So continues the Stamford Bridge roulette. The reign of Frank Lampard is over now, and it's officially goodbye.
The winds were signaling a managerial change at a club where not even the world's top coaches have survived a bad run. Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte couldn't keep their jobs. What hope did Lampard have? This was, after all, a rookie manager who was given this job after a solitary year of management experience. It was an appointment based significantly on sentiment. They wanted to change the whole system at Chelsea. Alas, the grand experiment is now over.
Farewell to thee...
Maurizio Sarri's time at the club left the fanbase entirely divided. It was time for a change, and the conditions meant bringing in a young manager and giving him the time and space to build a team would be a great idea. Eden Hazard, the club's best player for a majority of the last years, exited to fulfill his Bernabeu dream.
A transfer ban hamstrung a squad with obvious deficiencies. That was the situation when Frank Lampard took charge.
One of the greatest players of his generation and a bona fide Chelsea legend, Lampard had begun his managerial career in 2018/19 at Derby County. He took Derby to the play-offs, where they lost out in the final to Fulham. His status at the club earned him the job, but he wasn't here to just ride the goodwill. During his time in the hot seat, he has shown that he values what he sees on the training ground more than fan perception or reputation. He let David Luiz depart despite him signing a new contract. This season, he shunned both Rudiger and Alonso. The former has had a resurgence, but Alonso would never have gotten another chance as long as Lampard was here.
He has his flaws, however. Lampard was learning on the job. That would be fine at most clubs, but not at one with Chelsea's aims and ambitions. His inexperience showed, quite often, and that affected the results. Substitutions, for one, was a weak point. Often, he would leave it too late to make substitutions that could change the games. Of course, it worked sometimes. A prime example of that would be the FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester where a ruthless Lampard took off three under-performing young players at half-time. Never has he been afraid to take off his under-performers.
The Youth Revolution
The hallmark of his time that he leaves behind is his judicious use of academy graduates. For years, the lack of academy graduates making it into the first team was a major gripe of fans. There were a few in the late 90s, including John Terry. But the record has been dismal since Roman Abramovich's arrival. Often, an academy graduate or two has made it to the fringes. But that's that. Take Robert Huth for example. The centre-half was an integral part of Leicester City's shock title win in 2015/16, but did you know that wasn't his first Premier League title? Indeed, he was part of Jose Mourinho's 2005/06 title-winning squad, making just enough appearances to earn a medal.
Over the years, Chelsea's academy has produced Josh McEachran, Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt, Nathan Ake and Charly Musonda. None of them made it. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the only one who could be moderately qualified as a success. He had a great 2018/19 season where he contributed goals and assists, coming off a season on loan at Crystal Palace and a World Cup appearance with England. But Achilles injury struck at a bad time, and as of now, his career at the club seems to be over.
A sea change
Lampard changed all that, however. Mason Mount spent 2018/19 under Lampard on loan at Derby, and on returning to his boyhood club, he immediately became a crucial cog of this side. Indeed, he went on to make over 50 appearances for Chelsea in 2019/20, becoming the first Academy graduate to do that since John Terry himself. Reece James had club captain Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him, coming in after a successful loan spell at Wigan. After giving him chances to impress and establish himself, Lampard made him the first-choice this season. He has kept his place, and has looked every bit the part. Tammy Abraham spent three seasons out on loan, including two in the Championship. The Premier League stint was a a failure, and many thought he wouldn't make it at Chelsea, but Lampard kept the faith.
Tammy finished with 15 Premier League goals, and 18 for the season. Indeed, despite having new signing Timo Werner and veteran Olivier Giroud for competition, he is the club's leading scorer this season with 11 goals so far. Callum Hudson-Odoi has been inconsistent, but he has developed, and in recent weeks, has been one of the club's best players. Lampard also introduced Fikayo Tomori, another of his Derby loanees, into the side. That partnership has soured in recent weeks, with Tomori leaving for AC Milan, but it was another academy graduate in the first-team fold. There's also Billy Gilmour, who has earned rave reviews with every touch of the ball. He also handed debuts to Tino Anjorin and Armando Broja, leaving a record number of debuts handed out to academy graduates.
The Squad he leaves behind
But he didn't bring these youngsters into the first team for no reason. They showed their quality. They wanted to fight for their club, and have given their best in every game, and are here on merit. It's something Lampard's successor must understand, as well. These are players who want to fight for the badge. Whoever is the coach, players like Mount should keep their place. It was a fine gesture from Lampard to hand Mount the captaincy in his final game in charge, something which he possibly knew before the game itself. In a way, he passed the baton to Mount. The England international has flashes of Frank Lampard with his energy, drive and goals from midfield.
After a difficult start, Christian Pulisic touched great form at the business end of last season, although he has been injury-riddled and inconsistent. Timo Werner started well, but he has been woefully out of form recently. His penalty miss at second-tier Luton Town exemplified this. Kai Havertz has not settled at all, and has often looked like someone out of place in this line-up. N'Golo Kante has, at least, seems back to his best. The same cannot be said for either Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic.
Despite winning the club's Player of the Year last season, Kovacic hasn't yet been as good. Being in and out of the team hasn't helped, but when he has played, he has struggled to assert himself. Jorginho is a limited player who isn't particularly cut out for the Premier League, and he has often been found out for his lack of pace and positioning. Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma and Reece James are Chelsea's first-choice back four, and they should stay so on merit. Edouard Mendy has also acquitted himself well in goal.
It was a bad run for a side that was in touching distance of the summit just a few weeks ago. They have the quality to bounce back, and so they should, whoever the coach may be. Lampard's youth revolution is at stake here, however. The next manager of Chelsea will arrive knowing that not even a club legend with over 600 appearances isn't given too long a rope. That doesn't provide a lot of room to bring through talented youth players. They need time and support to develop and experience, which isn't the best thing at Chelsea. We've seen this time and again over the years, haven't we?
If the reports are to be believed, Thomas Tuchel is going to take over as Chelsea's new head coach. Indeed, by the time you read this, he may already have started his reign. Tuchel is a highly rated manager. His last two stints were at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, two clubs that are in a way vastly different. He had a youthful side at Dortmund. It was under his guidance that Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele burst onto the scene. At PSG, however, he had superstars at his disposal, in the likes of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. Disagreements with the board ended his time at PSG, but his achievements shouldn't be taken lightly.
He did take the club to league titles, which should be commended despite Ligue 1's notoriety as a one-team league. Monaco showed in 2016/17 that it's never a sure thing. He also took the side to the 2019/20 Champions League final where they lost to a Bayern team that was in indestructible form. Even then, they took the fight to the Bavarians and acquitted themselves well. The hope is that his experience of handling stars, and the fact that he is German, will bring out the best in Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Tuchel has worked with Christian Pulisic and Thiago Silva before. Frank Lampard never seemed to figure out the best way to use the players at his disposal.
Bringing the squad together
Tuchel is vastly more experienced, and he should be able to help the new boys do better. It's far from a guarantee that he would immediately succeed. He takes over mid-season, with little chance of pre-season bonding and with almost no opportunity to assess the squad and sign who he wants. It's a fractured and bloated squad. He will make his own choices, of course, but as a fan and a regular viewer, it is clear some players need to go. The likes of Kepa, Rudiger, Christensen and Jorginho have had underwhelming performances. Indeed reports suggest the likes of Rudiger and Kepa have fractured the squad and clashed with others such as the captain Azpilicueta. This is a problem regardless of coach that must be solved.
The hope is that he will do well, and help Chelsea reach their potential. This squad is imbalanced despite a £200 million summer investment. Tuchel will have to find the right mix, and he'll have to do it soon.
His exit may have been unceremonious, but his legend won't be tarnished. After all, this is Chelsea's all-time top goalscorer we are talking about. For 13 years, Frank Lampard was consistently among the club's best players. He captained Chelsea as they won a first Champions League final against Bayern at the Allianz Arena in Munich. He has won everything at the club, and few can claim to recuse him from the pantheon of Premier League greats. Lampard probably deserved to have some more time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in a similar rut at Manchester United last season. They stuck by him, and Manchester United are now top of the Premier League. It shows the value of patience. Particularly for Lampard.
He had an unbalanced squad with expensive new additions whom he hasn't yet managed to fit in. Chelsea have let him go after one bad run. The fanbase is once again divided. The developments have pained everyone who loves the club. The legacy of Frank Lampard will be remembered. He was a massive player and ecstatic celebrations greeted his arrival. Fans will remember Lampard and his contributions no matter what. One day he will return to this club where his lasting legacy has remained. It will be a sweetly anticipated day.
Goodbye, Super Frankie Lampard. Player, Manager, Legend.