The word on the street is that Chelsea are considering parting ways with manager, former captain, and all-round favourite son Frank Lampard, after they slumped to eighth in the Premier League on Sunday night.
The Blues had been flying as recently as December and went 17 games without defeat after losing to Liverpool in the second game of the season. Having overhauled the squad in the summer, Lampard’s team were emerging as serious title challengers, and strolled through to the knockout phase of the Champions League without breaking a sweat.
A few alarm bells were rung after a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar, however, and since then, it has all gone to pot. Ahead of Sunday’s visit of Manchester City, their momentum had slowed to a crawl, and having won just one of their last six matches, things weren’t looking great.
Nonetheless, the mood going in was one of defiance. A source indicated to us in the days leading up to the match that Lampard had earned the board’s trust, and they were 100% committed to giving him at least the season to turn things around.
The nature of their defeat to City seems to have changed the tune dramatically, however. They were 3-0 down at half-time to Pep Guardiola’s side, and were staring down the barrel of a truly embarrassing defeat. It didn’t quite play out that way, as Callum Hudson-Odoi’s late consolation restored a modicum of respectability, but the result and performance is thought to have rung alarm bells.
A report from The Athletic in the hours after the match suggested his job was under ‘serious threat’, and that was followed by a separate piece on Monday that suggested potential replacements were being considered. Those conflict with a report from The Guardian, however, who claim he will be given more time to turn things around.
Regardless of the disagreement, though, therein commenced silly season, and reports from France have already suggested that Ukraine manager and former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko is on the shortlist of names. We’ve already had Brendan Rodgers, Rafa Benitez, Julian Nagelsmann and many others linked with a post that isn’t yet vacant.
When these things come to light it can be tricky to separate the logic from the nonsense, but it is by no means ridiculous to suggest that Lampard could soon be sacked. There is still plenty of support for the boss among the Chelsea support, but owner Roman Abramovich isn’t merciful at the best of times: the fact that Lampard was the 14th managerial appointment since he took over in 2003 attests to that.
Criticisms of Lampard aren’t exactly groundless either. He has the worst PPG (points per game) record of any Chelsea manager in the Abramovich era. Second-worst is Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked before the end of his first season.
There are mitigating factors in Lampard’s case, of course, which lend weight to the idea that he may have time yet. You could argue he has only had the same resources as his counterparts for the most recent six months of his tenure, yet his first season was an unexpected success despite being forced to operate under a transfer ban.
Several high-profile signings this summer, however, collectively racking up more than £200m in transfer fees, have seen them regress, rather than progress. They sit seven points off Liverpool in a title race that looks to be there for the taking, and Lampard knows he will need a big response from his players in the next couple of weeks if he wants to avoid an awkward call to the job centre.
They face Morecambe in the FA Cup this weekend, Covid allowing, before travelling to Fulham next Friday. Anything but a pair of wins, and it may well be a sad and sudden end for the Stamford Bridge hero.