December has notoriously been a rough patch for Chelsea, past and present.
Whether it is the hectic fixture schedule, the brutal winter conditions or a deep-rooted mentality problem, the Blues always seem to falter in the final month of the year. Only title-winning seasons have seemingly bucked the trend, but for all of its unprecedented nature, 2020 has been no different.
After starting December with back-to-back wins, Chelsea have won just one of their last five games, dropping points across the board. Frank Lampard’s side have gone from sitting pretty at the top of the table, to falling down into seventh and possibly further.
It has been a fall from grace for Lampard’s men.
The spineless Boxing Day defeat to Arsenal was another nail in the Christmas coffin, as the side without a win in seven league outings dealt the knockout blow to the Blues. Chelsea were absolutely horrendous – with no kinder way to put it. There are questions to be answered, including whether Lampard should remain manager.
It is understandable why there are calls for Lampard to be sacked, however preposterous they may be. The Chelsea philosophy of the Roman Abramovich era is clear: if you’re looking slack, you face the sack. Fourteen managers in 17 years supports that mantra.
Lampard has shown flaws in his youthful managerial career, namely on the pitch. His game management has been questionable at times, whether it is the choice of substitutions or a failure to kill off games. Playing star players out of position, leaving out key youngsters and getting tactics wrong have all come back to bite him.
While overall form has been solid, there is cause for concern over Chelsea’s recent performances. The Blues have still not beaten any of the traditional big six this season, while it is now three consecutive defeats on the road. Critics argue that Lampard cannot progress any further at the helm, and it is time to move on.
But Frank Lampard must continue as Chelsea manager.
Yes, Chelsea are in poor form, but the wider picture is far prettier. The Blues are six points off league leaders Liverpool, in the Champions League knockout stages and with five losses to their name: this time last year, that figure was ten. It has been a job well done so far, and the club is in fact on the right tracks to success.
Those calling for Lampard’s resignation are ruthless and reactionary, unable to recognise the ongoing mission at Stamford Bridge. Lampard’s project is still taking shape whether fans like it or not, with the pieces of the precious puzzle slotting together.
Many critics love to remind that Chelsea spent £200 million this summer, a figure you are unlikely to have forgotten. It begs the same unrealistic expectations, that a huge financial investment will instantly revolutionise the squad and bring in silverware galore.
But just as money cannot buy happiness, this is a work in progress.
Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are still adapting to the Premier League, a notorious challenge coming from the height of the Bundesliga. Hakim Ziyech has been battling injuries since touching down in west London, and Édouard Mendy continues to learn the ropes of being Chelsea’s number one.
The new boys are settling in, yet they have one thing in common: they have all impressed so far. Many have forgetten Werner’s run of eight goals in nine games, Ziyech’s magical assists or Mendy reaching double figures in clean sheets. Times are tough, but every signing has given a glimpse of what they are capable of.
The Chelsea philosophy of chopping and changing managers is no more, and if Abramovich were to sack Lampard this season, it would completely ruin all he has built: stability, youth development, progress. Abramovich has faith in Project Lampard, and that should be enough reason to continue supporting Super Frank.
Chelsea would be shooting themselves in the foot if they sacked Lampard, having to start all over again in redeveloping their future. Patience is the ultimate virtue, and Frank is the man to trust. There has never been a worse time to scrap the club’s progress; all they must do is overcome the latest bump on the long road to glory.
Lampard does have place to improve and urgent work to do, from offloading deadwood players to developing his tactics. After all, he is not the perfect manager – yet. Two years in management has taught him a lot, but there is a way to go for the Blues legend.
There is an old sporting saying which could not be more relevant: trust the process. It is a message of patience, faith and backing. The rough patch will end, results will return, and even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea is coming into fruition: we just have to sit tight.
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