Frank Lampard has banned Chelsea’s players from talking about the club’s transfer embargo as he bids to prevent a lowering of standards at Stamford Bridge.
Blues boss Lampard returned to west London last month knowing he would be unable to strengthen his squad until next summer because of sanctions imposed by world governing body Fifa.
Despite the recruitment restrictions, the 41-year-old believes his side can remain competitive after last season finishing third in the Premier League and winning the Europa League under his predecessor Maurizio Sarri.
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“I don’t want – and I said this to the players the first time I spoke to them – I don’t want talk of the ban, I don’t want talk of what is success, what might be success, and any lowering of standards,” said Lampard, who takes his new team to Manchester United on Sunday.
“I want to set out as we should do. And when I looked around the room I was looking at top players everywhere, and a big squad full of quality. Can we remain competitive when we are in this position? I believe we can.
“And we just have to accept that and use the challenge of what we’ve got and have absolute belief in what we’ve got because I think with the ban it’s been very easy to write off this squad somewhat.
“What matters is how we approach it and if I was a Chelsea manager who said ‘I’ll settle for sixth place this season or fourth place, or even second place’, that’s not the mindset.”
Chelsea’s current predicament has prompted plenty of pundits and former players to forecast a difficult campaign for the club.
United States forward Christian Pulisic – whose £58million signing from Borussia Dortmund was agreed before the ban – was the only new arrival during the summer, while the Blues sold influential forward Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and allowed experience defenders David Luiz and Gary Cahill to depart.
Lampard – who left Derby after one season in charge to replace Sarri – wants his squad to use the negative predictions as motivation to prove the doubters wrong.
“I love it. I love listening to the radio and hearing predictions when we’re not in the top four,” said Lampard, who scored a club record 211 goals for the Blues between 2001 and 2014.
“Because it means that there is a challenge and there isn’t anything better in football than proving someone, or people or an idea wrong. We should all accept that challenge.
“There are two things, the outside world and what they think of us, and what we think within these walls. We believe we can really have a go.”
Lampard, who had Chelsea youngsters Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount on loan at Pride Park last season, will use the unusual circumstances to give chances to some of the club’s academy prospects. The former England midfielder has urged them to seize the opportunity.
“I don’t know what their ambitions are, but I know the talent they have,” he said. “I love working with them, I love training with them, I love them as lads because they are very driven and they are like sponges on the training pitch and they bring enthusiasm to training every day, and quality – which gives a great balance to any squad.
“I am expectant, that’s not to try and put too much on their shoulders, it’s what I see every day, that they will deliver and they hopefully dream of being a Chelsea first-team player when they are in the academy.
“That door has to be open for them, and they have to open the door and walk through it.”