FRANK LAMPARD does not need telling he has to turn Chelsea’s season round before it hits the rocks.
After all, the Blues boss spent the first decade of Roman Abramovich’s reign as a key member of the Stamford Bridge dressing room.
Chelsea have lost four out of their last six Premier League gamesCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
But Lampard also recognises that Chelsea is now a different club to the one it was when the Russian took charge.
Still, absolutely, with the same expectations – to win silverware, to compete, to go close.
Yet without the same impatient demands, the same sense of every single match being a potential reason for judgement, the period when a draw was viewed as little more than a defeat which earned a point.
And a club which, despite all the efforts to portray it as having a revolving door to the manager’s office, is actually far more stable than most.
As Lampard will know, as well, it all changed after one decision, where the club acted in haste – and repented at leisure.
May 22, 2011. A corridor in the bowels of Goodison Park.
Defeat at Everton was irrelevant – Manchester United were already champions and this was the final game of the campaign.
Carlo Ancelotti completed his media duties to be confronted by chief executive Ron Gourlay.
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Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed in brutal fashion at the end of the 2010-11 seasonCredit: Reuters
This was just 12 months after the Italian had guided the Blues to the first title and FA Cup Double in their history, a record-breaking season which saw Chelsea score 103 goals.
And it counted for nothing. Zip. Diddly squat.
Ancelotti was told that he had failed and was being sacked. Bet he enjoyed that flight back.
At the time, nobody was too surprised.
After all, Ancelotti’s Chelsea epitaph was already being written after their Champions League exit at United’s hands and the season had seen him at one point being on the brink of quitting – allegedly – after assistant Ray Wilkins was given the Order of the Boot.
Yet it was an inflexion point in modern Chelsea. The day that – eventually – changed everything.
Ask senior Chelsea figures now – indeed, ask them soon after it happened – and you will be told that they concede Ancelotti should not have been sacked. That he deserved better. That it was a mistake.
But it was one the club learned from.
Chelsea’s all-time top goalscorer Lampard won the Premier League three times at Stamford BridgeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Blues owner Roman Abramovich is giving his managers more time to succeedCredit: AFP – Getty
That did not mean that every subsequent manager was not judged harshly.
Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo, in particular, will unquestionably tell you otherwise.
But it meant that there needed to be REAL reason to dispense with a manager mid-season, even one that was under-performing.
In the cases of Villas-Boas and Di Matteo, the reasons were different, although similar.
Villas-Boas fell out, big-time, with senior players – Lampard in particular – but more critical was the others who lost faith in him tactically rather than personally.
The club believed it would finish outside the top four unless there was a change.
Less than a year later, Di Matteo – who had, remember won both the Champions League and FA Cup – fell out spectacularly with Fernando Torres, who was perhaps the last true “vanity signing” of the Abramovich era.
More pertinently, he had only got the job by default and would have been binned in the weeks after “that” night in Munich if Pep Guardiola had been keen to come.
Yet when Jose Mourinho’s second spell at the club crashed and burned in 2016, amid allegations about “rats” in the dressing room, the bizarre ruck with Eva Carneiro and a plummet to the bottom of the Prem, he was still given backing.
For two months, there was plenty of speculation. Each game was “win or bust”. Except, when Chelsea and Mourinho lost, it wasn’t.
Until, in December, they lost at Leicester. Now, genuinely, the fear was relegation.
Mourinho was pulled out of the club Christmas party to be sent packing.
But that had set the new normal. Managers would be given time to fail.
So Antonio Conte, whose relationship with senior figures – and plenty of his players – became toxic, saw out his second season before leaving.
And Maurizio Sarri, who never sold “Sarriball” to the fans – and did deliver the Europa League despite that – completed his first and only campaign at the helm even if it was abundantly clear he was not a natural fit.
Lampard came in charged with changing the dressing room mood, bringing through the academy talent, dealing with a transfer ban AND competing for honours.
Chelsea currently sit ninth in the table after 17 games playedCredit: AFP
By any standards, he accomplished that last season.
Chelsea were not the only side demolished by Bayern Munich – just ask Spurs and Barcelona about that – and also lost the FA Cup Final.
But they did secure Champions League football and Lampard helped develop the careers of Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, among others.
Even this season, with a series of big money recruits, there was an acceptance that it might take time for Lampard’s new squad to gel.
The board expected more, no question. From Lampard, yes. But also from Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech in particular and established stars like N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
An absolute car crash in the next few weeks, a drop into the nether regions of the Prem table, an embarrassing FA Cup exit or thumping by Atletico Madrid could bring things to a head earlier.
In all probability, though, as Lampard knows, he will be given the rest of the campaign, to prove his worth. The right to be judged by what he has done.
That is the reality of the new Chelsea. Still beyond demanding. But no longer an almost impossible job.
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