When Frank Lampard became the manager of Chelsea FC in the summer of 2019, many didn’t know what to expect. Coming off his first full season as manager for Derby County in the EFL Championship, his side finished short of being promoted back to the English Premier League. They lost 2-1 versus Aston Villa in the final of their playoffs and, despite that, they had a successful season that saw the team mature and grow.
Lampard, who spent 13 seasons with Chelsea as a player, had a positive first season as manager of the club. He led his side to a fourth-place finish in the Premier League, which secured their spot in the Champions League for the 2020/21 campaign. Additionally, Chelsea advanced to the FA Cup finals versus Arsenal, yet lost 3-1.
However, they weren’t as fortunate in the League Cup and the Champions League as they had bitter defeats versus Manchester United and Bayern Munich, with the latter proving to be too much to handle. It was a learning curve for Lampard as it was his first time managing a club in the Champions League. A tough task to do with limited managerial experience.
In Lampard’s first season, he exceeded expectations for his side after a transfer ban in the summer of 2018. He had the daunting task of not being able to sign players that he would have wanted to and, instead, had to depend on players who returned from the prior season and also relied on the Youth Academy. Although the ban was lifted and they were able to sign players in the winter transfer market, not much was done, which left Lampard in a difficult situation.
Most managers would prefer to arrive, transform the club as to how they would want it and have the flexibility to buying players in the transfer market. Lampard took on a challenging task and, in doing so, he has been able to take many Chelsea academy players to the next level in their young career.
Last season, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James broke into the first team and got their opportunity to show what they could provide to Chelsea. All three players didn’t disappoint as they finished the season rather impressively. Mount and Abraham had a combined 22 goals in the Premier League, while James proved to be a capable backup to Cesar Azpilicueta for the foreseeable future. He is a physical defender, with strong tackles and a good read for the game.
Heading into the 2020/21 season, expectations became much different for Lampard. This time around, the club had a full summer transfer window to purchase and were quite active, to say the least. They brought young, highly talented players, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell. They also brought veteran Thiago Silva to provide leadership and experience in the backend. They spent an excess of 200 million Euros in the summer transfer window and expectations were high.
Lampard’s job was in jeopardy at the mid-point of the season as his side had failed to produce. They exited early in the League Cup versus Tottenham Hotspur, advanced his side to the round of 16 in the Champions League and won against Hull City to advance into the fourth round of the FA Cup. Prior to his firing, Chelsea was sitting in ninth place in the Premier League. The results were encouraging yet not enough to save his job.
Lampard’s first season was more lenient given the circumstances the club faced however in his second season, club owner, Roman Abramovich, didn’t wait to evaluate Lampard’s performance as manager. The club decided to replace him with ex-PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, which caught many by surprise when the deal was announced.
While it was sad to see Lampard leave Chelsea, he did his best in a tough situation the past two seasons. One noticeable area of concern was Lampard’s lack of managerial experience. Far too often this season, he had players in positions that were not their regulation position. Specifically, Werner, who was used as a left-wing but spent most of his time as a centre-forward with RB Leipzig. The German has struggled to find consistency, along with not scoring at the same rate he did in the Bundesliga.
All the blame shouldn’t be squared solely on Lampard. It was well known that he had limited managerial experience and he was going to need time to learn and adapt. Many successful managers have advanced through the youth rankings or have managed the lower divisions to help them gain experience. Lampard should have been given the proper time to adjust and figure it out with Chelsea. That’s never the case with Abramovich, who is known to have little patience.
Additionally, Chelsea acquired a plethora of new players in the summer transfer market and they had limited time to become familiar with each other. Training camp was shortened this season as Covid-19 altered the season and the scheduling. Injuries and illnesses also hampered Lampard’s squad, which made it difficult to have a full roster where players could play regularly.
While it didn’t go as planned this season, the Englishman was able to keep Chelsea on course through difficult times. Now he will embark on a new journey in his managerial career. Regardless of how it went, he will always be a Blue who gave it his all just as he did when he was a player with the club.