Frank Lampard was unable to mark his first game in charge of Chelsea with a win, having been held to a 1-1 draw by Irish side Bohemians in Dublin on Wednesday.
But the former midfielder was in good spirits following the match.
Denied a 1-0 win by a last-minute equaliser on the day, the Englishman has plenty of work to do but he will be the first to admit that the current Chelsea squad is far from the well-oiled machine they hope to become by the start of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.
The Blues only took eight minutes to open the scoring, with Michy Batshuayi putting them ahead. However, they did not take advantage of their lead and Eric Molloy would earn his side a draw with an 89th-minute goal.
Lampard, though, claimed to be pleased with the result, noting that his team is still far from the required fitness level as most of the players have only just returned from holiday. The erstwhile Blues superstar has not had much time in his new position himself, getting hired the day before the start of preseason.
“Fitness was our issue but I wanted to stretch them a bit and put them under pressure,” the 41-year-old told reporters after the draw, as quoted by Goal.com.
“This is what preseason is all about and the quicker we get there, to the level we want, then the better. We wanted to win the game as you always do but it is not about that.”
Batshuayi has given the manager something to think about. The Belgian is a favourite among Chelsea fans and many are hoping he will finally get his chance after being spurned by both Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri in recent years.
It was the forward’s goal against West Bromwich Albion that sealed Premier League triumph for the Londoners in 2017 and it will not be forgotten anytime soon.
A loan spell in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund saw him bag nine goals in 14 appearances but an unfortunate injury cut his season short and nearly kept him out of the World Cup.
Things hardly went well at Valencia last season as he was handed just four La Liga starts before heading to Crystal Palace on yet another loan deal which saw him score five times in nine starts.
The 25-year-old will likely be the man to lead the attack for Chelsea next season as they are banned from registering any new players until next summer and are short on options. But he can’t afford to waste this opportunity; it may be his last to prove his worth to a Chelsea manager.
Meanwhile, Lampard’s appointment has prompted some neat betting specials from Betfair. You could get your full list of bookmakers here but if you’re keen on a Lampard special, the aforementioned bookies have an 8/11 special on Chelsea finishing above Manchester United next season. They’re also 4/1 to win any of the four competitions they’re involved in (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup).
Bet365 have offered odds of 25/1 on The Blues winning the top flight at the end of 2019/20 and 5/4 on a top-four finish for Lampard’s side. Manchester City are the obvious favourites after winning two successive titles and Paddy Power has them winning a third at 8/13.
Chelsea are now set to play St Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland on Saturday before they take on bigger clubs such as the likes of Barcelona, Reading, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Monchengladbach ahead of their Premier League opener against Manchester United on August 11.