What future for Frank Lampard?
“The players have to make things different. The message is clear. The basics are running and sprinting and players have to do it on the court. The way we approached Arsenal’s game in the first half was not correct. ”
It was Frank Lampard’s reaction to Chelsea being completely outclassed by an unlucky Arsenal in December.
“Was it fatigue?” No. Did the players lack character against Arsenal? They did it and they know it. We missed the first half. In the second half, we didn’t, to be honest. “
Not for the first time, he has publicly lambasted his players for not competing. Perhaps this is something that Lampard, one of the best footballers to ever play, would never understand. He has always raced difficult sites, always presented himself on great occasions, always thought he was a world class player. Maybe that just didn’t make him think that a manager would be responsible for what happens on the pitch.
It wasn’t the first time that one of Lampard’s awful blind spots had emerged. His comments regarding the various management paths he and Sol Campbell endured (highlighted by Raheem Sterling) were one that tried to deflect blame that was not necessarily directed at him, rather than continue a much-needed dialogue. His sharp remarks to Athletic’s Liam Twomey for his articles negatively impacting player confidence smacked of despair. Until the end, it could never have been Lampard’s fault.
But there can still be a good manager in him somewhere. Valuing in the Derby County job in 2018 with his tight-fitting suit and undone top button may have seemed easy (apparently his uncle Harry Redknapp helped grease the wheels, but you keep insisting that your way to management was all about hard work, mate), but it was still a rather unstable club to join.
The Rams had a bloated and aging squad on a payroll worthy of a Premier League side rather than a constant contender for the Championship playoffs, with financial fair play rules threatening to hit the club hard. Many key Derby players – including Golden Boot winner Matej Vydra – left when Lampard arrived. Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori on loan injected much needed youth into the squad, while six senior players signed on permanently and stepped straight into the fold.
Team turnover was high, but a rookie manager took Derby to the Championship playoff final anyway, memorable knocking out Leeds from Marcelo Bielsa as everyone called them off along the way.
And the circumstances in which Lampard arrived at Chelsea weren’t much better either, with Eden Hazard leaving for Real Madrid and a transfer ban coming into effect. What he received was what he was to use.
Lampard has successfully used the club’s academy players more than any other manager in Roman Abramovich’s time. The talk about the 2019/20 season was that it was a free kick for Chelsea, and they finished it in the top four and with an FA Cup final appearance. Along the way, they played formidable but naive football, often crippled by their inexperience and holographic goalkeeper.
Chelsea have sought to establish themselves as a super club once again, spending over £ 200million in the transfer market. For the first time in his managerial career, Lampard’s job was more to meet challenges than just compete, and he failed.
“We are grateful to Frank for what he accomplished in his time as head coach of the club,” said Chelsea’s farewell statement. “However, recent results and performance have fallen short of the club’s expectations, leaving the mid-level club with no clear path to lasting improvement.”
Lampard is obviously a smart man with a big footballing brain, a manager ready to give youth a chance and someone who should command respect in the next locker room he enters. But it certainly won’t be at a club like Chelsea, and he can no longer ignore his fairly obvious flaws.