Chelsea has had 16 managers at the helm since Roman Abramovich took over as owner of the west London club back in 2003. Of those sixteen, three of them have either been interim or caretakers; the late Ray Wilkins, Guus Hiddink and Steve Holland. The Blues reduced their expectations for incoming managers since Antonio Conte was tasked with a top four finish (automatic Champions League qualification) in the 2016/17 Premier League season, but he overachieved and won the league. From Conte’s second season on, the bar in the league was raised so high that the three champions from that point have recorded 97 points or more.
Frank Lampard was brought in after Maurizio Sarri left Chelsea for Juventus in the summer of 2019. It is still only speculation as to what the Chelsea board expected of Lampard in his first season; nonetheless, the Englishman achieved a top four finish, completing the season with equal points to Manchester United (66), who finished third. The club spent over £200 million in the summer on several players including Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Edouard Mendy. Again, it was unclear as to what was expected of Lampard going into this season, but many rival fans thought the board expected a title challenge. Some Chelsea fans were sure that automatic Champions League qualification, albeit a more comfortable one, would suffice.
Chelsea did not start the season superbly, picking up nine points from the first six games. It was clear though, after these first six games, that the season was going to be an unusual one indeed, with Manchester United losing to 6-1 to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford; Manchester City losing 5-2 to Leicester City at the Etihad and Aston Villa battering the Champions, Liverpool, 7-2 at Villa Park. Chelsea’s only loss after the first 10 games came against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on matchday two, where the Blues had Andreas Christensen sent off at halftime and missed a penalty in the 75′ down 2-0. Lampard’s sacking almost definitely stemmed from the results that followed the win against Leeds United, fresh off a 17-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Chelsea lost Ziyech to injury in the Leeds match, and Chilwell too.
In the space of four days, the Blues had recorded their second and third loss of the season in back-to-back away fixtures. These matches looked like games that hung in the balance for large parts of the match, but were decided in single detailed moments, with Chelsea losing the Wolves match in the 94′. There were some key results that indicated that there were problems that might just be too much for Lampard to fix.
These are the three results that led to Lampard’s sacking:
1. Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
The first big sign of worry was the Arsenal match at the Emirates Stadium. The Blues showed a shocking lack of fight, tactical readiness and a display of shock at the intensity that Arsenal came with. Chelsea fans and head coach alike blamed the players’ lack of effort for the loss. It was a truly stunning performance because Edouard Mendy made four crucial saves, and the Blues still conceded three goals—which makes you wonder what the result would have been if he hadn’t made as many saves. It was also stunning considering that Chelsea was up against a London rival, an age-long rivalry existed between these two, and it did not show on the pitch at all. Factor in the fact that Arsenal had only recorded one win in its previous 10 games, picking up seven losses in that run, and it was never going to look good.