Chelsea manager Frank Lampard insists he is relishing the pressure of attempting to battle Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title this season but admits he is well aware of how hard it will be to bridge the gap to the duo.
In his first season at Stamford Bridge last term, Chelsea steered a youthful side to fourth spot to qualify for the Champions League, but in his second campaign, ambitions have been taken up a notch.
After finishing 33 points behind champions Liverpool last season, the Blues have spent in excess of £200million on six new signings this summer, recruiting Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz to upgrade their squad.
In Werner and Havertz in particular, Chelsea have signed two of the German Bundesliga’s biggest talents who should bring an added ruthlessness to Lampard’s attack.
With such a large outlay, Chelsea – who have won the title five times in the Premier League era – are expected to at least significantly shorten the points difference to the league’s dominant sides, Liverpool and City, who won the previous two titles before the Reds’ long-awaited triumph last year.
And Lampard is aware of the increased pressure upon him this season, with managers who have fallen short of expectations at Chelsea having not lasted long under Roman Abramovich, and insists he is excited by it.
“I’m not interested in other people; other people can talk about whether we challenge or not,” Lampard told a press conference ahead of Chelsea’s opening match at Brighton on Monday night.
“For me, we finished a lot of points behind Liverpool and Manchester City in the last two seasons, as has everybody else, that’s the way that the league has gone.
“So we have to first look at closing the gap, and build confidence, by getting the team working well together. I’m not jumping ahead and making any predictions on us.
“I thrive off those pressures and I enjoy them. I understand the different nature of pressure coming this year. It is why I love doing it.
“I didn’t come into this job to fight for fourth place, although I know last year that it was an achievement and one of our goals that we set out to.
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“I didn’t come in to just bring academy players into the first-team and say I made debuts for this many players, I came here to win.
“Any club at our level has to try and tick the major boxes and recruitment is a huge part of that. Last year we weren’t able to recruit in a big way.
“I wasn’t able to bring in players I felt might be helpful for the way I wanted to go and the style I wanted to play. This year, I have been able to have some impact on that.
“But the club has, more importantly, been able to make decisions to bring in players. It changes the landscape, yes, but I am excited by that as much as feeling the pressure. I am ready to go and work.”
Told there is an expectation upon Chelsea to win the league title, Lampard added: “I understand that and I hope Chelsea fans are excited because I am not going to lie, we have brought in a high level of player that we feel will improve our squad.
“At the same time, I also know what it takes to win Premier League. I know that as a player and I know when I look around.
“When you look at the teams that have dominated in recent years, and your eyes are drawn to Liverpool and Manchester City, they are a story that has run over a few years.
“At their own pace at different times but in terms of recruitment and coaching on the training pitch, it then relates onto the pitch.
“It doesn’t work that simply bringing in players mean you win on the pitch. It doesn’t work that way so we hope we will improve. I know expectations will be there. I won’t hide away from that.
“My expectations are in on a different level from last year because we are on a different situation. We want to improve but we won’t jump too far ahead of ourselves.”
Champions Liverpool last season won all of their first eight games and 26 of their first 27 until the end of February.
Asked if that puts the onus on Chelsea to also start strongly against the Seagulls, Lampard said: “Of course, we have to start well and we know Brighton and what a good team they are.
“We go away from home to their stadium and I have also mention that we have had a non-pre-season. Most of our players joined in the last few days or had a week of the international break.
“There are only 36 days between Bayern Munich and kick-off against Brighton. That has been challenging for us, as it has been for lots of clubs.
“I am not making excuses. We need to be ready and we want to win the match.”
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