Chelsea lost again, so here comes the sacking narrative, the constant pressure and speculation, the palpable discord — though any suggestion of the players “downing tools” is as lazy of an “analysis” as it’s ever been. But the knives were out practically as soon as the incompetent Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle last night on the 3-1 loss to Manchester City, with swaths of articles across the football media just sitting in the queue, waiting to be published.
That we’ve been spared this frequent and familiar SW6 soap opera for the past 18 months has been a minor miracle, really.
Lampard has gone through such situations many times as a player of course. He himself played for no fewer than 9 different managers in his 13 years at Chelsea (and Mourinho twice). In fact, he’s been in charge longer already than most of those who coached him, save for Claudio Ranieri, José Mourinho, and Carlo Ancelotti.
And Lampard also understands that the current Chelsea results are not up to par. One win from six simply won’t do. There are plenty of attenuating circumstances, but at the end of the day, we have to live up to expectations on the scoreboard as well. The ultimate decision-makers at Chelsea want to see wins, ultimately.
“At the minute, we are in a tough period. I understand it as I played here for a long time. I understand the minute that you lose a few games in a short period of time then everyone looks and asks questions. [....]
“We are not a team that has been churning out results and has got to the level of Liverpool or City or to teams that won things in previous years of the Abramovich era. [We have] a lot of youth. A lot of new players that are trying to settle. That’s not easy...”
“I am not going to speak for people above me because I can never do that. [...] I can’t answer what they’re thinking about now but it is what it is. [But] there is never going to be an absolute trajectory that goes up and up and up. So maybe we had 16 games unbeaten, great, I still saw flaws. When we lost four games in quick succession I see flaws and they are much more evident to everybody.
“It is my job to focus on working on them, not what they’re thinking, that would just distract me and I can’t do it.”
It’s of course standard response from any manager under pressure to insist that they’re only focusing on the job at hand. But in Lampard’s case, we also should remember that we began his tenure with an (unofficial) three-year project in mind and since his appointment (on a three-year contract), have been seemingly working and executing to a more long-term plan rather than the constant chop and change and win-now-at-all-cost approach of the first decade and a half of the Abramovich era. The summer’s (opportunistic) spending spree has kicked the project into high gear, but it very much remains a project and a work in progress yet.
That’s not to say that Lampard is un-sackable — presumably far from it — but the idea that we want to win with him in charge (as opposed to just have him here to deal with a transfer ban and cultivate some good vibes) still seems viable and feasible.
“I know where we are at. Whether it puts pressure on me or not is regardless. [The] pressure remains constant in this job and you know in tough moments that will be there. I didn’t get into this job being unaware of that. My job is to keep working.”
“I am a perfectionist who wants the best for this club. The first person who puts on the pressure is me. At times, last year, I wanted to push and be even better than fourth, even though I felt it was an achievement considering the ban and the youth in the squad. This season the sixteen game unbeaten run was something I was always trying to temper as it went on.”
“[Now] everyone looks at it differently and says you spent that much money. Well, the reality is that a lot of the players who came in are young, new, have been injured, not played together before. I haven’t been able to play Ziyech, Pulisic or Timo Werner in the same team. If we are expecting the relationship between them three to be the same as Sterling, De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva today then there are expectations that are not real.”
Time and patience are never in abundant supply in the upper echelons of any professional sport, especially football, but this Chelsea squad will only improve with time and patience. And of course continued work on the training ground, which is another standard response in losing situations and downturns of form.
While I’d wish that we’d place the same emphasis on “working smart” as on “working hard” — see also: Conte’s second season — it is a fact of sporting life that improvements won’t come overnight. Sometimes, you do need a spark of some kind however, be that tactical, strategic, or a change in playing or coaching personnel. And that latter option is the only avenue available to those who pay the bills, as harsh as that usually seems.
“I’m not concerned on that point or being relaxed about whether we can have peaks or troughs, I’ve just spoken about where we are at. I expected periods of difficulties this year.”
“I don’t think it is a point of analysing individuals and saying whether they are young or not but at the same time when you come to the Premier League without a pre-season and being light on your feet then you have to learn those lessons. I am not sure how else you learn those lessons than in training and in games when you play teams of the level of City who have played the same way for the last four or five seasons and had success after success. So, I think there are times when you learn lessons ...”
“I am real now in saying the club has to take pain for where we want to get to. Any build or re-build that we have with the players we brought in takes pain. That means pain on the pitch, pain behind-the-scenes and fight and character. That’s how you build.
“Pep Guardiola in year one at Man City, an incredible coach comes in and there’s tough times. We know the story with Man City and Liverpool. I am not putting myself on that level because I have to show that in a few years time and I have to show it. I can only talk about us and I can say this is a difficult period. I understand the reasons why and we have to keep fighting. I am the first person who needs to keep fighting.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Some fights end in a knockout. Lampard certainly has his work cut for him to bob and weave through this spell.