Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has issued a veiled warning to his players – you have until the end of this season to prove yourselves, because in the summer we make decisions.
Tuesday night’s 3-0 Champions League humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich highlighted just how far Chelsea have to go to get back into Europe’s elite.
Now, holding on to fourth place and ensuring qualification for the Champions League next season is crucial for Lampard – but he insisted that the Chelsea board were behind him in his plans.
Lampard’s team face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium this weekend and he believes he will get a response from his youthful team after Tuesday.
The Chelsea manager, whose side are three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, said: “There is a reason why we are where we are.
“We have not challenged in the Premier League for a couple of years. We want to close that gap.
“Come the summer, of course as a club we want to move forward and make some decisions.
“We are certainly on the same page here when I speak with the board and we have our conversations. We know we are fighting for fourth place.”
But, he added: “The landscape of the Premier League has changed.
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“Man City and Liverpool have set incredible standard, we had some outside influences with the transfer ban and a huge player in Eden Hazard leaving.
“How long can these players go on being considered young? I don’t know. I suppose it’s when they’ve a bank of games behind them. Or when a younger player comes through.
“I don’t think of them as young.If they train at a level and play at a level, I’m not concerned.
“Maturity will come for them, that’s why we have to give them some leeway this year.
“For Mason Mount and Reece James on Tuesday it was a huge game for them in terms of their learning curve.
“I didn’t play my first Champions League game til my mid-twenties.”
Lampard admitted though that he does not know when top scorer Tammy Abraham will be back. The England striker aggravated an ankle injury against Bayern.
The Chelsea manager said: “I don’t know how long he will be out for.
“It’s an ankle injury. The inflammation is causing pain.
“Surgery has not been mentioned. But it’s a month later with Tammy and we’re still talking about it.
“It’s been frustrating. We have seen him come back and go away again.
“Sometimes things are pain threshold. If he is not comfortable he probably has to come out for a few days.”
Probable Chelsea team to face Bournemouth: Caballero; James, Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta; Kovacic, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Mount.
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