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Football

Under-pressure Lampard desperately needs a change in fortune

Under-pressure Lampard desperately needs a change in fortune
Head coach Frank Lampard of Chelsea prior to the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and Aston Villa in London, Britain, 28 December 2020. EPA-EFE/John Walton / POOL EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Frank Lampard’s sophomore season at the helm of Chelsea is quickly turning into a nightmare. If results do not improve he may well not finish the season.

This weekend’s third-round FA Cup fixture couldn’t have come at a better time for under-fire Chelsea boss Frank Lampard and his side.

The London club will take on Morecambe, a side plying their trade in the third and lowest tier in English football. The Blues, without a win in their past three games and only one in their past six, will be looking to use Sunday’s fixture as a confidence booster.

Most of the teams in the Premier League this season have failed to show any coherent form and fluidity, including Chelsea’s most recent opponents, Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s side have been far from the well-oiled, surgical team fans have become accustomed to. Yet, against Chelsea last weekend one could hardly tell.

They played Lampard’s side out of the park, scoring three unanswered goals in the first 45 minutes. That Chelsea seemed to mount a fightback in the second half is largely because City took their foot off the accelerator.

Despite the drubbing Lampard spoke assuredly after the game.

“I’m not concerned [about the pressure]. We can have peaks or troughs; I’ve just spoken about where we are at,” he said.

“I expected periods of difficulties this year. I said it when we beat Leeds and everyone was championing us to be title contenders. I know it doesn’t come that easy.”

New to the managerial game

Lampard, who is still fairly new to football management, has been in charge of the 2012 UEFA Champions League winners for a season and half. The Englishman, who is also the 12th permanent manager to take over since Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, seems to be falling victim to the pressures that come with the Chelsea job.

In his debut season at the club he steered them to a top-four finish, and as a result a place in the Champions League.

What seemed to irk many affiliated with the club was that Lampard’s team blew a 10-point gap over Manchester United in the run to the end of the season. The Red Devils finished third, level on 66 points with fourth-placed Chelsea, but with a superior goal difference.  

The Blues also lost out on silverware when they were beaten by London rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup.

The defeat was made worse by the fact that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who is new to management himself, had only been in charge for a few months. Yet he managed to mastermind a victory over his opposite number.

Money splashed 

Chelsea’s hierarchy chose not to wield the axe on Lampard at the end of the 2019/20 campaign. Instead, they backed the 42-year-old by splashing out £222-million (R4.57-billion) on the European summer transfer market.

Players such as Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy were brought in to bolster the Blues barracks. And such heavy spending brings heavy expectations.

Despite early promise that the new acquisitions would take the league by storm, things have gone south for the Lampard and his team. Germans Werner and Havertz have had a particularly torrid time recently.

According to Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, the team – along with all the new signings – still need time to gel. Covid-19 did rob them of a proper and thorough pre-season, but that is true for all the teams in the league.

“We have hardly had any time to train together and to work out how each other play, so we’re just taking every day as it comes at the moment,” the 23-year-old told Chelsea’s official website.

“Every game we play we’re learning new things about each other. I’m starting to understand them more and they’re starting to understand me more, so hopefully we drive each other and be the best we can be.”

Whether Lampard will be around long enough to see this happen remains to be seen. The Chelsea hierarchy is infamously trigger happy when things are not going well.

It will be important for Lampard that his team win their next game convincingly, then ride the coattails of that victory to steady the ship once more.

“The coach always keeps us positive. Of course, it’s a difficult period for us because we are not winning, but it’s necessary to continue working and be prepared for the next match,” Chelsea defender Thiago Silva said recently.

One thing is clear: Chelsea and Lampard need positive results post haste. Otherwise, if the slump continues the board will be left with no alternative but to pull the trigger on the club legend. DM

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