As Chelsea slumped to another listless defeat last night, our fifth in eight games, it’s become evident that something’s going very wrong for us at the moment. Whether it’s the players, the tactics, the management, the attitude, the experience, the leadership, that’s up for debate — and as usual, it’s probably a combination of all of those, and then some, in whatever order you are inclined personally — we’re stuck in yet another winter of discontent. We know these vibes almost as well as we know the trophy-winning ones.
On the plus side, Lampard avoided doing a Mourinho (2015-16 five!) and using words like “betrayed” in the immediate aftermath of a defeat at the King Power to a title-challenging Leicester City. (And Lampard’s also “just” mid-table, rather than flirting with the relegation zone.)
“I wouldn’t say [the players are] letting me down because that’s not my job to sit here and say that to you.
...but that may be just semantics and word choice, really.
“There are players who are not playing as well as they should be, that’s a simple fact. It was clear tonight and they’re the only ones who can deal with that.
“I was a player for 20 years and when your form isn’t good, there can be a multitude of reasons as to why confidence drops. The things you can deal with, how you work in training, how you prepare, how you handle setbacks, will be what define you. There are players in the team who are in that position.”
Some might say, it’s part of the head coach’s job to help players deal with players’ poor form. This head coach will say that it’s (mostly) up to the players. And that may have worked for Lampard when he was playing, and playing on legendary Chelsea teams. This team won’t be confused for any of those teams, at least not yet.
We have work to do, clearly. We knew this wouldn’t happen overnight. We were prepared for the dips, especially last season. But it’s hard to see progress at the moment, and that’s perhaps more damning than any of the damning results and performances we’ve witnessed not just over the past couple months, but over the past season and a half.
We’re halfway through the season, and not exactly on an upwards trajectory.
“It’s just a fact of where we are as a club for sure. If you look at the composition of the squad, you can see there are young players, players who were in different leagues last season, players who were in the Championship a couple of years ago, so you’re asking a lot for them to become prime John Terry overnight. It doesn’t happen.
“You have to build towards that, take knockbacks, take setbacks, and get stronger. We’re not that squad, we know that. It’s why we’re in the fight now. To find consistency and to find that (leadership) is the next level for us.”
Trouble is, those excuses, those “facts” are starting to wear out their welcome, if they haven’t already. We “should” be beyond that stage at this point, and we’re not. And at the end of the day, responsibility for that falls on the head coach’s shoulders — as does all the pressure from all corners.
(He himself said at the very start that his own legendary status within the club won’t do him any good if push comes to shove. It may have helped him get the job, but Lampard the player has little to do with Lampard the manager when it comes to Chelsea today.)
“I can’t control it. [...] I understand it, the expectations of this club whether I think it is right or wrong, we are not in the position as Chelsea Football Club as we were in the periods when we were winning leagues.
“The squad consistency is not the same, the level, the robustness of players who’ve won leagues is not the same. The ability of players that can get you results, at the top end of the pitch in a tight game, is not quite there. It is a developing team.
“I can’t get caught up in what the reaction will be or I will be sitting there all day concerned about it. I took this job knowing there would be difficult times because it is not a club ready to compete.”
Lampard says he’s good at handling the pressure, and is not something he’s worried about in terms of his job prospects, but that’s part and parcel for any manager at any top level club. What would differentiate him from the rest is if he could handle this by actually managing his way out of it.
“The lucky thing for me is I’m good at handling that pressure. I don’t like it, I want to win games and people are talking about us towards the top of the league like we were a month ago, but the reality is I could sense these periods would come and that’s all I have to concern myself with.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Whether he gets time to do so, only one man and only one woman knows.