Eight games into the 2020-21 season and the pressure already seems to be mounting on Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.
It’s safe to say that three wins, three draws and two defeats – one via penalty shootout – to start the season wasn’t what Chelsea’s board had envisioned when they splurged £220m in recruits in the summer transfer market.
Granted that not all his new players have had the opportunity to play together from the start of the campaign and it’s still early days to pass judgement on the summer acquisitions. But to absolve the manager of all responsibility for Chelsea’s uncertain start doesn’t sit right either.
He indeed did get the opportunity to field all his summer signings in Chelsea’s 0-0 draw against Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League but their collective presence on the pitch didn’t really have that many signs of encouragement.
Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy were all on the pitch in the second half against Sevilla. Their presence on the pitch, though, did little to suggest that they could have a transformative effect on the side even though keeping a clean sheet was a welcome positive.
While it’s only fair to grant Chelsea’s sextet time to acclimatise to life in west London, surely Lampard must know that both performances and results must improve soon before his goodwill with the fans and board dissipates.
Chelsea barely qualified for the Champions League last season as their woeful defence struggled to keep things tight at the back. The lack of spending due to a transfer ban was pointed at as an issue for their defensive frailties.
The hope was that once Lampard had the opportunity to strengthen his squad over the summer, Chelsea’s solidity at the back would improve. Quality additions like Silva and Chilwell only added fuel to that notion but the proof is in the pudding and the west London club’s backline is still as porous as it was last season.
They’ve already conceded nine times in five league matches so far, including three goals each against Southampton and West Bromwich Albion. That’s not to say that Silva and Chilwell are bad additions. If anything, their presence in the backline has brought a sense of calm and assurance at the back.
Lampard, though, must do better both offensively and defensively to justify not just Chelsea’s summer spending spree, but also his credentials of being the right man to take the club forward.
Unlike last season, Lampard no longer has the excuse of not being backed in the transfer market to fall back on and his status as a Chelsea legend can’t keep him in the job for too long if results don’t improve soon.
Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich has a notorious reputation of sacking underperforming managers with alarming regularity ever since he bought the club. He’s sacked 13 managers since taking over the club in the summer of 2003, with Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink both having two spells. And while Lampard’s history with the club makes him slightly different from others, he will do well to remind himself of Chelsea’s Champions League-winning season, which he was a part of.
After sacking several managers in pursuit of European glory, former Chelsea midfielder Roberto Di Matteo was put in charge of the club on an interim basis before landing the full-time job after guiding the Blues to their first and only UEFA Champions League success.
The Champions League was the object that Abramovich desired most and yet despite winning it under the tutelage of Di Matteo in 2012, it counted for little when results went pear-shaped, resulting in the dismissal of the man who led Chelsea to the holy grail of European football.
Lampard hasn’t even won anything with Chelsea yet but enjoys a lot of adulation and respect from everyone at the club for he is their record goal-scorer after all.
However, that status of his can only take him so far because if he doesn’t start to justify Chelsea’s summer spending soon, he risks the infamous axe from Abramovich, who has already demonstrated his ability to separate emotion from pragmaticism while making such decisions.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Toby Melville