The Blues boss admitted that he may have to turn results around quickly amid growing pressure over his job
Frank Lampard addressed the speculation around his potential sacking at Chelsea after a run of bad results threw his position as manager into renewed doubt.
Chelsea have won just one of their last six games in the Premier League and defeat against League Two side Morecambe in the FA Cup third round on Sunday would bring unwelcome further embarrassment.
Still, for Lampard, this season has been about playing down expectations even during a 16-game unbeaten run that saw the Blues top the Premier League for a brief period.
With 11 players having just one year of experience or less in the Premier League, Lampard believes that the recent dip was to be expected. However, he knows that the patience of the owner Roman Abramovich is limited and that he is powerless to convince him to wait for success.
“I’ve sat here in the last year to 18 months and talked about how joined-up the club is and the decisions we were making last year,” Lampard told reporters from Cobham Training Centre. “We couldn’t bring in players. We lost our most important player (Eden Hazard).
“The young players coming through were developing. We’re understanding that might not be a straight line but more of a bumpy curve. We went through last season that way and in the summer we brought in players. I can only talk about how I see it. I’m the one working with the players.”
Lampard mentioned the comments made by Jurgen Klopp last month, in which the Liverpool boss suggested that Chelsea were the favourites to win the Premier League.
“We have a young squad and new players coming in, so when people want to talk about us having the strongest squad, one month ago, the reality is that we had a squad of players, some of them new, and they have not performed at levels in previous years to win you titles. That was my feeling,” Lampard said.
“If you look sideways and upwards at teams winning titles at the moment they had players who produced record numbers of goals, front threes, front lines that produce numbers. We have absolute talent in our squad – no doubt about that – and I hope and expect that with work our guys can develop into those sorts of players but we’re not there yet. That’s why I said that.
“Patience, fine. I don’t think patience is something I can talk about in football, that’s not my prerogative and those decisions are never mine.
“My decision is to wake up every day and try to get that tiny bit of improvement every day within the squad, but understand and have a calm head about the fact that some days football won’t allow you just to cruise through.
“It will give you tough moments, so when I’m saying that we are not a finished article, I think I’m stating pretty much a fact, but what is important is you stay very together – talking about me, staff and players – in tough moments.
“And they are challenging, but when we think about it we had 16 games unbeaten, we’ve lost four games out of six, we won one and drew one out of the others, and that’s a statement of fact.
“Now we have to say, ‘OK, can we get back to the basics that got us 16 games unbeaten?’ and then can we build further on that because that’s our real desire – to get better. I don’t need to deal too much in the words of patience because those things will be out of my hands.”
Chelsea’s squad boasts an average age of 26, which is near the younger end of the league, but the team is also one of the deepest.
The 25-man group include five centre-backs, three left-backs and a host of options in midfield and attack. That has led to some players growing unhappy with stars like Marcos Alonso and Fikayo Tomori hardly appearing all season.
Chelsea are open to letting players go but the coronavirus pandemic has hit the economics of football hard, making it difficult for big clubs to sell players on high salaries.
“I realised pretty quickly in this job that whether we win or lose, but particularly if we lose some games, when I’m having to have more players not starting than starting there will be players who will be wanting to play,” Lampard added.
“Some will use that with real positivity, some maybe not so much. Some will maybe speak behind backs because that’s how life is. I can’t be concerned with that. All I can say is that the players here I feel have a real desire to get out of this mini-run of bad results. I can see that in them.
“If there are players that don’t have that concern to get out then they have decisions to make. If there are opportunities for them to leave it will have to be right for them, right for the club, for myself and the club then that can happen. If not then we keep fighting.
“I never came into this job thinking for one minute that I’m going to have a squad of 25 players or so who are going to be saying, ‘I love not playing football.’
“We’ll see what happens with the squad because we’re in a very tough time in terms of Covid and how the transfer market looks, so anything that happened player by player would have to be right for the club, first and foremost, for the player, depending on contracts, and myself. So it’s not simple.