Frank Lampard said he believes the standards at Chelsea have dropped after he signed off as interim manager with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle, and admitted a “very good manager” could have done something about it.
The result means Lampard failed to register a single home victory during his second spell in charge, with his last win as manager at Stamford Bridge still a 3-1 triumph over West Ham in December 2020.
It took a Kieran Trippier own goal, the defender deflecting the ball into the net midway through the first half, to cancel out Anthony Gordon’s early strike.
This was at least an improved performance from Chelsea, particularly in the second half where they played with an attacking initiative rarely seen under Lampard.
The young trio of Noni Madueke, Lewis Hall and substitute Carey Chukwuemeka especially played with the maturity to take charge of the game and drive their team on, after a first half in which Newcastle had made Chelsea look ordinary.
That has happened too often this season, especially at home where there have been six Premier League defeats and only 20 goals scored, the same number as Bournemouth and three fewer than relegated Leicester.
Lampard said he had recognised early in his tenure that leadership and cohesion were lacking among a bloated squad, and hoped that a new manager – expected to be Mauricio Pochettino – would be able to slim down and galvanise the first-team group.
“The standards collectively have dropped,” said Lampard. “I can be honest about that now that it’s my last game, I might not see some of them that much anymore.
“The standards of the collective for a club like Chelsea have to be at the maximum or you won’t be physically competitive enough, or you won’t be able to play at a high level… high speed in a way that the Premier League demands.
“If you’re not together in the dressing room, and you’re not vocal in the dressing room, driving each other and competitive because I want your place and you want mine. Any top team has to have that.”
Lampard then admitted a “very good manager” would have improved those standards, meaning he’s not in that category.
“When I came in very quickly I could see that wasn’t there enough. Of course a very good manager will help that, but everyone has to take responsibility, players and club alike.”
Chelsea’s form has nosedived since Lampard was appointed on April 6, with problems that had been apparent under former manager Graham Potter having only been exacerbated.
Todd Boehly’s whirlwind transfer activity during his first year of ownership has produced a squad of 34 first-team players that both managers have said proved hugely challenging to work with.
It has contributed to Chelsea recording a first bottom-half finish since 1996 and a record low tally of points and goals scored in the Premier League era.
And a report on Saturday highlighted the problems Lampard has failed to deal with, including players questioning his authority and turning up late for the team bus.
“It’s clear there are things I would see that need to improve,” said Lampard. “A new manager will see with his own eyes and the beauty of it is he’ll have a pre-season to work with the team, they need that.
“We’re not physically competitive enough. Newcastle are and we haven’t been. That’s a strong opinion that I have.
“The squad has been too big, that’s the biggest challenge I’ve found day to day, coming in and working with big numbers, and with players who for whatever reason are disillusioned, whether for right or wrong that they’re not playing, (or) they might be leaving. Those situations can maybe be sorted out now and they have to be.”
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, whose team had already secured qualification for next season’s Champions League ahead of the game at Stamford Bridge, said a first season in 20 years in Europe’s top competition would help loosen the transfer restrictions placed on his club by Financial Fair Play rules.
“FFP will impact what we do this summer,” he said. “Without Champions League football it would have been difficult to do much in the market at all. The fact we have that has given us a bit of a lift.
“The most important people are the players we already have. I’m the type of manager who tries to get the best out of everyone under our employment. We’re looking to add quality, we’re not huge payers of wages in the Premier League, it makes it hard to attract the very best players.
“We need more depth. With three games in a week next year we’re going to be stretched.”