THERE is pressure on Frank Lampard, that much is clear from the footage that emerged from Chelsea’s midweek thumping at the hands of Liverpool, when the 42-year-old became involved in a heated dispute with Pep Lijnders, one of Jurgen Klopp’s backroom team.

Swearing and chucking water bottles is not something you would normally associate with Lampard. He emanated cool and calm as a player with a dash of inspiration that made him ideal captaincy material at the club.

Management is a different beast, however, and part of his frustration earlier this week will have come from knowing that he got his tactics wrong and in recognising that his side is far short of the level that Liverpool and Manchester City are operating at.

Today Lampard finds himself in a position where his side must beat Wolves at Stamford Bridge to secure Champions League football next season. It is by no means a certainty that they will do that, having experienced something of a mixed bag of results since the resumption – albeit the three defeats suffered have come on their travels. But their task is complicated by the fact that this afternoon’s opponents need a win to guarantee automatic Europa League qualification themselves.

The jostling for the European positions has been one of the more interesting sub-plots in an otherwise boring return to Premier League action and the more so because Lampard has found himself neck and neck with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, another club legend whose Manchester United side have thrilled and dismayed at times this season, all while being helped along by some fortunate interpretations by VAR judges.

Failure is an unthinkable prospect for Lampard and with United travelling to Leicester, the only other club that can knock Chelsea out of the race, it seems unlikely that the Londoners will find themselves on the outside looking in. But, while the ramifications for failure would be less damaging to Chelsea, they might have greater resonance for Lampard.

The Englishman has guided his players to an FA Cup final but trophies have been no guarantee of longevity in the manager’s office at Stamford Bridge before. There is a narrative that suggests he was hamstrung this season by Chelsea’s inability to sign players due to a two-window transfer ban, handed down by UEFA for 150 rule breaches involving 69 academy players.

But their youth system is the best in England. Since Roman Abramovich arrived at the club, Chelsea have made a point of snaffling up the best young talents in England – and abroad. Run your finger down the list of FA Youth Cup winners over the past decade and the name of Chelsea appears seven times.

So, the idea that Lampard faced some kind of Herculean task in coaxing a game out of callow kids is something of a misnomer. What’s more, it has provided him with ballast in his squad for next season. The make-up of which will be significantly gilded by the arrival of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig for £50m and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax for £34m. They are expected to be joined by German attacking sensation Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of around £72m. That trio will hoover up most of the finances generated from the sale of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid last summer and that of Alvaro Morata to their city rivals Atletico earlier this month.

Quite why Lampard feels the need to lavish so much on attackers when his side has scored 67 league goals this season is anyone’s guess.

Clearly, the 54 goals conceded at the other end of the pitch are where the problems lie. No team has given away more from corners than Chelsea this season while Kepa Arrizabalaga – the club’s record signing at least until Havertz officially signs – has conceded the most goals (12.6) he should have been expected to save of any goalkeeper in the league.

To that end, Chelsea have been linked with a succession of No.1s including PSG’s Alphonse Areola, Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson, who has impressed during a two-season loan spell at Sheffield United.

In defence, Atletico’s Jose Gimenez and West Ham’s Declan Rice have been touted as options in the centre. Meanwhile, they expect to add a new left-back, too, with Ajax’s Niclas Tagliafico and Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell among the targets.

In short, should Chelsea follow through on the overhaul that is mooted, they will begin the start of the new season around £350m lighter off, demonstrating that the pandemic has been more manageable for some than it has others.

It also makes a mockery of the idea that Chelsea were embarked on some kind of commitment to giving their youth a chance, a trope that has been rolled out regularly this season.

It might also ask a question over just how good Lampard really is, too. He has benefited from the tail-off at Tottenham this season and has been aided by Arsenal’s continued struggles, United’s too, to a lesser extent. Chelsea can spend but if they are to turn a two-horse race for the title into a three-way tussle, then they must pass a few more tests yet. Securing Champions League qualification today would be a good way to start.