Chelsea fans have lauded manager Frank Lampard for putting the club on course for a successful season despite a gloomy forecast last summer.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp predicted the Blues would miss out on a top-four spot and silverware after losing their star man Eden Hazard to Real Madrid before being placed under a transfer embargo by FIFA.
Lampard replaced Maurizio Sarri with a daunting task and was forced to play youngsters without any signings coming in, but with one game to go they sit in third place and have booked a spot in the FA Cup final against Arsenal.
Speaking at the start of the season, Redknapp, Lampard’s cousin, told Sky Sports that expectations for Chelsea’s campaign needed to be much lower with the obstacles they were facing at the time.
‘Of course, Lampard has to be treated differently because Chelsea have lost their superstar,’ he said. ‘Hazard was the one player that would produce a piece of magic to make a goal or score a goal.
‘And if you think Lampard should finish in the top four and win a cup, you’re deluded. It’s completely wrong, you can’t have that expectation.
Jamie Redknapp at the start of the season. “If you think Lampard should finish in the top 4 and win a cup then your deluded”
It’s amazing how we are only a few games away from making it a possible reality. pic.twitter.com/2QISUlxiO1
‘This manager needs time, he’s going to give young players an opportunity and if he finishes in the top four, that’s an incredible achievement with this team.’
The Blues now look set to pull off that incredible achievement and have the chance to lift a trophy on August 1.
Fans have reacted to the early-season prediction and reflected on the job their manager has pulled off.
One supporter said on Twitter: ‘It’s true! Jamie Redknapp is absolutely spot on. Anyone who predicted Chelsea this would of been deluded! It just shows what a fantastic job Frank Lampard has done. Chelsea fans, be EXCITED!’
Another wrote: ‘The job Lampard has done this season is nothing short of incredible.’
‘It’s amazing how we are only a few games away from making it a possible reality.’ said one fan.
Lampard has received plenty of praise for his work in utilising the squad despite not being able to make a marquee addition at the start of the season. Starlets like Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Callum-Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have all been drafted in to bolster the team.
With Mount shining particularly brightly, the former Derby boss has managed to get performances out of the inexperienced stars and Abraham has netted 17 goals along the way to keep the top four in sight.
They remain in the Champions League although face a mountainous task to get past Bayern Munich in the knockouts in August after a 3-0 loss in the first leg.
But silverware is something the club constantly craves and Lampard has a chance to deliver just that when they take on the Gunners at Wembley Stadium. Lampard negotiated a tricky route too – overcoming Liverpool and Leicester City before knocking out Manchester United in the semi-final.