Frank Lampard made several significant changes to Chelsea’s starting lineup for their second to last home match of the season against Nottingham Forest. This comes a week after he secured his first victory as interim head coach, also marking the only points gained during his temporary tenure.
The 44-year-old coach was compelled to sideline N’Golo Kante due to injury, a concern in light of the Frenchman’s troubled season. Despite scoring three goals against Bournemouth in their previous game, Lampard made further adjustments to the team’s attack.
The lineup saw the return of Lewis Hall, 18, alongside Mateo Kovacic, Raheem Sterling, Joao Felix, and Edouard Mendy as the goalkeeper. Kante’s ongoing injury issues cast a shadow over his possible contract renewal, as doubts remain regarding his ability to sustain top-level play throughout an entire season.
The final three games of the season will closely observe other transfer-related decisions. Mendy, who hasn’t seen game time since October, is a significant contender for transfer. Meanwhile, it remains uncertain whether Kepa will be the top pick for the expected new head coach, Mauricio Pochettino.
Lampard clarified that the goalkeeper selection wasn’t a reflection of these considerations. He stated, “It is an opportunity that I think for his part is well deserved from how he’s training. We’ve got two very good goalkeepers here that have played for us and Kepa’s playing really well.”
However, Mendy’s performance during the game, particularly his error leading to Taiwo Awoniyi’s opening goal, further bolstered arguments that he may not be the top choice for the next season’s goalkeeper.
Both Mendy and Kepa’s contracts expire in 2025, and they could potentially be transferred this summer. This would necessitate new recruits, especially as promising USMNT player Gabriel Slonina, still a teenager, is likely to be loaned out for first-team play.
The uncertainty around this key position could prove challenging for both Kepa and Mendy regarding their future.
In the forward position, Lampard opted for Sterling over Mykhailo Mudryk on the left, a decision vindicated by Sterling’s two goals in the 2-2 draw. However, the choice to position Joao Felix centrally was somewhat controversial. Despite his 34 touches, the 23-year-old failed to create a meaningful opportunity, with his best attempt easily handled by Keylor Navas.
Felix’s future at Chelsea remains ambiguous. While reports indicate he is content in London, his role under the new manager is uncertain, particularly given the surplus of attackers at Stamford Bridge, his price, and his lack of a substantial impact.
Felix’s three goals, though impressive, have been inconsistent and haven’t significantly influenced results. Atletico Madrid’s demands suggest a permanent move to Chelsea may be out of reach, though another loan is a possibility.
While a deal close to the £111m paid for him in 2019 seems unlikely for Chelsea, a move similar to the £12m six-month loan deal seems more plausible. Regardless, the clubs are far from reaching an agreement, and Felix’s role in the next season remains uncertain.