Opinion: Chelsea have made a mistake by sacking Frank Lampard
Chelsea Football Club took the ominous decision to sack their first team head coach and manager Frank Lampard on Monday, bringing an end to the club legend’s below-average performance at the helm. Although it can be argued that Lampard did not have as disastrous a season as several other managers before him, it also needs to be understood that it is only good performances and winning games that speaks in this fast-paced generation and the former England international had failed to provide either to the Chelsea faithful in the recent past.
THE ROMAN ABRAMOVICH EFFECT
Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich, an Israeli-Russian businessman and politician, is known to be very ruthless when it comes to treating non-performing managers. Lampard has been very lucky to survive for as long as he did thanks to the immaculate reputation he had as a player and the undefiled integrity that he carries with him in his bags. Fifteen managers have held the reins at Stamford Bridge before Lampard (including a couple who had the top job for an astonishingly short period) ever since Ambramovich took over in 2000. Fellow clubs Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have only had four, five and six managers respectively in the same time period.
WHAT FRANK LAMPARD DID RIGHT AT THE CLUB
Finishing in the fourth position in the league table at the end of the 2019–20 Premier League season despite having a transfer ban slapped upon them was probably the biggest achievement of Lampard’s career as manager at Stamford Bridge. For this achievement alone, he deserved more time in the driving seat but it is unfortunate that owner Roman Abramovich has conveniently managed to forget it. In the current season too, Chelsea have qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which is not something that their bitter rivals and current league title contenders Manchester United have done. In the FA Cup as well, Chelsea have progressed to the fifth round by defeating Luton Town in the fourth round. That game, in which star centre forward Tammy Abraham found the back of the net on three occasions, sadly turned out to be Lampard’s last match in charge at the Bridge.
It also needs to be remembered that Chelsea were the runners up of the 2019/20 FA Cup under Lampard and also progressed up to the round of sixteen stage in the UEFA Champions League. This needs to be put into perspective by reminding the reader that they were under a transfer ban. Therefore, it would be extremely foolish to suggest that Lampard did not have any good times wearing the manager’s suit (or in his case, the Chelsea warm up tracksuit).
WHAT FRANK LAMPARD DID WRONG
Now that we have established that Chelsea have historically given managers very little time to settle in and make the system work for themselves, we also need to understand why Lampard got the sack. It has to be noted that he is the first manager in the club’s history to have the lowest number of points per game and it is extremely hard to fathom this from a non-footballing perspective given that he was proffered a free hand to spend close to 200 million Euros in the summer transfer window.
Lampard had a masterstroke going his way with the signing of Brazilian centre back Thiago Silva as a free agent from Paris Saint-Germain, but his other signings, including centre-forward Timo Werner, have not exactly lit up the Premier League so far and indirectly contributed to his exit.
Record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga has had a poor time behind the sticks and although there are signs of the Spanish goalstopper regaining his form, all the blame has come upon Lampard for failing to inspire him.
This, in my opinion, is a bit uncalled for. It also has to be noted that the relentless (and apparently fruitless) pursuit of England and West Ham United’s central midfielder Declan Rice as well as the reported falling-outs of several players in the squad have fallen squarely upon Lampard’s shoulders. It is implied and understood that the buck stops with the manager but in Lampard’s case, bad luck has gone a little too far in making him lose his job.
Club owner Abramovich is bound to feel a little disheartened that despite having splurged on so many players in the summer transfer window, the Lampard-led side could not turn in valuable performances in the Premier League. Other new signings besides the ones mentioned above were Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, and the two of them have done reasonably well for themselves. However, neither of them have played a significant role in making Chelsea win games from tough situations and that has led to the blame falling again squarely on Lampard’s shoulders.
IT IS NOT ALL BAD AT THE END OF THE DAY
Chelsea are ranked in the 9th position of the league table at the moment with 29 points to their name in 19 matches, and that is far from satisfactory. Recent defeats to Leicester City, Manchester City and Arsenal did not help Lampard’s cause at all. Chelsea have also not won against any other traditional ‘top six’ opposition in the Premier League this season, drawing against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and losing to Liverpool as well.
Lampard had made the shift to managing back in 2018 when he was named as the head coach of English Football League Championship club Derby County on a contract which was initially supposed to run for three years. At the aforementioned club, he knocked out Manchester United by penalties in the EFL League Cup. This was supposed to be his greatest achievement at the Pride Park Stadium but Lampard did not want to rest upon his laurels. At the end of the season, after having finished 6th in the Championship table, Lampard guided Derby County to overturn a deficit in the Playoff semifinal against Leeds United and set up a final against Aston Villa. However, Derby County lost in the final against Aston Villa and had to stay back in the second tier of the English football league structure. There is no doubt that these particular exploits allowed the authorities at Stamford Bridge to approach him for the vacant managerial spot after the incumbent Mauricio Sarri had decided to leave for his home country Italy and coach Juventus.
Amid the doom and the gloom, it needs to be remembered that Chelsea, under Frank Lampard have qualified for the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League and this is a very big positive. Admitted that the results have not gone the Blues’ way this season in the Premier League, but I feel that Chelsea were incredibly short-sighted in their handling of a man who was given the responsibility and freedom to create a new system and ‘dynasty’ at Stamford Bridge before the 2020/21 season began. Abramovich would have done well to stick with the club legend for a little while longer and give the squad some time to come to terms with his philosophy. This sacking is perhaps the only blot that the former creative midfielder, who enthralled audiences at Stamford Bridge and across the world, has in his resume as a manager.