IAN LADYMAN: Chelsea should keep faith in manager Frank Lampard

IAN LADYMAN: Roman Abramovich shouldn’t panic… Chelsea need to show common sense and keep faith in manager Frank Lampard

  • Despite a poor run of form, Chelsea should persevere with Frank Lampard
  • Blues lost to Bayern Munich last week and salvaged a point at Bournemouth
  • Meanwhile, Liverpool’s challenge now is to keep the spine of their team together 

There was a time when football clubs used to allow journalists to fly with them to European matches. On the way back from one trip to Lisbon with Manchester United in September 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson sent word to the back of the plane. He wanted to know if Jose Mourinho really had left Chelsea.

Ferguson wanted it double-checking because he couldn’t really believe it. Chelsea were the new superpower of English football and the United manager feared them turning the landscape royal blue for good.

Mourinho had won the Premier League in 2005 and 2006 and even though Ferguson’s United had pipped them the previous season, Chelsea had won both domestic cups.

Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t believe it when Jose Mourinho left Chelsea in September 2007 

So for Ferguson — despite his fondness for Mourinho — the news of his demise was significant and welcome. He knew it would weaken Chelsea and he suspected it hinted at what his new rivals would become under Roman Abramovich. He was right on both counts.

Chelsea have won three more league titles in 13 subsequent years. Not bad, but not great for a club who were eyeing dominance under their new Russian owner. Since Mourinho, Abramovich has employed 12 managers and Frank Lampard is the latest on that list. He is what this is now about.

Chelsea have been successful during the Abramovich years. Given their spending, how could they not be? But they would have won much more had they adopted a more strategic approach to appointing and supporting managers.

Lampard was supposed to be the one to change the pattern. At 41, he was supposed to be the manager who showed Chelsea a better way. 

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have been in poor form but he should be given at least one more year 

While he was winning — which he was earlier in the season — the future seemed clear. Now that he is not winning, the future — his own, that is — suddenly seems a little murky.

So it seems Chelsea are at a crossroads. Again.

This time, surely, they must ignore the temptations of signposts left and right and continue straight on. Lampard’s Chelsea have been poor recently, muddled in the Premier League and outclassed by Bayern Munich in Europe.

A spell as manager that was typified early by common sense has been undermined a little of late by some selections that suddenly seem less measured.

Lampard’s side were outclassed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week 

Certainly, a place in the top four is under threat. But does this really surprise us? Lampard is only in his second season as a manager — his first was at Derby County — and was prevented by a transfer embargo from buying anyone last summer.

His team has contained a number of young players who have largely done well for him but whose form was always likely to fluctuate.

Lampard foresaw these problems in January when he said publicly that he needed to strengthen his squad, particularly up front.

That didn’t happen and now Chelsea are stuck in a downturn that their own manager saw coming. 

Chelsea should give Lampard an opportunity to plan properly, unlike his predecessors 

Common sense gives Lampard at least one more season. Common sense says a young, bright manager is given opportunity to plan properly in a way that few of his predecessors were. 

Common sense says Chelsea stick to the mantra they spoke of when they appointed him last summer. Common sense says Chelsea try to change.

The alternative is a return to old Chelsea, zigzagging like a drunk — banknotes tumbling out of his pockets — from one shallow, late-night party to the next. Looking for real fulfilment but never finding it.

Gary Neville thinks Mo Salah might use Liverpool as a stepping stone to move to Spain. If he does so having won the Champions League and Premier League, nobody should begrudge him. But at Anfield the issue may yet be wider.

One of the great achievements of Manchester City is that they kept the spine of their team together so long. David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany could have left at any time during the decade they have spent in the Premier League.

Man City kept their spine for a long time, with players such as Kompany, Aguero and Silva (L-R)

Silva and Kompany, for example, had won everything in England by May 2014 but chose to stay. Money played its part but that doesn’t do it on its own. It’s about environment, quality of coaching and, crucially, a feeling that just around the corner there will be more success.

This is one of the challenges facing Liverpool now. They must keep this team together. Not for the first time, they will hope to find a little of what City have.

VAR official David Coote was understandably vilified for failing to advise that Giovani Lo Celso be sent off for his stamp on Cesar Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge recently, but the match official who originally missed the clear offence was Michael Oliver.

On Saturday, as Watford deservedly beat Liverpool, Oliver missed two more as Troy Deeney arrived late and studs up on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Will Hughes stood on the foot of Gini Wijnaldum. 

Michael Oliver missed two challenges in Watford’s victory against Liverpool on Saturday 

Neither was in the same category as Lo Celso’s assault but they were bad enough. Oliver is generally one of our better officials but it appears he has a blind spot.

At the Sports Journalism Awards in London last week, talkSPORT was named broadcasting Network of the Year. 

This might not mean much outside the four walls of this industry but may remind BBC Radio 5 Live that, as they continue to test their listeners’ loyalty with strange decisions, other options of increasing quality are available.

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