While Chelsea’s 2-0 loss to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium was not something unexpected, the way the London side was brushed aside on the pitch has brought about a sense of finality amongst fans, players, board members as well as manager Frank Lampard.
After two quick first-half goals had let the hosts ahead in half-time, the outcome was pretty much decided then and there – a characteristic feature Lampard’s men have been facing from day one. Lack of conviction is one of the main reasons why Chelsea have struggled this season, and it can seemingly be regained only by Lampard’s departure.
"It takes character to turn from that - I went with quite a young team today so they won't be feeling nice,” Frank Lampard said after the match.
“I'm not against the lads in the dressing room because they're disappointed. They learned a lesson from a team playing well and we were that team a month ago."
"There are moments you have to dig in and do the basics, and the bare minimum is to run and cover ground. Many of our players didn't do it," the former Chelsea player added.
No way back for Lampard
Managers getting the sack after publicly criticising his own players have been a common phenomenon in modern football. The memories of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte facing the sack after similar occurrences are still fresh in the memory of the Chelsea fans. Mourinho would even go on and get sacked from Manchester United in his succeeding managing stint after falling out with players.
A club usually picks a side in these circumstances. While sticking with the players – in whom the club has highly invested in – is the norm on most occasions, United and Arsenal have shown the other way by keeping their trust in Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Mikel Arteta.
Unfortunately, Lampard is highly unlikely to get the support from the Chelsea board, whose summer transfers had given a clear indication of their plans. With players like Kai Havertz and Timo Werner coming in for a combined 110 million pounds, apart from other high-priced imports as well, the plan was always player-oriented.
In fact, The Athletic has even reported that the board is looking to get in a German manager, someone like Julian Nagelsmann, Ralf Rangnick, or Ralph Hasenhuttl, who could unlock the wealth of potential in Chelsea’s front three. Considering that Havertz, Werner and Christian Pulisic - all have German influence, the move would make sense as well.
Misreading Lampard’s potential
While Lampard’s inexperience as a manager and his lack of depth in tactics were always going to be a huge hindrance for the Englishman in his post-playing career, Chelsea’s board is equally to be blamed.
Appointing Lampard in July 2019 had made sense. Maurizio Sarri had just left Chelsea for Juventus, after delivering them the Europa League, and the club was serving a transfer ban. Hence, getting in an experienced manager with his set of grand demands was always a challenge.
Lampard’s men, under little expectations, did reasonably well to qualify for the UEFA Champions League last season. However, fourth-placed Chelsea had finished just four points ahead of Leicester City with Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves withering away following the pandemic break last year.
Losses against lower table teams last season like West Ham United, Newcastle United, Everton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Sheffield United were evident enough of Lampard's inability. Hence, Chelsea’s decision to stick with him especially after their massive investment last summer was always questioned.
Chelsea's problems were starting to reflect early on in this season as well, after a 2-0 home loss to Liverpool and a 3-3 draw to West Bromwich Albion, but a string of easy fixtures soon after papered over the cracks.
Chelsea's unbeaten run - which had wins against Burnley, Sheffield, Newcastle, and Leeds and draws against Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - further prolonged Lampard's stay, before Everton broke it. Since then, Chelsea have lost four of their seven Premier League fixtures.
With 19 Premier League games gone and exactly 19 more left to save their season, the time cannot be any better for Roman Abramovic to find a suitable replacement for Frank Lampard.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ Tim Keeton