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Lampard's dilemma: Why he needs to keep chequebook closed if CAS rule in Chelsea favour

COMMENT: So this week? In days? It could all be settled by the weekend. Chelsea, Frank Lampard and the January market. A ruling on their transfer ban is about to be handed down - and every kid on the club's books will be anxiously watching on...

As the manager said on Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) are getting close to delivering their verdict on Chelsea's appeal. And they're confident. There's a better than evens chance Lampard will be allowed to work the January transfer window. But should he?

The romantics will say no. And you can understand the argument. The goodwill. The craque. The atmosphere. Everything that's been generated by Lampard's focus on youth. Surely he doesn't want to throw that all away?

The West Ham result aside, the place is jumping. Has there ever been such a feel-good factor around Stamford Bridge? Titles. Great games. Big results. They all generate an electric atmosphere. But what the home support are experiencing this season is something unique. Seeing their own not just get a chance at the top level, but actually thrive. For Chelsea, it's unheard of. There'll be countless season ticket holders who will have followed the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James since they were juniors at the Cobham complex. Now they're not just first teamers, but first-choice first teamers - and in a competitive Chelsea team. For any purist around the world, there has to be a pang of envy knowing what such supporters are feeling today.

So does Lampard rip that up in January? Well for this column, you hope not. But it won't be as easy as many will claim. And it won't just be Lampard's will which will be tested. If this youth policy is to succeed, it will also have to be endured - and those above the manager will need to show the same resolve.

It must be said, Bruce Buck, the chairman, did concede none of what we've witnessed this season would've happened without the FIFA ban. Buck admits they would've bought big over the summer. In the process, the door again shutting on another generation of FA Youth Cup winners.

"The transfer ban has led to more opportunities for the young players," said Buck in the first days of the appeal being lodged with CAS. "I can't deny that if there wasn't a transfer ban we might have splurged out on one or two or three players."

So is that a slip? Does Lampard and the club's football chiefs believe the squad is three big signings short of where they want to be? Well, for his part, Lampard was giving little away in his presser ahead of Wednesday's game with Aston Villa - and the return of good friend John Terry.

"Very soon, I believe. Days, I think," said the Blues manager when quizzed about a time for the verdict. “I haven't heard anymore so I will wait and reserve judgement until we get judgement and see where we want to go from there."

No matter how you slice it, both Buck and Lampard - when given the opportunity - haven't shut down the prospect of returning to the old ways once they can start buying again. You just hope it's surgical. A nip and tuck where needed.

And he will work the market, will Lampard. His one season at Derby is proof of that. Both windows he used to the fullest. And even with the deadline fallen, Lampard was still active in the free agency market, snapping up Ashley Cole and Efe Ambrose to help with their promotion push. Those ties with Harry Redknapp aren't just a family connection.

So, if given the opportunity, he will buy next month. And to be fair, he should. But as mentioned, it should only be surgical. The centre-forward position does need addressing, particularly with Olivier Giroud preparing to leave.

But that presents a dilemma in itself. With Lampard favouring a lone striker system. With Abraham his outright first-choice. Can the manager find a player willing to ignore the fate of Giroud and Michy Batshuayi so far this season? One who is prepared to work as cover for Abraham - and not play alongside him? And if he can't find his first-choice, does he buy for the short-term and wait for the summer - or leave everything as it is?

For this column, you hope it's the latter. Having set out his stall with this youth policy, Lampard and his higher ups need to stick with it. The approach is working. The players are thriving. And Chelsea, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea no less, are finally being admired for all the right reasons.

If the CAS ruling falls in their favour, Lampard shouldn't change course. Given the progress of his young team, the promise this new policy has offered those anxious kids shouldn't be ripped out from underneath them.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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