Lampard says Chelsea are not ‘ready to compete’ for the title after defeat

Frank Lampard claimed Chelsea are ‘not ready’ to challenge for the top prizes as he faced mounting pressure on his job following a fourth away defeat in five matches.

First-half goals from Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison lifted Leicester to the top of the Premier League — nine points clear of Lampard’s men, who are now five points adrift of the Champions League places in eighth.

Luck was not on Chelsea’s side: they were awarded a penalty with the score at 1-0, only for the spot-kick to be overturned after VAR ruled Jonny Evans fouled Christian Pulisic outside the box. And in the closing moments, substitute Timo Werner’s close-range volley was ruled out for a marginal offside.

But with Roman Abramovich, who spent £230million in the summer on the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell, rarely an owner to show patience, Lampard backed himself to handle the heat.

He said: ‘I am good at handling pressure. I took this job knowing there would be difficult times as it’s not a club ready to compete.

‘We had a transfer ban, we had young players, we had new players. I understand the expectations of this club, whether I think it’s right or wrong. We are not in the same position Chelsea were when we were winning titles. The consistency, the robustness, the level of experience of winning Premier Leagues is not the same.

‘I can’t control (my future). I can’t get caught up in the reaction otherwise I would be sitting here all day concerned about it. In the game we were beaten by the better team and we had ‘‘sleeping’’ moments.

You have to do the basics, dig in. You have to run, sprint and cover ground and too many of our players didn’t do that. We were beaten by a better team.

‘They were sharper, they ran more. If you relax when you’re playing well as we were a month go, this game kicks you up the backside and that’s what happened tonight.’

To make the defeat even more bitter, Maddison revealed Leicester had spotted Chelsea ‘switched off’ at set pieces.

In the sixth minute, the Blues fell asleep when Maddison and Marc Albrighton worked a short corner on the right, with the cutback eventually reaching Ndidi, who crashed the ball in from just outside the area.

Maddison said: ‘We worked on it. We looked at Chelsea, little short corners — they switch off sometimes from set pieces and we knew that was something we could pick up on.

‘We are not top of the table by fluke. People might talk about Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City but we will do our business in the background and hope that at the end of the season we are right up there.

‘It sounds nice to be top of the table. There might be teams who can spend more money than us, bring in quality from abroad and pay big wages for big players. But our team spirit and togetherness are there for all to see.’

Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers claimed his first win as a boss over Chelsea at the 16th attempt and added: ‘The trick is to keep the hunger and desire if you want to stay at the top of this league and it’s my job to constantly drive that home.’

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