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Chelsea’s £200m transfer spree has given Frank Lampard his biggest challenge yet

Chelsea have spent more than £200million on new players, revamping an attack that Frank Lampard had criticised for a lack of cutting edge, at a time when many of their rivals are looking under their sofas for spare change.

That means they must be title contenders immediately. Such investment makes it inevitable, right?

Not quite.

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The reality is only twice in Premier League history has a title winner finished outside the top three a season earlier – Leicester City in 2015-16 and Antonio Conte’s team in 2016-17.

Perhaps even more important in an era where the champions have hit 90-plus points in the past four seasons, the gap that must be bridged is just too big.

Leicester jumped 40 points, from 14th to first position, in 15-16, while Chelsea’s 43-point improvement a campaign later must be contextualised by what happened in the final weeks of Jose Mourinho’s reign.

The only other side to have made a 20+ point improvement to finish top was Manchester City in 17-18 but they had finished third a campaign previous.

But all three seasons saw big hitters endure crises of various descriptions and the chances of both City and Liverpool regressing so significantly in the same campaign seems rather remote.

Jurgen Klopp’s side finished last season 33 points clear of Chelsea. Liverpool, comparatively stagnant on the recruitment front, are unlikely to win 99 points again and Chelsea should aggregate more than 66 but that is still too much a gap to bridge in one leap.

Amid the excitement, there are a lot of questions with this big, grey cloud of reality hovering above: a likely target of 90 points to be in contention come May means there is not much time to ease into things.

And for reasons largely out of their control – a shortened pre-season, this poorly scheduled international break – such an overhaul is unlikely to click straight away.

The…

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