game straight away. The economics of the Champions League are big, we know that. We know the prestige. Top players want to play in the Champions League. Top players that are here already and the young players want to play in the Champions League.

“To get too far ahead of ourselves and be concerned about what it might mean is not a question for today. We can all improve, myself included — that’s what football is all about. If we are looking to recruit in certain areas, I think it may help.”

There was no huge celebration at the final whistle. That may have been because Chelsea had already drawn the sting from a potentially nervy afternoon with a quick-fire double in first-half stoppage time.

Mason Mount executed a superb free kick, curling a right-foot shot over the wall and past Rui Patricio after an opening period in which Wolves looked the better side despite rarely testing Willy Caballero, picked in goal at the expense of the expensive Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Wolves switched off and suddenly the game was lost. Christian Pulisic surged forward from Jorginho‘s pass only to be tackled by Ruben Neves before Mount fed Olivier Giroud, who had the strength and speed of…

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