Football Features

“Chelsea is a bed of nails” – The winners & losers as Blues sack Frank Lampard

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:22, 25 January 2021

Chelsea have sacked Frank Lampard after 19 games of the 2020/21 Premier League season.

We’re halfway through the season and with the Blues down in ninth place, Roman Abramovich has decided that he’s seen enough and called time on Lampard’s reign. One of the best players in the history of Chelsea Football Club lasted just a season and a half as boss.

His replacement is strongly rumoured to be Thomas Tuchel; the German who was sacked by PSG earlier this season but has proven himself a quality coach of young talent which should stand him in good stead dealing with this Chelsea squad.

Beyond Lampard himself, who has now been sacked from his dream job after a matter of months in the role, who are the winners and losers of Lampard’s departure? Where exactly do Chelsea go from here now they’ve sacked a player with such an enormous reputation at the club? And what will Chelsea look like if Tuchel does get the job?

 

Winner: Timo Werner & Kai Havertz

The most obvious winners from this situation are Chelsea’s big money summer signings, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Chelsea paid over £100m on just the pair of them this summer and the results could charitably be described as underwhelming.

Werner started nicely enough but has scored just one goal in his last 15 appearances and that came against League Two Morecambe in the FA Cup. Havertz, meanwhile, didn’t even manage to start well and has looked a bag of nerves and uncertainty.

These two players are clearly in need of a different kind of management than Lampard’s brutally honest approach, and someone like Tuchel who both speaks their language and excels at creating a cohesive attacking structure would be ideal for them. Tuchel would surely make maximising Chelsea’s massive investments a priority, so the duo can only be winners here.

Loser: Mason Mount

Mason Mount has played in all but two Chelsea games so far this season. What’s more he’s started the majority of those games and has, in fact played the full 90 minutes in his last 13 straight Premier League appearances. No matter the game state, no matter the formation, Lampard always left Mount on the field.

That changes now.

Not to say Mount will disappear from the XI entirely. He’s a very talented young midfielder whose energy, set-pieces and goalscoring skill make him a useful cog in any system. But he will be just that: a cog. He will be dropped, rotated out, subbed off; his days as the golden boy are likely over, which will definitely sting.

Chelsea’s 2020/21 season under Lampard

Winner: The Second Chance Squad

The two senior players at Chelsea that have more or less seen their chances cut down to a minimum under Lampard are Kepa Arrizabalaga and Antonio Rudiger. Both players were mainstays under previous regimes, Rudiger was even man of the match in Chelsea’s 2018 FA Cup final victory, but have been pushed aside under Lampard.

In Kepa’s case it was justified given how poorly he was performing although one does have to wonder why one of the hottest young goalkeepers around turned into a weak-wristed bag of nerves? Either way, Kepa will find a comforting arm around the shoulder from Tuchel.

As will Rudiger who, despite a recent appearance, has been confined to the bench for much of the season. He is compatriots with Tuchel, however, and with just 18 months left to go on his contract he can now expect to play more regularly, which could help him earn a new deal. Good things could be right around the corner.

Loser: Olivier Giroud

It seems that wherever Olivier Giroud goes, he is unwanted at first. Everyone seems to prefer a different striker, before slowly realising that Giroud’s selfless team-first approach, world-class link-play and underrated goalscoring ability make him an invaluable member of the squad’s attack.

That happened to Giroud under Lampard too, and although he was behind both Werner and Tammy Abraham at the start of the season he ended up ousting the pair of them as the squad’s best no. 9. But now at the age of 34 he has to do it all over again. Yes he scored four goals in one game against Sevilla, but that won’t count for all that much given Tuchel will want a fresh start.

Winner: Thomas Tuchel

The major winner of this move if it comes to pass would be, of course, Tuchel himself. Not even two months after being sacked by PSG he would walk back into a huge job at an elite football club with an absolutely stacked squad and get to run the show.

Of course there will be demand for success, and it likely won’t be a long-term appointment; but it will be fun while it lasts. And when it’s all over he’ll probably end up getting a big payout, with no one thinking less of him as he moves on to pastures new.

But while he’s at Chelsea? He’ll get to flex his tactical muscles to try and find XI’s that deploy all of Chelsea’s best players in positions that maximise their skills. The first thing will be to foreground Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, which he will probably do by playing them through the middle of the pitch with Havertz as a 10 and Werner ahead of him as a 9.

True enough Werner is not someone you want with his back to goal, but he only has to play that way if you supply him in that way. If Chelsea instead circulate the ball around midfield before getting it to playmakers like Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic (who played under Tuchel for Borussia Dortmund) or Reece James; then the vertical movement of Havertz into the box creates enough thrust and box presence that Werner himself can drift to find spaces and make his own runs and be found in motion, much as Kevin Volland was able to for Leverkusen when playing with Havertz. It’s about feeding him the right kind of passes and trusting him to make the finish, rather than trying to squeeze him into an existing role. He needs a structure that gives freedom while retaining its shape, and Tuchel can provide that.

The rest of the team basically sorts itself out, with Kepa likely to get more chances to prove himself. Mateo Kovacic’s ability to carry the ball as well as play killer passes making him more useful than Jorginho and Mount in the hurly burly of the Premier League. Of course, Chelsea’s squad is so deep that they will have plenty of options, but chief among them will be centre-staging the two Germans. Tuchel is not shy about sending messages to members of a club’s hierarchy, so his relationship with Abramovich will surely be one to watch.


Next Chelsea manager odds (via Paddy Power)


Loser: Roman Abramovich

Abrahmovich and Marina Granovskaia have acted decisively, getting rid of a manager who seemed to have no idea nor inclination to solve the major problems at hand in the Chelsea squad. They signed Lampard to do a job and steer the club through a tricky year where they had to rely on the kids and with that job over, the Blues’ ruthless nature came out. While it hurts now, this move will help in the long-term. So why is Abramovich a loser? Because he just sacked Lampard!

When you appoint a club legend to manage your side, you know that their reputation buys them extra time with fans. You appoint them for that very reason, in fact. The PR boost helps cover up for flaws that would otherwise be focused on. And the thing is there’s only so many club legends you can turn to, especially if you’re a club whose greatness is very recent like Chelsea’s.

The idea of managerial authority at Chelsea, already a tenuous thing, will be eroded even further. It has been eroded even further. Abramovich commented how much he disliked having to sack Lampard, but he still did it. And if a club legend like Lampard can go so quickly, so can anyone. Will this effect player power at the Bridge? Will it hamper an incoming manager’s abilities to impart philosophies?

Time will tell, but the bed Abramovich has made for himself by sacking Lampard so quickly is a bed of nails.


READ MORE: Wolves vs Chelsea tips, betting odds and predictions

The Blues get life after Frank Lampard underway with a tricky Premier League home game against Wolves on Wednesday evening. Will Chelsea be able to stop the rot against Nuno Espírito Santo’s side?


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