Frank Lampard has been sacked by Chelsea, and everything is worse now.
I’m 22 years old, so the first Chelsea team I followed was the Jose Mourinho side from 2004 onwards. Since then, I have watched Chelsea become the most successful team in England. No team can match their trophy haul this century.
There have been great moments. Carlo Ancelotti’s football was thrilling, Antonio Conte was briefly inspiring, and Jose Mourinho managed to bring a swagger to the club, a firm belief that we were truly the best. But none of them bought joy like Frank Lampard.
Chelsea, for the first time in my life, felt like a club that meant something. That stood for something. It was a club with a heart. Fans had longed for longevity, and with Lampard this was the promise. For the best part of 20 years, Chelsea has moved from one career manager to another. The cycle was one that had bought success, but bar the relationship formed with Mourinho, it had never inspired emotion like Lampard had.
Fans thought that there was a finally a long term plan in place. Lampard was in no way the perfect manager, but the logic was that he would be able to learn on the job. Most fans were willing to accept poor results in the pursuit of a long term goal.
What Lampard did in his first season, though, was exceed expectations. Finishing in the top four represented a massive success for the club, and one many were not expecting. Lampard also did something no Chelsea manager had done before him which was integrate many of the talented academy graduates into the first side.
Revisionists have claimed that he had no choice to do this, but this simply isn’t true. He could have played Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud over Tammy Abraham. Chelsea had five center midfielders so there was no need to play Mason Mount. Davide Zappacosta had been back up right back at the club for two years but was moved on so Reece James could get in the side. Remember David Luiz? He was moved on so Fikayo Tomori could be given a chance.
Lampard played them because he wanted to. He believed in them. This is a decision that Chelsea will benefit from for the next decade. Mason Mount will undoubtedly captain the club one day, and Reece James will be starting right back for just as long. Lampard has saved the club millions by believing in these players. Now, though, this project has been abandoned and for what? On December 3rd Chelsea were top of the league. Results have nosedived, but there are mitigating factors.
New signings are bedding in and no manager in the world can be expected to integrate five new players into the starting eleven with immediate success. When you factor in the fact that the squad has virtually no training time due to this COVID-impacted season, and that the Premier League is notoriously difficult to adapt to due to its intensely physical nature, the scale of Lampard’s task becomes apparent.
Add to this the fact that Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz have barely played due to injuries and illness, and that Timo Werner has seemingly lost his ability to play football, the idea that Lampard should have Chelsea firing on all cylinders is ridiculous. They are currently five points off top four, which isn’t good enough but it was not an irretrievable situation.
This has been a season of rapid momentum swings. Arsenal being an obvious case of this. An easy run of fixtures against West Brom, Crystal Palace and Newcastle has led to the entire mood around the club changing. At the very least Lampard should have been given the next two games against Burnley and Wolves. Victories in those and Chelsea would been on a run of four wins in five, and who knows what would have happened from there.
But no, this long term project has been abandoned. Due to one month’s bad form. So, what is Chelsea’s answer to this? The replacement is seemingly Thomas Tuchel.
Tuchel is many things. There is no doubt he’s a great coach. He did brilliantly at Mainz and had a couple of great seasons at Dortmund. He didn’t tear up any trees at Paris Saint-Germain but short of winning the Champions League there is no way to truly succeed at that club, and simply put winning the Champions League is hard.
He is not in the same class of manager as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, though, and there was a certain logic to letting a young manager learn the ropes whilst those two battle it out for the Premier League. The two best managers in the world have the two best squads, that’s almost always going to be impossible to deal with. Even this season with the difficulties they’ve faced, it seems inevitable that they’ll both end up on top.
Past his coaching abilities Tuchel is a disrupter. He left Dortmund after public fallouts with the board and the players. A similar fate occurred at PSG. Thiago Silva recently said that there were things in the dressing room under Tuchel that “had to be changed.” It’s inevitable that something similar will occur at Chelsea.
But this is all beside the point. For fans he is the very antithesis of what Lampard was. Tuchel doesn’t care about Chelsea or their fans, this is just another job for him. Any affinity between him and the fan base will be based on results alone, which is fine, but after experiencing winning matches with a manager we all loved – and knowing he felt the same way – this will just feel a bit grey in comparison.
As well as this with Lampard at the helm it felt like there was a long term plan at Chelsea, whereas appointing Tuchel seems to be to get the best out of the big money German signings. This is the very opposite of long term and smart planning. There is no guarantee that either Havertz or Werner will kick on under Tuchel, and if they don’t then the club will have dramatically altered its course for no tangible benefit.
If Tuchel also decides that he doesn’t have faith in Chelsea’s youth players, and reports are already circling that the likes of Marcos Alonso, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic will be given more responsibility under the German, then everything that it looked like the club was building towards over the last year and a half will be lost too. All over a month’s bad form.
As a Chelsea fan I will always want the best for the club, and no man is more important than the club itself. But winning with Lampard was better, and it simply won’t be as good again