Frank Lampard won’t survive at this rate: Neil Humphreys
Chelsea manager cannot seem to beat the Big Six or please owner Abramovich
Roman Abramovich's last emotional acquisition ended in bitter regret. The Chelsea owner looks poised to make the same mistake twice.
From Andriy Shevchenko to Frank Lampard, a long-term friendship is putting the Blues' short-term progress at risk.
As a striker, Shevchenko had too many miles on the clock when he turned up at Stamford Bridge in 2006. As a manager, Lampard has hardly any.
Chelsea do not benefit when Abramovich allows sentimentality to cloud his judgment.
Shevchenko didn't work out then. Lampard seems out of his depth now.
A single season at Championship club Derby County seldom satisfies the criteria of any English Premier League owner, let alone a micro-managing oligarch with a track record of hiring only proven winners.
Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez and Antonio Conte had all lifted the biggest trophies in the most prestigious leagues, meeting the basic prerequisites for Abramovich.
The same can be said of Pep Guardiola, a former Abramovich target, who humiliated Lampard yesterday morning.
Manchester City defeat most sides in ordinary seasons but, in an extraordinary campaign, the manner of their 3-1 victory should set off a cacophony of alarm bells at Stamford Bridge.
A week ago, Guardiola wasn't even sure if he'd make the fixture. Five first-team players missed the game after positive Covid-19 tests. Training facilities were closed and preparations severely disrupted.
His weary men were there for the taking. Instead, Chelsea were torn apart. Their disjointed line-up and confusing tactics left them exposed, in every sense.
The Blues' fullbacks were overwhelmed. Cesar Azpilicueta, an ageing, slowing defender masquerading as a wing-back, was eviscerated, with Phil Foden and the irrepressible Kevin de Bruyne taking turns to bully the Spaniard.
Chelsea's expensive forward line of Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech continue to question Lampard's taste in the transfer market, following another lacklustre performance.
Indeed, Abramovich may wonder why Lampard used the City game to pick an unfamiliar and largely untested striking triumvirate.
Pulisic drifted. Ziyech rarely tracked back. Werner cost £47.5 million (S$85.5m) and hasn't scored in 12 games.
Meanwhile, Kai Havertz, a £70m signing, has found the net only once in the EPL and Champions League all season and has been dropped for the last four league games.
Abramovich has always had a short fuse with managers, mostly because he takes a literal, economic approach to Chelsea's fluctuating form. He'll indulge shopping sprees until he senses a poor return on investment.
Lampard was largely left alone last season, thanks to Chelsea's transfer ban, which arguably bought the manager more time than his hallowed club legend status.
But Abramovich generally expects more for the around £200m spent than eighth position in the table and no win against Big Six rivals this season - after five attempts.
Had Lampard been called Luiz Felipe Scolari, his desk would've been cleared already. But a golden name will not cover patchy numbers indefinitely.
Lampard has no trophies, no years of managerial experience and no track record to suggest he can meet the specific requirements of his job - to settle a transitional squad on the training ground.
Abramovich wasn't being superficial or facile when he hired the likes of Mourinho, Ancelotti and Conte. He was hiring proven fixers.
Lampard's understanding of the club's history and culture isn't going to solve Chelsea's lethargy or the distinct lack of confidence and cohesion in the forward line. He was given £200m to fix those things.
He hasn't.The City defeat was Chelsea's fourth loss in six league games. A slump is in full swing. And the difference between a slump and a crisis is the repair work carried out on the training ground. Lampard has little experience in this area.
But Massimiliano Allegri and Thomas Tuchel, to name just two out-of-work coaches in the market for fresh employment, most certainly do.
Their suitability highlights the obvious flaw in Abramovich's emotional appointment. Allegri and Tuchel will not be short of offers across Europe, but try and name another elite club that would be keen on Lampard's services.
There isn't one.
Lampard knows he must improve Chelsea's fortunes quickly and hang on to his privileged position.
He will not be given another one.