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Lampard’s sacking neither an injustice nor a surprise

Frank Lampard
(Image credit: PA)

Frank Lampard won three Premier League titles, Four FA Cups, two League Cups and the EUFA Champions League and Europa League titles with Chelsea.

That was Frank Lampard the player.

Don’t confuse it with Lampard the Chelsea manager.

In his 18 months in charge of Chelsea he won nothing – and was on course to add nothing to the nothing of the past 18 months.

His victory in his brief spell was a FA Cup Final appearance and a top four finish in the 2019/20 season and qualification into Europe’s prized Champions League for 2020/21.

Chelsea, in the last month, were in free-fall under Lampard and there was no hint that it was going to get any better.

Lampard, more than most, knows the culture of Chelsea under owner Roman Abramovich. It is one of you win or you lose. On occasion, it is even one of you win and you still lose.

In this instance, Lampard was always going to be the loser. He simply wasn’t experienced or good enough to transform Chelsea into champions.

Jurgen Klopp, when appointed Liverpool manager, said the club owners had given him a commitment of at least five years to land the Premier League title. They accepted his vision of building a side of substance and one, he said, that would sustain a winning consistency.

Klopp, before the fifth year, won the Champions League and, in his fifth year, guided Liverpool to a first Premier League title in 30 years.

Liverpool’s owners have a very different approach to Russian billionaire Abramovich, who demands instant success.

Lampard, as a player, almost always delivered. Lampard, the manager, was still a pup relying on playing pedigree.

And he simply did not deliver.

Chelsea, when Lampard was axed earlier in the week, were in ninth place in the Premier League. They trailed leaders Manchester City by 11 points.

Lampard’s Premier League points-per-match record is also the worst for any Chelsea head coach in the Abramovich era.

Lampard secured on average 1.67 points in 57 Premier League matches in charge of Chelsea, with the best return being Avram Grant’s 2.31 point per match. Grant, despite his record, only lasted 32 matches.

Jose Mourinho, in his two spells between 2004 and 2007 and 2013 and 2015, averaged 2.19 points in 212 matches. He won titles but the moment his team slumped and he was said to lose the support of his players, he was axed.

Antonio Conte suffered a similar fate, despite winning the title. Conte’s teams averaged 2.14 points in his 76 matches during 2016 and 2018, but he too fell foul of Abramovich and was shown the door.

The only certainty when being appointed Chelsea head coach is that you will be fired.

Lampard’s successor, German Thomas Turchel has stated that he doesn’t expect to be around too long if he doesn’t deliver a title for Abramovich. Even then, there is no guarantee that a title ensures employment.

Abramovich, in a rare personal message, acknowledged Lampard’s integrity, work ethic and qualities as a human being and a player. But there was nothing in his tribute about Lampard the manager, other than to state that ‘under the current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.’

Abramovich spoke of Lampard’s reputation as a player.

‘He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.’

Lampard is the 12th Chelsea manager fired since Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

In that time, Chelsea have won the Premier League title five times, twice in succession a year after Abramovich’s arrival.

Only Manchester United, six titles in the same period, have bettered Chelsea, with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City chasing a fifth title since 2003.

Former England striker turned analyst Gary Lineker condemned Lampard’s firing and tweeted that Abramovich would never learn. Lineker stated that Lampard needed time with his new recruits, which cost in excess of 220 million pounds in a buying spree that was unmatched in the league.

Abramovich’s retort would be that time is a luxury no Chelsea manager gets. He would also remind Lineker that his way has won five titles and those owners who give their managers time, invariably never win a title.

The English football media have been sympathetic towards the English Lampard. They have claimed his sacking is an injustice.

Nonsense, his hiring was an injustice because he had done nothing as a manager to command Abramovich’s attention. He got the job because of what he had done as a Chelsea player and he got fired because of what he was failing to do as the Chelsea manager.

By Mark Keohane, writing for IOL Sport