Chelsea manager Frank Lampard took a huge risk in playing some of his back-up players against Fulham, but in the end, it paid off.
Frank Lampard has always maintained that he is most comfortable under pressure. Until now, there was really no way of validating these comments. Lampard spent his first season at Chelsea exceeding expectations. The Blues found themselves in a tight race for the top four, but Lampard’s job wasn’t at risk. The same cannot be said now though as the sack rumors are more prevalent than ever.
The contest against Morecambe in the FA Cup marked the first time Chelsea took the pitch following the surfacing of the talks. However, there was never any uncertainty about who would come out on top of that game. The match at Craven Cottage marked the first time the Blues seriously needed a result or they would risk their manager being canned. Thus, you’d expect Lampard to trot out a full strength XI given the fact his job is on life support—you would be wrong. Lampard put his money where his mouth is and doubled down on his team, electing to rest some key starters ahead of Tuesday’s scrap against Leicester. The Chelsea boss took a huge risk, but in the end, his players repaid their faith and the gaffer lives to see another game.
Instead of choosing to play the Blues’ best possible, in-form starting XI, Lampard opted to play some backups. Reece James’ exclusion was really the only easy decision, seeing as he’s coming back from an injury. N’Golo Kante was also suspended for the match, hence his absence. Otherwise, players like Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kurt Zouma found themselves on the bench in the most nerve-racking game of Lampard’s managerial career. While they came on later, it was still shocking to see when the line-up dropped. We all knew it’d be ugly from the moment the starting XI was announced, but this calm was a bit too nervy for comfort.
The manager opted to put all of his dressing room leaders into the line-up, even though they didn’t necessarily give Chelsea the best chance of winning. Lampard showed faith in the tested veterans in his squad to go out and get him a win. The young manager could leave nothing to chance, despite his job essentially being on the line. Although they didn’t exactly play well, the Blues left Craven Cottage with three points. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters, especially given Fulham’s decent form as of late.
Our hearts dropped into our stomachs around the 70′ mark when we knew we may be witnessing Lampard’s final moments on the touchline. Regardless, it was the player he’s perhaps shown the most faith in that repaid his debts to his manager. Mason Mount’s scintillating strike put Chelsea ahead and Lampard was off the hook—for now. Giving starts to Antonio Rudiger, Jorginho and Olivier Giroud was a risky move by Lampard. However, it showed he is comfortable with the pressure he’s under and although he is not losing sight of what’s ahead in the near future, he’s always playing the long game.
Leicester City, who the Blues play on Tuesday, is a far more difficult opponent than the in-form Cottagers. Therefore, Lampard saved his most worthy players for the mid-week clash. The pressure doesn’t magically disappear at this point though. Lampard has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to remain in charge at Chelsea. The focus now shifts to the Foxes on Tuesday and thanks to the managerial gambles at the weekend, the Blues will be at full strength for another massive fixture.
Lampard is walking the metaphorical tightrope at the moment. The 42-year-old remains the calmest funambulist on the planet though. His team can prove to be quite the circus act at times, but Lampard will continue to put his faith in those he trusts most. It may not always be pretty; it’s not a one-man show either.