ROMAN ABRAMOVICH took an almighty punt when he appointed Frank Lampard as Chelsea’s manager 18 months ago.
Like a pin-sticking occasional gambler on Grand National day, Abramovich ignored the form, plumped for a ‘name’, crossed his fingers and hoped for the best.
Club legend or not, Lampard was poorly qualified for the job after just one moderately-successful season as boss with Derby in the Championship.
Lampard knew it as well as anybody, insisting during his unveiling that his status as the club’s all-time record 211-goal scorer would help him for ‘about five minutes’.
Now, Abramovich’s betting slip on that long-shot gamble will surely be torn up and tossed away before long.
The one qualification Lamps possessed, a genuine feeling for the club where he spent the majority of his playing career, was an asset in the unique circumstances of last season.
Facing a transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard, Lampard promoted players from the club’s fruitful but long-neglected youth system and helped reconnect Chelsea with its roots.
Achieving a top-four finish was no mean feat, although defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup final was a taste of things to come.
Despite the feelgood nature of his maiden campaign, the Blues defence was horribly leaky, while team selections had an air of the bingo-caller about them.
Once £228.7million was spent on six quality players in the summer, Lampard needed to up his game considerably — and has failed to do so.
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Lampard always claimed he neither wanted nor expected any ‘favours’ from Abramovich and he will not be disappointed. Russian oligarchs don’t do sentimentality.
Abramovich has not been especially ruthless with his managers for almost a decade. His reputation as a trigger-happy maniac is out-dated.
But we are now at the stage where sacking Lampard would not seem ruthless at all.
Five defeats in eight Premier League matches, leaving Champions League qualification looking a remote possibility, only tells part of the story.
Lampard’s Chelsea lack identity. Two of his most expensive summer signings, £70m Kai Havertz and £48m Timo Werner, look lost.
There is no discernible playing philosophy. And the Blues are a quiet team, lacking the strength of personality to scrap in adversity.
In the past four weeks, Chelsea have been thoroughly outplayed by Leicester, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Earlier in the season they were well beaten at home by Liverpool, while their other two meetings with Big Six rivals were deathly dull goalless draws against Manchester United and Tottenham.
It has simply not been good enough. Chelsea did not even play well in the two games they won during their past eight Premier League matches — against West Ham and a ten-man Fulham.
There is no evidence that Lampard is the man to lead Chelsea to major trophies. Not on this season’s performances and certainly not on his slim managerial CV.
Now, we have said much the same about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, an inexperienced manager with club legend status, whose appointment at United was a forerunner of Lampard’s own.
Solskjaer’s fortunes have veered wildly over two years.
And, having escaped several similar situations to that which Lampard now finds himself in, the Norwegian has led United into their first genuine title challenge since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
If Chelsea cannot land the man they want — with Thomas Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann and Ralf Rangnick in the frame — then Lampard may yet be afforded more time.
Then, Lampard could hope for a revival like Solskjaer’s — a consistent run of form which few saw coming.
But there’s nothing to suggest it will happen for Lampard at Chelsea. In truth, there never really was.
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