TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
The end of the line for Lampard
After being booted out of Cobham without even saying goodbye to his players - most of all Mason Mount, who was probably aimlessly wandering the halls in tears - Frank Lampard may well be reflecting on what feels like a particularly brutal sacking by the club he devoted the best part of his professional life to. But let’s not pretend that same professional life shouldn't have conditioned him for this exact outcome. Le's not pretend that he didn’t know exactly what he was getting into.
Lampard, of course, was at Chelsea when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked the season after winning the Double. When Roberto Di Matteo was sacked the season after winning the FA Cup and Champions League. When Rafa Benitez shuffled off after winning the Europa League. When Andre Villas-Boas was sacked in his first season. When Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked in his first season. When the greatest manager in Chelsea's history was booted out. Twice. When results are going the wrong way, no amount of back story will ever save a Chelsea manager from the wrath of Roman Abramovch, even if that back story includes becoming the club's top all-time goalscorer.
Lampard should be well versed in the notion that if the Chelsea manager isn’t connecting with his players there is only one casualty. It’s not a case of having lost the dressing room necessarily - it’s simply that if it comes down to changing half the team or the manager, it’s a simple equation for the owner. Especially when you’ve just changed half the team at a cost of £200m the summer before.
- The clashes and complaints at Chelsea before Lampard sacking – Paper Round
- 'It was his undoing' - The key reason why Lampard was sacked
- Opinion: Lampard deserved more time
And ultimately that summer spree was what doomed Lampard. In his outgoing statement, issued via the LMA, Lampard was right to highlight the work he has done with Chelsea’s youth team products. It’s something to be proud of. It’s also something which is fundamentally not the remit of a Chelsea manager.
And when Abramovich did bestow the kind of luxury signings he provided on a conveyor belt since arriving in West London, Lampard’s inability to get the best out of them was fatal. Who cares if Tammy Abraham has scored a hat-trick against Luton when £45m signing Timo Werner can’t even score a penalty any more? Well, plenty of Chelsea fans. And Frank Lampard. But maybe not Roman Abramovich.
So there are no illusions for Thomas Tuchel as he assumes the reigns at Stamford Bridge. And nor should there be: Abramovich’s way of working has been clear ever since Claudio Ranieri became the “dead man walking” in 2003-04. Sentiment is not a concept which exists at this club. And it’s a model which works fantastically well, delivering a near constant stream of trophies over the course of almost 20 years.
The problem, this time, is not the method, but the recipient. Frank ‘Lamps’ Lampard. This was a ruthless sacking which genuinely hurt Chelsea fans. But deep in their hearts, in his heart, surely they knew it could, even would, end like this. And with the lowest points per game of any Chelsea manager under Abramovich, Lampard was arguably lucky he lasted even this long. According to a report in The Independent, it had been “inevitable for weeks”, and on the cards at least since December.
'Didn't communicate' - The reason Lampard failed at Chelsea
The accounts of his demise just speak of a manager out of his depth. A club great, but promoted far beyond his capabilities as a manager. As The Independent reports:
"Both senior players and new signings were constantly 'baffled' by the tactics, or the apparent lack of them. It often seemed to them as if the manager didn’t know what he wanted to do with the team, and had little idea how to fit these new stars in. It should be noted that some opposition managers in the Premier League thought the same. They didn’t think Chelsea were that difficult to prepare against. Players like Werner or Havertz weren’t usually in positions where they would 'really hurt you'."
This will change under Tuchel. If Lampard was tactically naive, his replacement has a reputation as one of the most sophisticated minds in the game, a proponent of the kind of approach which has seen Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp dominate English football. If Lampard didn’t know how to use Werner and Havertz, you can bet Tuchel will.
Ultimately we all know that the ending will be the same. A curt statement on the Chelsea website in two or three years, this time without the respectful nod of a message from Abramovich. The only question is whether Tuchel manages to win a handful of trophies before the axe falls. Given that he has won seven trophies and reached a Champions League final in his career, versus a short spell with Derby County in the Championship, it’s likely he will have a much better chance than Lampard.
Ndombele shines again
Despite the 4-1 scoreline, Spurs had a tough night in their FA Cup clash with Wycombe last night, going 1-0 down and only finally accelerating away from their Championship opponents with three goals after 86 minutes. Two of those were scored by Tanguy Ndombele, who only entered the game as a substitute after 68 minutes.
If anyone still isn’t aware, Ndombele is a truly exceptional footballer with magic, magic feet. Just watch how he masterminds this glorious one-two for the second goal. Okay, it takes a minor deflection, but the roof of the Sistine Chapel probably has a few cracks.
Ndombele is a very curious thing: a totally untypical Jose Mourinho player who is yet managing to thrive in one of his teams. What a brilliant footballer.
Arsenal’s clear-out continues
It’s been a rocky old road for Edu Gaspar since he turned up again at Arsenal as technical director, rather than occasionally brilliant midfielder. Unconvincing signings and a squad left bloated by a number of unwanted high earners is not a recipe for footballing alchemy.
So The Warm-Up has been frankly delighted to see him embrace a very Championship Manager 1997-98 approach to squad management by simply giving undesirable players free transfers to clear up space in Mikel Arteta’s squad.
It’s as though a lightbulb has gone off in his head: why try and sell players when you can just ditch them for free? Okay, there may be some financial consequences to this approach, but it’s finally shifted Mesut Ozil, while Sokratis (who yesterday joined Olympiacos) is off the books too now and reports suggest Shkodran Mustafi could follow. It’s as easy as ‘click: release on free transfer’!
Next, just search ‘interested foreign based’ to find some summer bargains.
IN THE CHANNELS
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a man to be trifled with. You come at the king, you best not miss. But after his Atalanta side beat AC Milan 3-0 at the weekend, Marten De Roon has trolled Zlatan quite superbly, after he decided to have a pop at team-mate Duvan Zapata…
Happy Birthday, Jose Mourinho! Everyone’s favourite bus parker is 58 years old today. To celebrate, here’s the moment he riled Juventus fans after a Champions League match in 2018.
The games just keep on coming in this relentless Premier League season. At 6pm, we have Newcastle v Leeds and Crystal Palace v West Ham. At 8:15pm, it’s Southampton v Arsenal and West Brom v Manchester City. Oh, and it’s the Milan derby in the Coppa Italia at 7:45pm too. You can follow all those games live with us.
Ben Snowball will be here tomorrow for a blow-by-blow of how Sam Allardyce "out-tacticked" Pep Guardiola.