Germany international Timo Werner, who joined the Blues from RB Leipzig in the summer, arrived in the Premier League on the back of 77 Bundesliga goals in just three seasons and his reputation only matched by the $72 million check signed by Abramovich to secure his services.
Werner was a central part of a transfer revolution at Stamford Bridge which saw Abramovich publicly back Lampard in the transfer market a season on from the Chelsea legend stewarding the team to a fourth-place position in the Premier League amid a season-long transfer ban and the loss to Real Madrid of their chief creative force for so many seasons, Eden Hazard.
After a bright start, Werner has been shunted out wide on the left to accommodate academy forward Tammy Abraham and the evergreen Olivier Giroud – but critics are warning that the German is too square a peg for this round hole, and that his predatory goalscoring instincts are being stifled as a result.
This is an assertion that Werner seems to subscribe to. “The Premier League is a little bit different to my old league that I used to play in,” Werner said ahead of Chelsea’s clash on Monday with London rivals West Ham.
“I have to say, it’s tougher than I thought. The contact here is harder than in Germany; it’s what I expected but not like this.
“I think it’s also hard when you play every three days, and the Champions League and internationals, and you have to play on Saturday against teams that can rest the whole week and think only about the game against you.
“The beginning was very good. Now, after a lot of games – I don’t know if it’s normal – but I’m struggling a little bit.”
Werner’s comments may point to a wider and developing malaise at Stamford Bridge. Lampard’s charges have struggled to cope with the packed festive schedule in December and have lost two straight games in the Premier League to end a run of 17 games unbeaten in all competitions.
While it is too early to sound the alarm bells, there will be concerns in the Stamford Bridge corridors of power when it comes to the integration of Lampard’s legion of new signings to the first team.
But as we edge nearer to the midway point of the season, what are the mid-term report cards for Chelsea’s galaxy of new stars?
The most high-profile of all of Chelsea’s summer signings, Havertz is arguably the player who has impressed the least.
Like Werner, Havertz was signed on the back of a couple of star-making seasons in the Bundesliga after which he was unanimously declared as one of world football’s top talents.
That may well be true but we haven’t seen it in the English top flight just yet. The tall, languid Havertz is supremely elegant on the ball and possesses a masterful touch but has too often existed on the periphery of games.
Still just 21, Havertz was signed with the future in mind – but there’s little doubt that Chelsea want to see a better return for their investment in the present.
As already noted, Werner began his Chelsea spell well but has suffered as a result of being shunted around the Blues’ forward line.
He hasn’t quite settled into a rhythm yet in English football, but his searing pace and canny eye for a goal suggest that his best will be soon be seen.
The term “duck to water” might apply here. England international Chilwell already looks like an integral piece of a rejuvenated defense since his move from Leicester City late in the transfer window, and appears to be the most assured left-back the club has had since the days of Ashley Cole.
Last season’s left flank duo of Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmeiri has barely got a look-in this season and while Chilwell doesn’t quite have the goalscoring nous of Spaniard Alonso, he is far better defensively than both and has contributed heavily to Chelsea’s suddenly miserly backline.
The winner of Ajax’s player of the year for the past three seasons, Ziyech was the first of the new Blues targets to sign up with the club but is among the players to have featured the least after being sidelined by two separate injuries since the start of his Chelsea career.
When he’s on the field though, he looks impressive. The Moroccan possesses as cultured a left foot as you’ll find in the Premier League and has formed a useful combination with the marauding Reece James on Chelsea’s right flank.
Both Ziyech and Lampard will be hoping that those niggling injuries are overcome soon because initial signs show that he very much looks the part.
Senegal’s Mendy certainly wasn’t the most headline-attracting of Chelsea’s summer additions, but there is a lot to suggest that he might be the most important.
Many of Chelsea’s woes last season could be pinpointed to the hapless performances of Spanish outcast Kepa Arizzabalaga, with statistics pointing out the keeper -once Chelsea’s record signing, remember – is by a wide margin the least dependable goalkeeper in the league.
Even if Mendy improved Chelsea’s goalkeeping marginally, it would have been a bonus. He has done far more than that – showing a supreme command of his area during high balls and helping to organize the defensive line in front of him. A crucial signing.
Maybe the most important of all Chelsea’s new signings was also the most cost-effective, arriving from Champions League finalists Paris St. Germain on a free transfer shortly before the start of the season.
Despite a porous display in his Chelsea debut against West Brom, the veteran Brazilian has gone from strength to strength since then and has become the club’s most dependable central defender since former captain John Terry.
He has formed a steady relationship with defensive partner Kurt Zouma which, coupled with the signings of Chilwell, Mendy, and the emergence of Reece James, has truly transformed what was Chelsea’s Achilles’ heel last year.
The legendary defender clearly isn’t the long-term answer in the heart of the Chelsea defense but he has certainly steadied the ship.
Lampard, and Chelsea fans the world over, will now be hoping that some of his fellow new signings start to do the same.