Let’s start with some facts. Not opinion, not conjecture, not narrative. Just facts. It will save repetition further down the page as we reflect on British journalists collectively losing their sh*t and losing sight of anything approaching perspective after the sacking of Frank Lampard. We can leave it to you to decide whether this is fuelled by xenophobia, self-interest at losing a media-friendly, talkative manager or simply a misplaced soft spot for a great footballer most have watched in awe for years, but here are the facts:
* Frank Lampard leaves Chelsea with the worst points-per-game record of any Chelsea manager under Roman Abramovich.
* Since taking charge of Chelsea, Lampard’s Blues have been the fifth-best team in the Premier League, amassing fewer points than Leicester City.
* In that time frame, Chelsea have conceded 77 goals, the worst defensive record among the leading eight clubs in England.
* From 15 Premier League games against Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester under Lampard, Chelsea have claimed just 13 points. For context, United have claimed 27 points.
* Chelsea spent over £220m last summer, significantly more than every other club in Europe.
* Even taking into account the 2019/20 transfer ban, Chelsea have spent approximately £20m and £40m less than Manchester United and City under the management of Lampard.
* Chelsea are currently three points worse off this season than last season at the same stage.
Which leads us to the only real place we can start on this Tuesday morning:
‘Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich: the man who shot bambi . . . and killed youth dream after firing Frank Lampard’
Mediawatch is trying hard not to linger on that small b for bambi, because there are far, far greater issues here, but it’s almost easier to wonder why anybody would de-initialise a Disney character than try to justify a 42-year-old underperforming football manager sacked for that underperformance being compared to a blameless, fictional deer whose mother was killed and was then himself shot (non-fatally, thankfully) by a nameless hunter in the woods. That’s almost so far beyond comprehension that there’s some comfort in somebody not using a capital B.
Has the headline-writer got carried away here? Surely Henry Winter himself did not compare a grown man to a small, fictional deer?
‘Fans respect Abramovich for the billions he has poured into their club, and any debate about “what has Roman ever done for us” requires only a glimpse of the trophy cabinet, but the Russian will now be known as the man who shot Bambi.’
Nice B, Henry. But that’s where the praise must end because that sentiment is nothing short of ludicrous. Roman Abramovich will not be ‘known as the man who shot Bambi’ by anybody with even a soupcon of perspective. He is the man who has sacked an underperforming manager, just as he has sacked underperforming managers before and no doubt will again. To our knowledge, the fictional deer Bambi was not given a job beyond his experience and qualifications and was not then fiscally compensated either for his mother’s death or his own injury.
And we cannot believe we have been lured into comparing a real, grown-up man to a fictional young deer.
At the heart of Winter’s discontent is his notion that Chelsea fans (or rather, ‘the true ones who attend matches’ to dismiss all the dissenting voices online) would be incensed by this turn of events.
‘It is why the Chelsea players are also lucky that their games are behind closed doors. Chelsea fans don’t turn on their team but they would have sung Lampard’s name even louder to make it abundantly clear where they thought any blame lay. They knew that Lampard was trying to rebuild Chelsea’s identity, build for the future, and the influx of new players this season arguably complicated his task. He remained committed to youth, backing Reece James, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour.’
So much to unpick here, but first:
Banner at Chelsea today. “The Three Rats” pic.twitter.com/WtfWmmkL1f
— Sunday League FC (@SundayLeagueFC) December 19, 2015
Oh and Billy Gilmour has played 34 minutes of Premier League football this season. We would hate to see the Scotsman’s numbers if Lampard did not remain committed to youth.
‘In what appears hugely symbolic now, almost a gesture of defiance, Lampard’s last act as Chelsea’s head coach was to make Mount captain for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Luton Town. It seems a statement about what he was trying to do, backing homegrown players, committing to those who gave most for the cause and almost challenging his successor, Thomas Tuchel, to keep the faith in youth. Tuchel, it is expected, will pick the bigger names. He’ll go for results.’
That captaincy decision could be seen a ‘gesture of defiance’ or simply as the inevitable consequence of none of his usual captains Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva or Jorginho featuring in that game.
And as for Tuchel; this is the man who handed Christian Pulisic his professional debut as a 17-year-old in 2016 and gave the young winger ample opportunity to prove his talent, often leaving one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus or Ousmane Dembele on the bench to get the American into his team.
Tuchel will go for results – we’re pretty sure that is the basic premise of football management – but he will undoubtedly pick the best footballers for the task. He has done that throughout his career. But Winter is determined to paint a simple Disney picture of Lampard = good, Tuchel = bad, regardless of what we like to call The Facts.
‘And this is where part of the sadness in Lampard’s fall from grace lies. Would Tuchel really commit to a long-term project of developing young talent, working on James’s defensive flaws when he can put in the experienced César Azpilicueta, giving Gilmour a run of games ahead of Jorginho, committing to Abraham rather than a World Cup winner in Olivier Giroud. Tuchel had better not mess Mount around.’
Really? Mediawatch is rarely truly shocked but that last line? Just wow. F***ing wow. We are sure that actual football manager Thomas Tuchel is not about to break the poor heart of a very good footballer just for shits and giggles. Mason Mount is a 22-year-old man, not the 15-year-old daughter of a small-town preacher going on a date with Kevin Bacon.
‘And what does it say to those still in the development system at Cobham, or those considering which academy to send their talented offspring to? Abramovich has not simply sacked his most high-profile employee, but shredded a club desire of nurturing youth.’
Sorry, we had not realised that Lampard was employed just to attract young footballers to Chelsea; we were under the impression he was employed as a first-team coach with responsibility for the results of that first team. Even Lampard would surely be embarrassed as his casting as some kind of child-snatcher rather than an actual football professional.
‘The owner has just humiliated a manager who cared deeply about reviving the team, who qualified for the Champions League last season despite the transfer ban and took them to the FA Cup final, and who this season has guided Chelsea into the last 16 of the Champions League, into the fifth round of the FA Cup and had his team top of the Premier League at the start of last month.’
But they are ninth now, Henry. And they have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup by beating Morecambe and Luton. There is some praise due for his qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League, but basically you are balking at his ‘humiliation’ because he ‘cared deeply’. If that is the only real qualification for the job, then appoint one of those real fans.
Incidentally, this is a tweet from Winter almost two years ago:
Sarri too stubborn, Plan A found out, no Plan B, inexplicable/meek substitutions, shocking refusal to use Hudson-Odoi at 2-0 down, players’ negative body language signals lack of belief in coach, defence chaotic, #cfc fans’ mutinous, owner not known for patience. On borrowed time
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) February 18, 2019
At that juncture, Sarri’s Chelsea were one point behind fourth place, in the Carabao Cup final, in the last 16 of the Europa League and had just lost to Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. By almost any measure, the Sarri of February 2019 was doing at least as well as the Lampard of January 2021.
But back to Bambi…
‘But, as crises go, football has known worse. Chelsea have known worse. Abramovich acted hastily. Another manager comes and goes, they may as well all be called interim.’
Chelsea have not known worse without the manager being sacked. That is the pertinent point here, surely. There is so much more but we are already pretty much 1500 words deep into this Mediawatch and Winter is by no means the only man who has lost perspective here.
But he might well be the only man who wrote less than a week ago – after that chastening defeat to Leicester – that ‘Lampard’s management can legitimately be loudly questioned, his selections and tactics rightly criticised, his failure to influence games from the dugout condemned’ and that ‘Lampard was undeniably schooled by Rodgers here, made to look a complete ingénu by an experienced manager whose Leicester side were far better organised and motivated than Chelsea’ and that ‘this dispiriting performance leaves Lampard with even less sympathy’.
It sounds like somebody thought Bambi deserved to be shot. We would not be astonished to learn that the man with the shotgun read The Times before he loaded his weapon with bullets.
Lampard: A whistle-stop tour of a lack of perspective
John Cross of the Daily Mirror writes that ‘this sacking is the most brutal of all’, despite the fact that Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in a corridor after finishing second the season after they had won the Double.
He also writes that ‘nothing feels as painful as Lampard getting his marching orders just 18 months into the job having led them into the Champions League places in his first season when people were tipping them for a mid-table finish amid the transfer ban.’
Anyone want to guess what Crossy actually predicted before that season?
In the Daily Mail, Martin Samuel writes: ‘It will feel very raw now but one day, when Frank Lampard reflects on his time at Stamford Bridge, he may come to believe he was taken for a ride. What appeared a great opportunity was in fact a place-holding exercise, no more.’
If only there was a way that Lampard could have kept that job that he was given even though he was woefully underqualified.
Over in The Guardian, David Hytner writes:
‘Look at Manchester United and Arsenal, where Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Mikel Arteta have seemed close to crashing and burning at various points. Solskjær appeared doomed after United’s 6-1 home defeat against Tottenham on 4 October while he continued to dice with disaster through November and into the early part of December.’
Pesky fact: Manchester United are unbeaten in the Premier League since November 1.
There really is so very much more – at least Harry Redknapp has an excuse for his blindness – but Mediawatch now has a headache and the urge to watch Bambi.