‘I don’t see beyond the next game,’ Lampard said. Fair enough, though next up for his young lads is a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. So we ask again: are you in a title race? No, says a smiling Lampard, who does not want to commit his kids, as good as they are, to such a challenge.
They cannot afford to get carried away. They have to learn to walk before they can run, though on Saturday they strolled to a sixth straight league win under Lampard.
Frank Lampard was unwilling to commit his side into title race talk as they continue to impress
Beating Crystal Palace saw Chelsea jump above City to second in the table, before Leicester’s victory over Arsenal bumped them back down to third by Saturday night.
‘It’s nice to be above City, because I’ve got huge respect for them,’ Lampard said ahead of their drubbing against Liverpool at Anfield. ‘What a team. But I certainly won’t announce ourselves in a title race because we are relatively new, because we are in transition with younger players.
‘To get carried away would be our biggest enemy. To say that would be a bit naive because we are not even a third of the way through the season. If we can keep replicating the form, keep replicating the results, then we can certainly close the gap, and I think that is the first step.’
Chelsea are in third place going into the international break and are ahead of Manchester City
With an average age of 24 years and 88 days, Chelsea named their youngest ever Premier League XI. It was also the youngest of any side in the competition this season — before Manchester United beat that on Sunday.
That was partly because Lampard handed a first top-flight start to 19-year-old Reece James.
The latest off the Chelsea production line, James started at right back, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta’s run of 73 consecutive starts in the Premier League for Chelsea came to an end. James’s performance prompted fans to joke that he would find Wilfried Zaha, the dribbling king of south London, when emptying his pockets at full-time.
Mason Mount says there is a family feel to Chelsea at the moment. ‘Even before the game, we were looking at the Under 18 score, away at Tottenham,’ Mount said.
Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic scored Chelsea’s second goal against Palace on Saturday
‘They were 4-0 up after 20-something minutes, so we focused on our game, but we’re watching the academy boys as well, because we were there not long ago. It’s like a proper club.’
Asked how the atmosphere had changed since Lampard arrived as manager, Mount added: ‘It starts from when the gaffer first came in. He set goals to be at the top of the league. We knew what we wanted from him. We wanted to be at the top of the league, to be in contention, because we knew what qualities we had in the squad. We knew that because of the transfer ban the pressure would be off us a bit. So we decided to go at it full hit and see where we go.’
James versus Zaha was a fascinating battle, and one which the Chelsea youngster won. ‘His raw talent and ability was there to see,’ Lampard said of James.
Mason Mount spoke highly of the feel good factor at the club since Lampard arrived
‘This is just the start of the story. There is a lot more to add to that. He’s going to be a big, big player for this club. He’s got the abilities to go very, very far.’
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich can only be pleased. From a business point of view, the Russian is seeing players who cost him nothing being turned into multi-million-pound assets.
How much would Tammy Abraham cost to buy now? What about Mount? Fikayo Tomori?
Now James. Another player who stood out on Saturday was Willian, the winger who is playing for a new contract with his current deal expiring at the end of this season.
His combination of Brazilian flair and tireless off-the-ball work stood out against Palace, along with Chelsea’s youthfulness. As Mount said, this feels like a ‘proper club’.