Chelsea sank to yet another dispiriting home defeat as Brentford inflicted a fifth consecutive loss on Frank Lampard with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge; The numbers are worthy of the crisis in which Chelsea find themselves having scored one goal in their last seven games – winless in eight
Chelsea’s season is over. If there was any doubt, it was rubber-stamped on Wednesday night, where Brentford produced a fine away display to secure back-to-back wins at Stamford Bridge.
The defeat was Lampard’s fifth successive since returning to the club as interim manager. Earlier this month, he had seen his Chelsea side play well for 60 minutes against Real Madrid, but they ultimately left lamenting the same old shortcomings, prompting Didier Drogba to say: “I don’t recognise my club anymore.”
As Lampard looked up at the The Shed End on Wednesday night, and saw his banner – In Frank We Trust – Then. Now. Forever – the words of his former team-mate might well have entered his thoughts.
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Lampard will continue to be Chelsea’s caretaker manager until the end of the season, Sky Sports News understands.
But this poor run has led to question marks over whether Lampard was wise in jumping at this opportunity to return to management, and whether his reputation within the game as a manager is being further damaged with each passing defeat.
“I don’t know, I’m not concerned with what people on the outside think because I don’t think they ever understand the conditions of what you’re working with,” Lampard responded.
“Two of those games were against Real Madrid. Clearly I’m here for a reason, because the results weren’t what they want. I didn’t have a bar of what the challenges are going to be but I understood there would be challenges behind the scenes because of where we are.
“But it was made clear to me when I came in and in the short timeframe, it’s really hard at this stage of the season to get that turn.
“We have to keep working for it, and we haven’t got it yet. I’m not concerned. I took it on knowing the jeopardy of what it might be but I’m very proud to manage here. I came here when we had a difficult moment before, and we had big success in my first year.
“I went to Everton and the challenge was to stay in the league – they stayed in the league. People will always perceive you in a different way but I’m not worried. I want to win games – it’s clear – but I understand the problems as to why we’re not winning them.”
Five minutes before the interval, he stood cross-armed on the touchline as Thiago Silva looked up and fired a speculative shot from distance. It was a hit and hope, but Chelsea already had the look of a side that had run out of ideas.
With the thud of the ball against the billboard behind David Raya’s goal, Lampard bowed his head, turned back and slumped into his seat.
“I’ve been asked before about belief and about how I can change that,” continued Lampard. “I can’t just say, ‘lads, believe’ and they’re going to go out and believe all of a sudden.
“Those things take time and they take a bit of work and then maybe something goes in your favour. Nothing went in our favour [on Wednesday] but we have to keep working towards the idea that something will. The players will have to dig deep to find that moment.”
Eyes were off the pitch and on the directors’ box. Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, a fellow former professional tennis player, were sat in the posh seats to watch this tepid to and fro. But no Poch.
Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment as the new manager is edging closer and he could be formally announced in the next week. For the battle-hardened residents of the Matthew Harding Stand, the summer cannot come soon enough.
The second leg against Champions League holders Real was the last meaningful game of their season, and the spotlight has now moved onto what next for Chelsea. But what of Lampard?
The caretaker manager hasn’t exactly enhanced his reputation since taking on responsibilities for a second time. His last Premier League win was as Everton boss against Crystal Palace back in October. He has lost 16 of the last 19 games as a manager.
Those fans who turned up for this west London derby were defiant and came in solidarity for their favourite son, if not this expensively assembled shadow of a side. Brentford came to earn bragging rights and to rub salt into open wounds. An own goal and a deflected shot ensured they inflicted a fifth straight defeat on their neighbours.
Bleak at the Bridge
- Chelsea are winless in their last eight matches in all competitions (D2 L5), losing the last five in a row. They last had a longer winless run between October and December 1993 (11 games), which included a run of six straight defeats – the last time they lost 5+ consecutively.
- Chelsea have scored just 30 goals in the Premier League this season, their lowest after 32 games of a league campaign since 1923-24 (17). Despite the low goal total, these 30 goals have been netted by 14 different players.
- Frank Lampard has lost all three of his Premier League matches in charge of Chelsea since his return. Including his time with Everton, he’s lost nine of his last 10 league games, including each of the last six. Indeed, since he joined the Toffees in February 2022, no manager has lost more Premier League games than Lampard (24).
- Chelsea have failed to win in five consecutive Premier League home games (D2 L3) for the first time since May 2016. Meanwhile, the Blues have lost more than five home league games in a single season for the first time since 1994-95 (7)
- Chelsea have failed to score at home for the seventh time in the Premier League this season – their outright most in a single campaign in the competition.
Lampard said the motivation for this run of games should be playing for Chelsea alone but the predominant mood was sombre as Brentford popped the ball around as though this were an exhibition match. Fans, players, staff were left loitering after the final whistle wondering what it all meant.
Lampard had used Conor Gallagher and N’Golo Kante as pressing 10s against Madrid, and while that tactic remained, here he dipped into his deep if depleted bag of options and threw together another mediocre medley in need of seasoning.
Marc Cucurella, Reece James and Kai Havertz were missing, all through injury. Raheem Sterling started as the false nine. Yet, without service, Chelsea were blunt again.
They began sluggishly and only got worse. When asked if he was surprised by the lack of a recognised striker in their opponent’s starting line-up, Brentford boss Thomas Frank said: “Yes, I was. I am pleased they showed us so much respect.
“It’s no secret that Chelsea are not in the best place but it’s still Stamford Bridge, it’s still Chelsea and they still have unbelievable players. That we do it now two times in a row is remarkable in many ways.”
All attention is quite obviously on the bigger picture, and Pochettino. Behdad Eghbali, the co-founder and managing partner of Clearlake Capital, alongside Todd Boehly, have seemingly put the club’s future in the hands of a Tottenham man.
Lampard will be in charge for the final six games of the season, but some fans have some reservations about having a former Spurs boss as the new manager. Pochettino showed he can develop young players, as he did at Tottenham, but he is yet to show an ability as a serial winner, beyond a league title with PSG in France.
These are auditions for the incoming manager, whoever that may be, to decide who still has a future at Chelsea. Even if Lampard isn’t the head coach next year, he should seek to pick sides with the future firmly in mind.
But there isn’t even the carrot of a Europa Conference League spot to spur these players, 14 points adrift of seventh.
Stripped of the delusion that they could win the Champions League again in much the same way the club have had remarkable success under an interim manager in the past, reality has bitten at the Bridge.
We don’t know if Kante, if Mason Mount, among others will be here next season. There is without doubt the need to trim back on this bloated squad for Financial Fair Play reasons.
Chelsea are £95m over the FFP limits at present across the current three-year monitoring period, according to Swiss Ramble – a reputable source that focuses on the business of football.
There are senior players – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all named on the bench against Brentford, on huge wages on the outside watching in. Who will take them? Will Chelsea have to supplement wages to get them out of the club?
Chelsea don’t have the luxury of picking players who won’t be involved in the club next season, but it is a difficult balancing act. The supporters will see through any such hollow victories, but a win of any kind would do right now for all concerned. That is what will be demanded from Lampard.
More important, however, is to offer those fans a glimmer of hope for the future and the semblance of a team that can return to Europe’s top table.
Lampard added: “There is clearly a confidence problem as they’re not bemoaning each other at the moment. I walked back in there, and they were down.
“I feel sorry for the players as it wasn’t an application thing. We lost simply because the moment that we’re in.
“There is a balance of the squad thing to address – I think everybody sees that. This has been a problem that predates me. Maybe there aren’t goals so much in the team. It’s a clear issue in the squad.
“With 20 per cent more confidence as a group, we win the game probably.”
Lampard maintains the season isn’t over despite the team submerged in 11th in the table – the fifth-ranked team in London. The last time Chelsea failed to finish inside the top 10 was way back in the mid-1990s under Glenn Hoddle.
The toxicity had reached new levels under Graham Potter, and while the poisonous din has thankfully been lifted, the generosity afforded to Lampard by Chelsea as a whole is unlikely to be so forthcoming from another Premier League club when he returns to the managerial wilderness in the summer.
His relationship with supporters will be tested over the coming weeks if results don’t improve, especially given the tough run of fixtures – the league’s top four are still to be played, with three of those games away from home.
The club’s all-time record goalscorer was backed by those who remained until the final whistle at Stamford Bridge, but he will never take it for granted.
“He’s won more than you,” sang the Chelsea fans in response to their Brentford counterparts who had bayed for him to stay – tongue-in-cheek.
The man himself would like to keep things low key between now and the end of the season, but he will know there is no such thing when it comes to Chelsea.
It may be some time before his beloved club return to the Champions League given how scattergun the first 12 months of the Boehly regime has been. But it may be somewhat longer before Lampard is in a top-flight dugout beyond the remaining six games of this miserable campaign.
Analysis: Why Pochettino is the right fit for Chelsea
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Chelsea have spent £600m on players and need a manager that can properly mine that investment. It is why Mauricio Pochettino is the frontrunner for the vacancy…
Chelsea’s remaining fixtures
May 2: Arsenal (A) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
May 6: Bournemouth (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 13: Nottingham Forest (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Manchester City (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 25: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 28: Newcastle (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm