The trouble with hiring a novice is becoming impossible for Chelsea to ignore. Half a season has drifted by and a side assembled at great expense shows no sign of developing an identity. Although Frank Lampard was handed more than £200m to spend last summer, the job is starting to look too big for him. Craftier managers are exposing flaws too easily. Brendan Rodgers was the latest to teach Lampard a painful lesson in strategy and 19 games into a fraught campaign Chelsea are entitled to expect more than a series of tactically incoherent displays.
Admittedly Lampard was not wrong to offer some realism after the game, arguing that Chelsea are not ready to compete at the highest level yet. Whether that remark will sit well with Roman Abramovich is debatable, but it is not without merit.
Lampard inherited a transfer ban upon his appointment in 2019, leaving him unable to replace Eden Hazard. And cramped schedule has made it difficult for last summer’s arrivals to settle in their new surroundings. As with any manager, it is not unreasonable for Lampard to ask for time to get Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech fizzing in attack.
The issue, however, is that there has been no evidence of tangible progress this season. Lampard did well last year, overcoming the transfer embargo to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League. There were some notable wins, including a precious double over José Mourinho’s Tottenham. But there were also obvious flaws along the way.
Chelsea often defended shambolically, conceding too often from set pieces and in transition, and lacked ideas in attack at times. Those issues were on full display against Leicester, who scored two soft goals before holding out with relative ease.