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Contract rebels? How Pedro & Willian expose void in Chelsea's transfer policy

COMMENT: Is Willian being selfish? Pedro self-centred? Well, if they don't commit to the end of the season with Chelsea, the answer is simple: Yes. But beyond their contract rebellion, the departure of these two veterans could expose an Achilles heel in Frank Lampard's management.

The players. The hold-outs. They do have a decent argument. The intensity of this restart does heighten the risk of serious injury - and with that the chance of blowing a lucrative Bosman move away.

But given the domestic schedule - and the dead Champions League rubber at Bayern Munich - is there really such a glaring difference with what'd be expected from any normal end of season rush? A Chelsea team going for an FA Cup, a league title and Champions League glory. Would the demands on the players be any different to today's extended season? No. This is purely about contracts and money. And to be fair, the stand from Pedro and Willian can be understood. But it does put their relationship with the club and supporters in jeopardy. And their choice also exposes one facet of Lampard's ambitious team building that will need addressing.

Whether it's next week, or at the end of this season, Chelsea's dressing room will be left with a massive void. 430 Premier League appearances - all that experience - will be lost when Willian and Pedro depart. And you can add another 130-odd games from Marcos Alonso's expected sale. Lampard appears determined to move on the Spaniard also.

It's a new era. A new broom is sweeping through this locker room. Timo Werner's arrival was confirmed on Thursday. Hakim Ziyech has long been locked away. And there's now talks with the reps of Kai Havertz, of Bayer Leverkusen. Exciting young players. Exciting young attacking players. All with their best years ahead of them. How can you not get swept away by all this...?

But will Lampard give them the support needed to fulfill this potential? Older, wiser heads to lean on. Senior players to guide and protect the potential Chelsea have invested millions in. With Pedro, Willian and Alonso all to go, does the current dressing room have enough about them to help the likes of Werner and Ziyech to bed in?

The senators of Lampard's Chelsea are long gone. The ones who conspired to drive Andre Villas-Boas out of the club - and then carried Roberto di Matteo on their shoulders to Champions League glory. The Drogbas and Lampards. The personalities who were bigger than managers like AVB and Luiz Felipe Scolari. Who challenged club appointments. Who exasperated Roman Abramovich. They're gone. That culture's gone. And it's a good thing.

But Lampard will need to be careful as he builds this new team. He needs experience. Guidance - even protection - on the pitch and a positive influence off it. As good as Ziyech and Werner are, moving to the Premier League and joining a club of Chelsea demands is something they've never experienced. They need only ask Jorginho. Indeed, no foreign signing made by Chelsea in recent seasons has hit the ground running. Some struggle to ever overcome the initial shock of the requirements and scrutiny of being a Premier League player. Kepa Arrizabalaga, for one, is still trying to find his way two seasons into his Chelsea tenure.

But this is where an older head is so valuable. A player who has been around the block. He knows what's required for a team to snap a slump. And also what's needed to maintain a run of form. He's been there, done that - and has the medals to prove it.

And Lampard knows this. It's why he took on Ashley Cole last season while in charge of Derby County. He needed that extra bit of know-how as they sought promotion from the Championship. Someone in-synch with his ideas, who he could trust to guide his young players off the pitch, as well as on it. Particularly given the inevitable pressure and expectations a promotion run can generate.

This is what awaits Werner, Ziyech and potentially Havertz next season. And it's why Lampard will need to consider adding an old hand to his squad to help with the transition. It's on his mind. Cole is proof that he recognises the value of such experienced additions.

But does Lampard have the connections to find this player? Jose Mourinho took Ricardo Carvalho with him from Porto to Chelsea and then onto Real Madrid. A player he could trust. A leader to influence the dressing room. Does Lampard have someone similar he can call upon?

Cole was one. Essentially, he was Lampard's answer to Carvalho. But he's now hung up the boots. Where does the manager turn next?

Willian is a seven-year Chelsea player. Pedro has been in Blue for five. Alonso four. As good as these young players are now coming through, losing that amount of experience in one shot is always going to be felt.

Whether they commit to end the season or not, the experience that leaves with Pedro and Willian will need to be replaced. The chances of messrs Ziyech and Werner fulfilling their potential depends on it.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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