Consistency in the dugout is something that has been painfully absent from Roman Abramovich’s enormous success at Chelsea.
In his nearly 18 years owning the club, the Russian has employed 10 permanent managers – with Jose Mourinho completing two spells – and could be about to sack another as Frank Lampard’s job looks increasingly under threat after his side slumped to ninth in the Premier League following a run of just one win in six games.
Some big names have come and gone. Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and Mourinho are all managerial greats but Abramovich has never been afraid to wield the axe if Chelsea aren’t performing to his liking.
Claudio Ranieri was the first to get the chop, replaced by Mourinho as Abramovich sought a manager who could put his billions to good use in the transfer market and create a winning team.
Avram Grant, Maurizio Sarri, Roberto Di Matteo and Andre Villas-Boas have all also been offered, but eventually denied, the chance to build a long-term project in west London.
Some have won Premier League titles but been sacked months later. Di Matteo won the club’s one and only Champions League in remarkable fashion but still found himself unemployed six months later.
What is most concerning for Lampard’s employment prospects, however, is that he boasts the worst points-per-game record in the Premier League of all Abramovich’s managers with 1.67.
Grant boasts the best with 2.31 with Mourinho (2.19), Conte and Ancelotti (both 2.14) completing the top three.
In fact Lampard’s record is worse than that of Villas-Boas, who was brutally sacked after just 27 league games in charge.
Lampard knows how the ruthless club works and, after the painful 3-1 home defeat by Manchester City, said: ‘I had days like this and lifted a trophy at the end of the year’. That also often ended with the manager gone.
So what are the warning signs that Lampard needs to look out for in the Abramovich era?
Claudio Ranieri – sacked May 2004
The writing was always on the wall for Ranieri when Abramovich took control of the club, despite having steered them into the Champions League in 2002-03.
Abramovich began to want more returns from his significant investment in the transfer market upon his arrival.
Ranieri bought in the likes of Damien Duff, Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo, Joe Cole and Claude Makelele, leading Chelsea to second in 2003-04 and the semi-finals of the Champions League.
But Ranieri was not the man to lead them into their new era and Abramovich sacked him at the end of the 2003-04 season, replacing him with Mourinho.
The Italian, who went on to win the Premier League with Leicester, set the framework for much of Chelsea’s success under Mourinho.
He bought a number of crucial players and and afforded John Terry and Lampard their big breaks in the first team.
Jose Mourinho – sacked September 2007 and December 2015
The ‘Special One’ arrived in west London with a reputation as a winner thanks to his phenomenal success at Porto and made an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge with more big-money signings.
Mourinho won the Premier League and League Cup in his first season but missed out on a place in the Champions League final thanks to Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ at Anfield.
Chelsea retained the league title in 2005-06 but the following campaign saw tensions boil over between the manager and the owner amid a power struggle with sporting director Frank Arnesen and Abramovich adviser Piet de Visser.
Andriy Shevchenko arrived in the summer of 2006 but Mourinho wanted to continue with Didier Drogba up front and left the Ukrainian out of his squad completely at times, which irked the owner.
He was eventually let go after a poor start to the 2007-08 campaign following years of backroom squabbling.
Mourinho left with six trophies in three years but would return to the Bridge eventually.
After success coaching Inter Milan and Real Madrid in between, Mourinho made his long-awaited comeback to the Premier League with Chelsea in the summer of 2013.
His first season back was the start of a rebuilding process before he carried out more excellent moves in the transfer market in 2014, signing Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, to give him a squad he could compete with.
Sure enough Mourinho led Chelsea back to the title in 2014-15 with three matches to spare but European success continued to elude them as they were knocked out in the Champions League last-16.
Mourinho signed a new four-year contract in August 2015 but a horror start to the season, in which Chelsea lost nine of their 16 matches, saw him sacked by Abramovich again.
In a statement, Chelsea said: ‘The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea.’
Avram Grant – sacked May 2008
The Israeli was drafted in as the club’s director of football in July 2007 but then stepped in to replace Mourinho during the 2007-08 season.
Considering he was inexperienced at coaching elite clubs, Grant hit the ground running amid protests from fans that Mourinho had been shown the door. The Blues embarked on a 16-match unbeaten run and Grant signed a four-year contract in December 2007.
He was beaten by Tottenham in the League Cup final and was knocked out of the FA Cup by Barnsley but Chelsea rallied to finish second in the league.
Going one step further than Mourinho, Grant led the team to the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow after beating Liverpool in the semi-finals.
But Terry’s slip and penalty miss cost them dearly against Manchester United and Grant was apparently left feeling ‘betrayed, upset and angry’ following his sacking, just days after his side lost in Russia, after eight months in charge.
It was said, however, that Chelsea’s senior players had never rated Grant’s management, and instead effectively took over the running of the team themselves.
Luiz Felipe Scolari – sacked February 2009
Grant’s reign was short lived but his successor, Brazilian legend Scolari, barely had time to settle in London.
A World Cup winner with his country in 2002, Scolari returned to club management with Chelsea in 2008 after coaching Portugal at Euro 2008.
But their bid for the title never really got going and Chelsea lost their unbeaten home record in the Premier League after an astonishing four years and eight months to Liverpool in October 2008.
There were also defeats by Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool again at Anfield and Tottenham. Chelsea sacked Scolari after just seven months in the job in February 2009.
The club failed to sustain a serious challenge for the Premier League, finishing seven points off title winners Manchester United.
Carlo Ancelotti – sacked May 2011
Ancelotti’s tenure at Chelsea sums up the crazy history the club has with managers.
The Italian great arrived in the summer of 2009 as a bonafide legend following two years at Juventus and eight at AC Milan, where he won the Champions League twice.
At this point Ancelotti was Chelsea’s fourth permanent manager in 21 months.
In his first season at Stamford Bridge, Ancelotti won the Premier League and FA Cup Double, an historic and rare achievement in English football.
They were so dominant that the Blues scored 103 goals, the first team to surpass the century mark in the Premier League era, with Drogba scoring 29 times in the top flight.
But Ancelotti and his side crashed out of the Champions League in the last-16 to Inter Milan, managed by Mourinho.
They couldn’t build on the title win in Ancelotti’s second season and nine defeats in the league saw them finish nine points behind champions United.
It was in January 2011 that Fernando Torres was bought from Liverpool for £50million but he couldn’t rescue their title chances and massively flopped in a blue shirt.
Chelsea’s European woes continued as they were beaten in the quarter-finals, this time by United.
Ancelotti was eventually sacked after he concluded his second season at the club without a trophy.
Andre Villas-Boas – sacked March 2012
In 2011, like seven years earlier, Abramovich went for an up-and-coming Portuguese manager with a good record in his homeland.
Villas-Boas had worked on Mourinho’s staff during his initial spell at Chelsea and was familiar with the surroundings.
But his team started the season poorly and lost to Manchester United, QPR, Arsenal and Liverpool before the end of November.
Chelsea eventually slipped out of the Champions League places after a defeat against Everton in February 2012 and the pressure started to mount.
The manager then sparked a blazing row with some of his senior players after cancelling their day off after the Goodison Park loss, with his team responding by questioning his tactics and his personality, which caused irreparable damage.
Things then got worse when Villas-Boas left senior players Lampard, Essien and Ashley Cole on the bench for a European game at Napoli, which Chelsea lost 3-1.
Defeat against West Brom was the final straw though and Villas-Boas was gone on March 4.
He got a hefty payment for just nine months’ work. They were still in the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as fighting for a top-four spot in the Premier League at the time.
Roberto Di Matteo – sacked November 2012
The former Chelsea midfielder initially stepped in as caretaker manager following the dismissal of Villas-Boas but his impact was remarkable.
He overturned the deficit against Napoli in the Champions League last-16 tie with a 4-1 win and then led them past Benfica, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, in their own Allianz Arena, to win the Champions League in the most unlikely fashion.
He set up a memorable double a week earlier by beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final at Wembley and was given a two-year contract as a result of his immediate impact.
But after just five months as permanent manager, Abramovich took no prisoners and brutally sacked him following a Champions League loss to Juventus that virtually eliminated them in the group stage.
Antonio Conte – sacked July 2018
After interim spells for Rafa Benitez and Guus Hiddink either side of Mourinho’s second spell, Chelsea turned to another Italian in the fiery Conte.
His Juve side had dominated Italian football under his stewardship, winning three Serie A titles in a row while reinvigorating the 3-5-2 formation.
Conte left Turin to take charge of Italy at Euro 2016 and they managed to beat defending champions Spain before losing to Germany in the quarter-finals.
Signing a three-year deal, Conte’s start was promising and he set a new club record with 11 consecutive wins before going on to make it 13 against Stoke.
He was passionate, animated on the touchline and set his team up tactically we.
Nobody could keep pace with Conte’s Chelsea and they wrapped up the 2016-17 Premier League title at West Brom with two games to go.
But as we’ve seen with Conte before, he’s very rarely content and resentment between him and the board continued to bubble away during his second season.
Performances on the pitch started to suffer and the Blues missed out on Champions League football with a fifth-place finish. They did win the FA Cup in May 2018 but Conte’s future was the subject of speculation all summer, with a huge bust-up with Diego Costa proving the catalyst for his downfall.
He returned to pre-season training in the summer of 2018 but was then dismissed and replaced by another Italian.
Maurizio Sarri – left June 2019
Despite his non-existent career as a player, Sarri had won plenty of plaudits for how he had worked his way up through Italian football management with his tactical ideas.
‘Sarri-ball’ was coined during his time with Empoli and Napoli thanks to their free-flowing, possession-based football. He took Napoli so close to ending Juventus’ dominance of Serie A but just missed out on the title.
He arrived from Napoli in July 2018 and immediately set about implementing his style of play, signing Jorginho from Napoli to be the brains of his team and £72m goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.
But ‘Sarri-ball’ never quite took off in west London and his tenure was constantly dogged by speculation about his position and unhappiness in the stands with his tactics, which were perceived as dull, and team selections.
What did not help Sarri’s cause was when Kepa refused to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley. He wanted to stay on the pitch for the inevitable penalty shootout but could not prevent them from losing to Manchester City.
Sarri did manage to leave on a positive note, however, as he won the first trophy of his managerial career with a 4-1 victory over Arsenal in the Europa League final in Baku.
He also returned the club to the Champions League. Not bad for somebody who was always on the verge of going.
While it looked inevitable that Sarri would not continue at Chelsea, Juventus came in for him and took him back to Italy, where he won Serie A before being sacked last summer.