ollowing this humbling defeat, Frank Lampard fronted up as he always does. He said the right things as he usually does. But, on the back of a fourth defeat in six games, it felt like the questions were being directed at the wrong person.
His fate lies in the hands of one man — and for all the talk of long-term planning, rebuilds and lesson-learning, ultimately, he is just left with hope: hope that Roman Abramovich shares his vision; hope that Chelsea‘s Russian owner changes the habit of a lifetime and buys into a patient approach, rather than demanding immediate returns.
It was intriguing that Lampard likened his position to that of Pep Guardiola’s on the back of a chastening defeat that continued Chelsea’s slump.
Guardiola’s first season at the Etihad was underwhelming. City finished third after securing the world’s most coveted manager, a man who Abramovich had long-dreamed of luring to Stamford Bridge.
Had Guardiola endured a similar season at Chelsea, history tells us he would not have been around to start the next. Which is probably why he chose not to gamble his reputation on the whims of a billionaire who simply refuses to countenance failure.
Instead, Guardiola went to City, a club ready to build itself in the image of the Catalan and not panic at the first sign of trouble but rather double-down on his revolution.
Now Lampard is banking on Chelsea showing the same faith in him, but without the pedigree to support his case.
Of course, he is right to point to a newly assembled squad, a young squad, one that features a blend of players who are new to the Premier League, either because they have arrived from other countries or recently made the step up from the Championship.
It takes time to oversee such a dramatic rebuild — and even on the back of their 17-game unbeaten run in all competitions earlier, it was always going to be a tall order to keep pace with champions Liverpool.
As Lampard put it, he is just being realistic. The problem for him is that Abramovich’s Chelsea transformation was not based on realism or the acceptance of limitations.
It was built on confounding expectations, demanding more than could ever be realistically demanded and achieving what should not be achievable. It has been brutal, but it has brought rewards beyond any Chelsea fan’s wildest dreams.
Those demands saw him sack the club’s greatest-ever manager — twice — saw him dump World Cup winners and Champions League masters.
They saw him celebrate as the club conquered Europe for the first time, only to show the door to the man who made it possible before the year was out.
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Ask Roberto Di Matteo or Jose Mourinho if being a Chelsea legend counts for anything when Abramovich runs out of patience.
Lampard is not so naive to think he will be treated any differently if it is determined he is not the right man to take Chelsea back to the summit of English football. Right now, he is left to hope there is enough credit in the bank to be given time to turn the season around.
Chelsea are just three points off the top four, even if teams above and below them have games in hand.
But when has a top-four finish ever satisfied Abramovich, beyond last season, when Lampard was forced to work under a transfer ban?
The £220million spent on new recruits was a sign of the owner going again after watching City and Liverpool turn the Premier League into a personal duel. It was backing for his manager, but also a sign of his own impatience to put Chelsea back into that picture.
By Lampard’s own admission, Chelsea are not there yet. He is just being real.
But his Chelsea predecessors know from experience that reality bites.