Chelsea need a proper football manager and Frank Lampard needs a proper football club. This wouldn’t be happening if there was anyone left at Chelsea to ask about his first spell.
The Sun’s claim that Chelsea were ‘considering Frank Lampard as caretaker boss’ was as laughable as it is was seemingly completely made up. He was tipped to take over on the apparent sole basis of being at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. The article itself suggested no inside knowledge of the situation, even if it has since been claimed that Lampard was a guest in Behdad Egbali’s executive box for the Liverpool game.
It was a one in a hundred shot which, incredibly, has come off. Had Roberto Di Matteo been in attendance, Chelsea might have been ‘considering’ him instead.
Chelsea love an interim. Guus Hiddink won the FA Cup in 2009 having picked up the Luiz Felipe Scolari pieces. Di Matteo won the FA Cup and Champions League in 2012 on the back of Andre Villas-Boas. Rafael Benitez won the Europa League after Di Matteo was made permanent then sacked the season after.
Given their current situation, as they weigh up Luis Enrique or Julian Nagelsmann, a short-term manager makes sense. With just two relatively meaningless months of the season to go there’s no point in rushing the next permanent appointment.
There is also some method to the madness of appointing Lampard. It will go down well with the majority of fans, and even those who think bringing a manager back who oversaw some pretty abject football in the last months of his permanent spell will feel uneasy about voicing those concerns. He’s a club legend, after all.
Given Chelsea have just nine Premier League games to play, the effects of a ‘new manager bounce’ may not even have worn off by the time Lampard’s stint comes to an end, during which Chelsea may also actually score some goals, with squandering chances a problem that really came to the fore after he left. Though him returning as a player may be a more astute method for easing their goalscoring woes.
Conceding goals was an issue. The 2019-20 season saw Chelsea ship 16 in eight Champions League ties – a club record. And it’s not hugely encouraging that ahead of their quarter-final tie against Real Madrid, Chelsea have opted for a manager whose last knockout game was the 7-2 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich.
The Athletic reported after his dismissal that the players ‘complained about a lack of tactical instruction and not being spoken to for months’, which doesn’t bode well with the hugely boated squad he’ll now be faced with. And ‘the dressing room felt the manager showed no empathy and were hurt by his public criticism’.
Things had turned really quite sour by the end, and while many of the players he worked with aren’t still at Chelsea, some will be, and will now be telling their teammates about that lack of tactical instruction and empathy.
It’s fortunate for Lampard, if indeed you believe him fortunate to be handed the role, that this is a brand new Chelsea. Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley – who now appear to be front and centre with Todd Boehly fading into the background – can’t ask anyone other than those few players for their opinion on Lampard, as there is literally no-one left who was there when things went kaput first time around. Marina Granovskaia will be choking on her cornflakes with her Best Club Director award behind her on the mantelpiece.
It’s not like there were no other options. Benitez has won the Champions League with Liverpool; he’s available. Di Matteo won it with Chelsea; he’s available.
And you’ve got to wonder what’s in it for Lampard. It’s a way back in to the Premier League which may not have come around through more conventional methods. He’s in the conversation at least, but what’s the best he can hope for? Is he just creating a very specific niche of being a club legend caretaker? Perhaps he and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should start a union?
Maybe he’ll win the Champions League, which isn’t half bad for a couple of months work, and give the Chelsea owners a very difficult decision. Can they sack the club legend who’s just won them the Champions League? No. Should they keep a manager they know to be a mediocre tactician? Also no.
What’s far more likely to happen is Lampard either fails to enhance or further diminishes his reputation. Those claiming that Lampard to Chelsea makes total sense for everyone seem to be forgetting just how bad things were at the end of his permanent tenure and just what a rotten mess the club is currently in.
Chelsea need a proper manager and Lampard needs a proper club. This move will satisfy neither requirement.