The 2020/21 Premier League season has taught us to expect the unexpected. Southampton have been top of the table despite their 9-0 loss last season, the media have expected Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United to win every game this season, Everton and Aston Villa both won their first four matches, Spurs won 6-1 at Old Trafford and Liverpool lost 7-2 to Villa amongst many other things.
Although Arsenal flirted with relegation, it seems no club has suffered the most from this rollercoaster season at Chelsea. They spent upwards of £200 million in the summer and they started the season brightly. However, from the start of December to Lampard’s sacking (25th January), the Blues only won four matches, two of which came in the FA Cup to lower league sides. When the Englishman was sacked, they sat ninth in the table with the early season title challenge fading quick.
Their summer recruitment got a lot of praise, especially their defensive signings of Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Édouard Mendy. All three looked to be revelations before December as they let in 10 from their first 10 matches with only Mourinho’s Tottenham boasting a better defence. By the sacking, they had fallen from having the second-best defence to the ninth worst. Their 3-1 losses to both Arsenal and Man City highlighted their struggles against the ‘top 6’ under Lampard.
The Blues started conceding more as Mendy’s excellent start which saw him concede one in his first six matches, dwindled away. His save percentage dropped below 70% for the first time in his career and by early January he had conceded 10 goals from an xG of 9.31. Silva and Chilwell’s performances hadn’t significantly dropped but the poor form wasn’t just the new goalkeeper’s fault.
Superhuman N’Golo Kanté has seen a dip in form. He has gone from single handily keeping the defence together to being just a very good defensive midfielder. His fall from generational performances has seen Lampard go from being rated as one of the best managers in the league to sacked which highlights how much the English manager relied on the Frenchman to keep the team going. This reliance on one player was a dangerous game to play from the manager as he effectively ran the former Leicester star into the ground and overworked him to breaking point.
Their defence fragility was highlighted against Man City and Arsenal. Pep’s side only had 45% possession but still managed 18 shots whilst against the Gunners, Chelsea managed 61% of the ball yet faced 15 shots. To be a top side, the midfield has to know what their roles are and work as a unit whilst at Stamford Bridge, it was one man having to mop up whilst the others did as they pleased.
‘Super’ Frank has also failed to get the best out of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. The latter has constantly been played out of position as in Germany he was able to play through the middle or come in off the left wing, whilst at Chelsea he was been played as a traditional winger on the left. This saw him go 12 matches without a goal for his club with the drought ending in a win of League Two Morecambe.
Although bad form within players can’t be helped, it is up to the manager to get the team winning. In the Roman Abramovich era, he has the worst points per game (1.67) out of any other manager. The constant changing of formation and players doesn’t help the side as they need consistency to put in their best performances.
A lot of people will point to his first season in charge when he got a lot of credit for bringing through the youth. However, players like Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Reece James were all Premier League quality, and he was forced to play them due to the transfer embargo.
Lampard rarely took the blame when things didn’t go well, unlike a lot of top managers and he often looked out of his depth against competent sides. Whether it was just too early or he isn’t made for top clubs, only time will tell as Chelsea continue with Thomas Tuchel.