Why Derby's gamble on Frank Lampard could pay off

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 31 May 2018, 10:07

Derby County have given Frank Lampard his first job in football management on a three-year contract.

The former Chelsea midfielder is certainly a left-field option but could be the right choice to build on Gary Rowett’s tenure.

Rowett, who left for Stoke job earlier this month, deserves some credit for achieving a top six finish. In the first half of last season especially, the 44-year-old got the best out of Matej Vydra, who finished the Championship’s top scorer with 21 goals.

Questions could be asked though about the sustainability of his methods. For a start, Derby’s squad last season had an average age of 29.5, making it the oldest in the Championship. The previous boss might have wanted to continue down the experienced route, but signing lots of old players on expensive contracts is a risky business for a club that has not tasted the riches of the top flight for over a decade.

Secondly, Rowett might also have persisted with a style of play that is, perhaps, overly defensive. He always used a double-pivot; comprising any two of Tom Huddlestone, Bradley Johnson and Joe Ledley depending on fitness, as well as two cautious full-backs in Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth.

Because none of those players have the pace nor inclination to construct attacks from deep, the build-up play consists of hopeful balls down the channel for the lone striker, either David Nugent or more recently Cameron Jerome. Only when the front man holds the ball up does Vydra, or a wide forward such as Tom Lawrence, start to look a threat.

That’s not to say Derby didn’t play any good football under Rowett - we saw some slick final third interplay in September’s 5-0 win over Hull, for example - but it only happened after that ball into the front man. As opposing teams have found in the second half of the season, if they can cut out that initial direct pass at source and perhaps nullify Vydra, Rowett’s Rams could be short of alternative ideas.

That’s why his departure is an opportunity for them to add another dimension to their game. Lampard will excite the section of fans who had grown slightly weary of the previous brand of football and, if his attendance at Monday’s League Two Play-Off Final is anything to go by, will look for young, up-and-coming players.

He has already stated his intentions to “bring through some of the excellent youth and Academy talent we have at Pride Park” which implies a desire to lower the squad’s average age and build a more energetic, dynamic outfit.

Naturally, Lampard’s lack of coaching experience will be levelled at him, but there is reason to think he could grow into this role. Derby will have an extensive backroom team; coaches and performance analysts with whom the new manager will be able to gain advice and share ideas. While Lampard would be a main figurehead at the iPro and be accountable to the public, he would not be making decisions on his own.

Lampard has spoken well when asked to do punditry duties and his achievements as a player makes him a character who a lot of people will respect.

Is this a risk for Derby? Yes - but it might be one worth taking.

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