Man Utd answer £85m Mount question but Lampard must retire after all-time worst season
The build-up to Man Utd versus Chelsea was about Mason Mount. In the aftermath of a crushing home win, Frank Lampard needs to wake up and accept reality.
If the idea was to prove that £85m might actually be too low a valuation for a 24-year-old Champions League winner with 51 goals and assists in 129 Premier League appearances when selling to a direct rival, then The Mason Mount Derby achieved precisely that.
The Man Utd and Chelsea starting line-ups contained five players on each side signed in deals worth at least £60m, with £113m loanee Joao Felix introduced from the bench and £75m Harry Maguire an unused substitute.
Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial were all eventually involved in goals, but also moments of ludicrous wastefulness against a rapidly disintegrating defence. Antony’s unfortunate first-half injury prevented his otherwise inevitable pursuit of that same honour, while Casemiro was excellent.
And considering Kepa Arrizabalaga’s continued existential crisis when facing penalties, the rank incompetence of Wesley Fofana and the independent decisions of both Kai Havertz and Mykhaylo Mudryk to translate the term ‘counter-attacking’ to its most literal definition, it is not difficult to see why Chelsea might place the bar as high as possible in a transfer market they themselves have inflated beyond all meaning.
The build-up was laser-focused on Man Utd target Mount but the aftermath should centre on one discussion point: an extended and excruciating post-mortem of Frank Lampard’s career as a Premier League manager.
Hard to know which ranks as the worst Premier League team of the season. Frank Lampard's Everton or Frank Lampard's Chelsea.
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) May 25, 2023
Felix ought to be ashamed of himself, for it was his wonderful consolation goal in the 89th minute which stopped one of the sport’s absolute greatest narrative circles from closing seamlessly. Lampard made his top-flight coaching debut in a 4-0 defeat to Man Utd at Old Trafford and, save for what promises to be a painful final day against Newcastle, almost bowed out in the exact same way four years later.
It was more of a freak result in August 2019; Chelsea had more shots, possession and corners than their hosts in that game but were undone by finishing ranging from careless at one end to clinical at the other.
There was an element of that in May 2023. The Blues created but missed some gilt-edged chances, with Mudryk, Havertz and Conor Gallagher particular culprits. Yet they were laughably hopeless in defence and practically non-existent off the ball. Fun as any and all xG discourse always is, Man Utd’s 5.14 being the biggest by any side in a single Premier League game this season is stunning.
It is genuinely no exaggeration to suggest that this has been one of the all-time worst individual seasons of any manager in Premier League history. Lampard has presided over 28 games and emerged with a record of four wins, seven draws, 17 defeats, 23 goals for and 43 against. His PPPG (personal points per game) extrapolated across a full season is 26. Which is to say Lampard on his own has been as sh*t as Bradford 2000/01 or Fulham 2018/19, and only two points better than Southampton this campaign.
Scott Parker has more clean sheets, Roy Hodgson has more wins and Julen Lopetegui has as many goals as Lampard during his Chelsea stint this season. The Blues’ last clean sheet came in Bruno Saltor’s only game, immediately before Lampard’s appointment. Nathan Jones conjured just one Southampton league win in nine attempts and you know precisely which manager that came against.
Everton were 19th when they sacked Lampard in January; in a table of results since appointing him, Chelsea and their £600m squad are 18th. Lampard might yet be involved in both clubs’ worst Premier League finishes ever in terms of position and points this season.
Perhaps aware his period of relevance on stages such as this has a specific and obvious expiry date, Lampard made one last naked grab at forcing some sort of legacy. He named the youngest Chelsea starting line-up in Premier League history at an average age of 23 years and 238 days, having also picked the rest of the top three in the opening months of his first spell as manager.
It was precisely the sort of statement his backers lap up: a champion of youth laying down the marker for his successor to continue a proud tradition of developing prodigious talent. But Lampard has done more damage to these players than good.
Playing in this defence is of no benefit to Trevoh Chalobah. Lewis Hall was yet again very good but these experiences only taint a precocious teenager whose nine first-team appearances this season have resulted in a single win. Gallagher was awful. Carney Chukwuemeka might wonder precisely why his involvement in the U20 World Cup was blocked for this. Noni Madueke is understandably buckling under the weight of an entire attack.
They will, no doubt, each be lambasted for forgetting The Basics post-match, by a man who has seemingly yet to grasp them as a coach.
Man Utd were not brilliant; at times they were just as slack and absent-minded. But they have an adult in charge and the grown-up Casemiro setting standards on the pitch. Based on this, they will also have Mount absolutely desperate to time his jump from a sinking ship well enough to land on Champions League shores again.