By Leon Blackman
An appointment surrounded by doubt and questions over his experience, Frank Lampard’s time at the club where he made his name has come to an end with Chelsea releasing a statement confirming the club have parted ways after 18 months in charge.
The news comes as a relative shock after Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Luton Town in the FA Cup on Sunday, however many say the writing has been on the wall with a terrible run of form leaving Chelsea 9th in the Premier League table.
At time of writing, reports are that Lampard will be replaced by former Paris Saint Germain Head Coach Thomas Tuchel, who was sacked by the French champions in December 2020.
Let’s breakdown Lampard’s time at the club and look at where it all went wrong for the 42-year-old.
Big-money signings failed to perform
Lampard joined Chelsea as manager after a transfer ban which saw Chelsea unable to sign any new players for two transfer windows. In his first six months at the club, the Blues performed well and was looking good for a top-4 finish in the Premier League. Some fans at the time claimed that the transfer ban may disrupt the first-team squad with many academy players securing first-team berths.
After securing 4th place and Champions League football last season, Lampard and Chelsea spent over £200million in the summer of 2020 on Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Edouard Mendy, and Ben Chilwell.
Other than left-back Chilwell and goalkeeper Mendy, the two positions where Chelsea was in need of reinforcements coming into this season, the other summer signings have not lived up to their price tag.
Hakim Ziyech, a dynamic winger with unquestionable talent brought in from Ajax, was injured in a preseason game against Brighton and since has been unable to pull together a stretch of games in the first team as he continues to be back and forth from the treatment room.
Timo Werner, brought for just under £50million from RB Leipzig has been unable to transfer his terrific goalscoring form in Germany to the Premier League, who has managed 7 goals in 26 games and is currently on a 16-game scoring drought.
The most criticized of all the Chelsea new boys is Kai Havertz, who unlike Werner, has been finding himself on the substitutes bench for the majority of this season. When on the pitch, Havertz looks like he is out of his depth and will need to quickly adjust to the physical demands of the Premier League if he is going to be a success.
Lampard will know better than most that this is a results-driven business and there will be even greater pressure on results when plus £200million has been spent on new arrivals. Time will tell whether he should have stuck with the academy players that took him to 4th place last season.
Terrible results against other ‘big’ sides
Lampard’s reign as Chelsea boss began with a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United and this result would set the tone for how Chelsea performed against the top sides with him in charge.
In 15 games against the “big 6”, Chelsea picked up 15 points from a potential 45, scoring 15 goals and conceding 29. This is form not good enough for owner Abramovich’s standards, who in a statement regarding Lampard’s sacking said:
“We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as Head Coach of the Club. However, recent results and performances have not met the Club’s expectations, leaving the Club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement.”
Results in the last month have seen Chelsea lose to rivals Everton, Arsenal, and Manchester City as they are now 11 points adrift of Manchester United who top the Premier League table.
Additionally, Chelsea also lost to Liverpool at home, Wolves away and drew 0-0 with Tottenham, these results have shown no sign of improvement from the team and left the owner with no choice other than to part ways.
Chelsea also lost the FA Cup final to London rivals Arsenal last season; winning that prestigious trophy may have bought Lampard some more time in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
Inexperience at the top level
Ultimately, it was Frank’s managerial experience that has cost him his job as he looked tactically outclassed against the more seasoned managers and the team looked like they lacked a system and tactics to break down opponents.
Lampard took Derby County to the Championship play-off final in the year preceding his appointment as Chelsea Head Coach, and in hindsight, Chelsea should have let Lampard build his own managerial and tactical style before being tested at one of the world’s toughest places to manage.
Chelsea is tied with West Brom (27) for most players used in the Premier League this season and that shows with the manager oblivious to his best starting eleven.
Players were unable to develop a run of games together as Lampard was constantly changing the starting line up with Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, and Olivier Giroud all switching at the striker’s position.
In midfield, it seems Lampard was unsure as to what his player’s best positions were, with Mason Mount operating as a 10, 8 and, even sometimes a 6 with new signing Kai Havertz starting in a number of positions as well.
There has been a lack of rhythm and chemistry in the Chelsea starting 11, and this is another key reason for Lampard’s departure as Abramovich saw no “clear path to sustained improvement.”
Chelsea’s imminent appointment of German Thomas Tuchel will be in the hope of bringing the best out of fellow countrymen Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, as well as bringing in an experienced manager at the top level, who has experienced serious pressure before as manager of PSG.
Frank Lampard’s legendary status as a Chelsea player is everlasting, however, his reign as manager will be one of regret for the former England midfielder who has many lessons to learn from when he recaps his time as Head Coach.