Frank Lampard is a legend at Chelsea. That will never change to matter how his tenure as the club’s manager ends. He’s the club’s all-time top goalscorer and was there throughout their recent glory years, winning every domestic trophy in England plus the UEFA Champions League. His legacy is secure, and fans will never forget it. However, that spirit of goodwill is unlikely to keep him in the Chelsea dugout for much longer unless results improve drastically, and soon.
Time is running out quickly for the Chelsea talisman. It might already be too late. Halfway through the English Premier League season, his team is eighth in the table, sitting behind West Ham United and Everton. That isn’t good enough for a club of Chelsea’s standing – especially with all the money that chairman Roman Abramovich invested during the summer transfer window.
This isn’t how things were supposed to turn out for Lampard. When he was appointed before the beginning of last season, he was hailed as a promising young coach steeped in the club’s history and aware of what fans wanted. His mission was to bring in a new era of success based on attacking football, dispensing with the negative tactics that were employed during Maurizio Sarri’s brief period in charge. It was understood and accepted that there would be a period of transition and rebuilding, but slipping so far away from the top four wasn’t part of the deal. Staying at the same level for a season or two might have been acceptable. Going backward most certainly is not.
Perhaps, in some ways, Lampard is a victim of his relative success during his first season in charge. By finishing fourth in the table last term, he secured Champions League football for the club. That was more than was expected of him and ought to have laid the foundations for an even brighter future. To that end, Abramovich poured in his money and allowed the coach to buy Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, and Edouard Mendy for a combined cost of more than £200m.
That ought to have brought about another step forward, and so we should be discussing Chelsea’s prospects as title contenders at the moment. Instead, the media are reporting that the club’s board have started discussing the possibility of bringing in a German-speaking manager to replace Lampard and try to get the best out of Havertz and Werner, both of whom have struggled to make an impression during their first few months with their new club.
Changing managers halfway through a season is always a risk for any club, no matter where they are in the table when the change happens. It’s like playing online slots. You have to make your choice and spend your money before you get a chance to see whether you’ve made the right move, and you can’t undo the decision once it’s made. While there are many cases of players hitting the jackpot first time or winning big on UK casino websites like Rose Slots after changing their betting strategy, there are just as many incidents of players losing everything after making a bad call.
In football terms, there’s no online slots website in the world that offers higher stakes than the English Premier League. It’s the richest competition in the sport. The rewards for success are enormous, but the costs of failure are astronomical. Chelsea finishing outside the European qualification places this season would be hugely costly, and Abramovich will be desperate to ensure it doesn’t happen. He must now decide whether his best chances of avoiding that fate rest with Lampard or with another coach.
Lampard would probably be more secure in his role if another highly-rated coach wasn’t available. Unfortunately for him, there’s a very strong contender waiting in the wings in the shape of former Paris Saint Germain coach Thomas Tuchel. Tuchel fits the bill not only because of his multiple championship wins in the French league but also because he’s German.
It’s understood that Chelsea strongly considered him for the post when it became available in 2017, but the board decided to go in another direction on that occasion. Tuchel’s stock hasn’t dropped since then, and as a proven winner who ought to be able to connect with Havertz and Werner, his name must surely have been mentioned during boardroom meetings.
Among all the gloom, though, there might be hope for Lampard because of the way that showing a little patience has worked out for two other high-profile Premier League clubs. As recently as a month ago, there were calls for Mikel Arteta’s head at Arsenal, but four wins in five games have seen the Gunners stage a recovery. Arsenal are still stuck in the middle of the table, but four weeks ago, they were being talked about as relegation candidates. Now, they’re within touching distance of the European qualification places and will get there if their current form continues.
The more obvious comparison to make, though, is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s situation at Manchester United. The Norwegian manager spent the majority of the 2019/2020 season being accused of being out of his depth at Old Trafford before the January singing of Bruno Fernandes turned their campaign around and saw United finish in third place. Even at the beginning of this season, United’s early form was indifferent, and there were calls for his sacking when the club crashed out of the Champions League.
Now, at the time of writing at least, they’re at the top of the table. There is an argument for standing by a manager during difficult times so long as there’s reason to believe that things will eventually improve. Given Lampard’s history with Chelsea, he was always likely to be given more time than most to make that case. The only question is how much of that time he’s used up already.
It wouldn’t surprise us to see Lampard lose his job within the next week. It also wouldn’t surprise us to see him stay until the end of the season and turn things around. Nothing is permanent in football, and all things are possible, but Lampard’s reign as Chelsea’s manager looks more impermanent now than at any point during the past eighteen months.