3. Leicester City 2-0 Chelsea
The last match that really brought doubt as to whether Lampard would be able to turn things around was the Leicester City game at the King Power Stadium. The first point of concern going into that match was the midfield. Lampard deployed a box-to-box/driving midfielder and two attack-minded midfielders in a game against a well structured and supremely disciplined team like Leicester. Leicester was expected to contain the Blues and launch counters, a big part of this plan to contain was a superb, traditional defensive midfielder like Wilfred Ndidi. The match played out as many expected it to, with Ndidi showing up everywhere in the match, killing Chelsea in transition and dispossessing its attackers, who were spending way too much time on the ball.
Leicester ended up creating four clear-cut chances, missing three of them, but still scoring two goals. That match saw the Blues lose a midfield battle so bad, with Mateo Kovacic dropping into the defensive line when Chelsea was trying to build out, instead of staying in the midfield as a passing option. Yes, N’Golo Kante, Chelsea’s best defensive midfielder was ruled out with injury, but Lampard needed a sitting midfielder in that game, and he had Jorginho and Billy Gilmour—two players who offer different things but could be very useful in the right conditions. Lampard chose not to go with any of the defensive midfielders at his disposal, instead opting to play Kovacic in that position, an experiment that had been tried before and gave no indication that it was going to be successful.
Chelsea created no clear cut chance in the game, and ended up losing 2-0 because of the lack of offensive productivity. Several reports also confirmed that while the board had started searching for alternatives to Lampard, already seriously considering relieving the Englishman of his duties, the Leicester match was the final straw. The Russian’s mind was made up.
In many of these performances, the more important thing was that not just were the results really poor for a club of Chelsea’s stature, the performances were even worse. There were 3-1 losses that should have been 6-1, at least; there were 2-0 losses that should have been 3-0 or 4-0 and the Man City game should have been at least 5-1. It was rare for the Blues’ opponents to create better/more clear-cut chances than they did, but that was happening consistently in the final days of Lampard’s reign. Yes, patience from Chelsea’s ruthless owner may have yielded good results in the end, but the performances and results showed no sign of an improvement, and the Chelsea management said as much.
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