Chelsea needs a rebuild. That has been known for a few years now. It was a notion when Antonio Conte came into the club to strip the last vestiges of player power away. It was clear as day when Maurizio Sarri came to the club to completely change the style of play that had made Chelsea successful. It was evident when Frank Lampard was the only manager brave enough to take the job during the transfer ban and the only manager that was able to finally connect Cobham to Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard has been sacked, and Chelsea still needs a rebuild. It is hard to deny that results, especially recently, had not been up to snuff. It is hard to deny that Lampard’s recent comments have likely alienated the press and the players. It is also hard to deny that, in this incredibly difficult season, the Blues will do much better than giving Lampard time.
Time. That’s the real word on everyone’s lips. Conte needed time, even after winning a title in his first season. Sarri needed it too, though for some it was like grinding away on an assembly line. And Lampard most of all not only needed it, but deserved it.
They say you have to separate Lampard the manager from Lampard the player and that is true, to an extent. But if even Lampard cannot be given time through a pandemic, after a transfer ban, with little training time and a fresh squad, then who will be given the time?
The answer, quite simply, is no one soon. Chelsea isn’t a club that is going to have the patience Liverpool had with Jurgen Klopp. Had he been at Chelsea, he would have been out the door within two seasons. Chelsea doesn’t even have the patience of Manchester City, who had every reason to stick by Pep Guardiola but had to throw a fresh 150 million pounds worth of players his way every summer to make to happen.
This is an admittance of defeat by Chelsea. This season is likely going to end the way it is going to end with or without Lampard. Whoever comes through the door doesn’t really matter because ultimately, they are just a new avatar for the same issue every year or two. Chelsea did not give Lampard time and there is no reason to believe they will give anyone time anytime soon.
That loops back to the need for a rebuild. Fire and hire used to work for Chelsea, emphasis on used to. That was when the squad had Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba. The club has nothing close to that now. The Blues have not won a title since 2017 with only the FA Cup and the Europa League to show in the meantime. The Blues have not made it past the round of 16 of the Champions League since Jose Mourinho was manager last. To pretend the Blues are one of the world’s best clubs right now is to ignore reality.
Liverpool found themselves in the same boat until Jurgen Klopp. Manchester United has found themselves in that boat since Sir Alex Ferguson left. At some point, a club like that has to have the patience to just stick with a manager and give them time for the rebuild they desperately need. Every new manager is simply a reset on that rebuild. The progress made under Lampard is now gone with his sacking and Chelsea is back to needing a rebuild and needing to just give someone time, but there is no indication they are ready for that or recognize that.
This could be mitigated if the team had a set style of play to fall back on. Then they would simply need to find a manager that suited that. They could build without a manager. But it is clear the decision makers have no idea what style the squad should play or even the style they want it to play. That was obvious moving from Conte to Sarri to Lampard and now, seemingly, to Thomas Tuchel. The decision makers are more interested in the cheapest, but highest quality, flavor of the month. Once that is out of style, they move on to the next all while having no style at all.
Frank Lampard’s sacking is not a tale of a legend failing to meet expectations. It is not a story of poor form. It is a story of Chelsea’s dark side again prevailing. And until the club learns to deal with its own demons, it is hard to see how they come out of this any better than what they entered it.