He has only been in charge since July 2019 but Frank Lampard’s reign as Chelsea boss is seemingly under considerable threat.
Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City – a game in which Lampard said his side were taught “serious lessons” – was the Blues’ fourth Premier League defeat since the start of December, when they fleetingly topped the table.
Only relegation favourites West Brom (five) and Sheffield United (six) have suffered more in the same period.
The loss leaves them on 26 points – three fewer than they had at the same stage last season – with history showing the west London outfit have never finished higher than sixth when amassing no more than that number of points after 17 games.
It marks a sorry transformation in fortunes for Lampard, who is the club’s record goalscorer and one of its most beloved former players.
Here, we look at what has gone wrong for the 42-year-old this season and assess who might replace him, should Blues owner Roman Abramovich decide a change is required.
4 – Since the start of December, only West Bromwich Albion (5) and Sheffield United (6) have lost more Premier League games than Chelsea (4). Concerning. pic.twitter.com/APVKTh15Wg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2021
Big names not performing
Lampard oversaw a spend of more than £220million in the most recent transfer window, but his two marquee signings have failed to deliver.
Timo Werner arrived from RB Leipzig in a £47m deal after scoring 28 goals and making eight for his team-mates last season.
He has contributed four goals and as many assists in his 17 league appearances for the Blues this term, however, while his touches in the opposition box have fallen from an average of 7.65 per game in the 2019-20 season to 5.29 with Chelsea.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s go pic.twitter.com/dwtryF2euR
— Timo Werner (@TimoWerner) January 1, 2021
He is not the only Bundesliga import struggling, though, and Lampard could do with the real Kai Havertz standing up.
Given he cost Chelsea a fee in the region of £70m when coming in from Bayer Leverkusen, the Chelsea boss would have anticipated more than one goal in his first 15 Premier League games.
Havertz’s role at Chelsea may not be exactly as it was at Leverkusen and the 21-year-old has had to contend with a bout of COVID-19, but he is spending the bulk of his time in the same areas of the field and not coming up with the same goods.
He has had just two big chances compared to the 18 he enjoyed during his final campaign with Leverkusen, while his average of 2.5 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes in England’s top flight is comfortably shy of the 5.1 he had in his final season in Germany.
High-profile coaches lurking
There are a number of significant names waiting in the wings should Lampard be given the boot.
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers has been linked with the position in recent days and the Northern Irishman has strong links to the club. He was appointed their head youth coach in 2004 before being promoted to reserve team manager two years later.
He guided the Foxes to fifth place last season – just four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea – and has overseen an impressive start to this campaign, with the club third after winning 10 of their opening 17 games.
19 – Leicester’s start is the 19th time a top-flight side have won least seven of their first nine away league games of a season – none of the previous 18 have finished outside of the top four, whilst 50% of those sides have gone on to win the division that season. Contenders? pic.twitter.com/sue0LMAXPb
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2021
Thomas Tuchel would also likely be near the front of the queue after his dismissal as Paris Saint-Germain boss at the end of December.
Maurizio Sarri was in charge before Lampard and the club might opt to return to Italy for their next man, with Massimiliano Allegri still out of work.
The 53-year-old left Juventus at the end of the 2018-19 campaign after securing his fifth consecutive Serie A title in charge of the Bianconeri – the kind of record surely guaranteed to turn Abramovich’s head.
Not all doom and gloom
While Lampard does have the lowest points-per-game ratio of any permanent Chelsea manager since Abramovic took over the club in 2003 (1.67 per game), there is some cause for optimism for the former England midfielder.
The Blues play sides from the bottom half of the Premier League table in five of their next seven top-flight matches, while they can prepare for that run with what looks like an easy FA Cup third-round clash against Morecambe, should the weekend tie even go ahead as the League Two outfit grapple with a coronavirus outbreak.
Despite results not going in their favour over recent weeks, Lampard’s side are scoring more goals and conceding fewer than they did last season. On average, they are scoring 1.9 goals per game this season compared to 1.8 last term and are letting in 1.2 per game this time around compared to 1.4 in the 2019-20 season.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 14, 2020
There is also the small matter of the Champions League knockout stages to look forward to after they came out on top of Group E with four wins from their six games.
Atletico Madrid await in the last 16 and Lampard will dearly hope he is still in a position to pit his wits against Diego Simeone come the first leg on February 23.