As reports grow that Frank Lampard may be fired from his post as Chelsea manager, there are growing calls for patience from many ends of Premier League punditry.
Is that fair? Foul? A combination of memories of Lampard on the playing field and distrust of Roman Abramovich’s reputation for quick change?
There’s no doubt that Chelsea is struggling at the moment, sitting eighth on the Premier League table after following up a nine-match unbeaten run with five losses in eight.
Chelsea has thrice finished outside the top four in the last 10 seasons, sinking as far as 10th and missing out on European football altogether in 2015-16.
Even that nadir, however, came between two Premier League titles.
Lampard took over for Maurizio Sarri last season and kept Chelsea back in the top four despite a transfer ban.
That happened while playing a number of young talents including several England national team hopefuls, earning him plenty of plaudits in the UK.
But how have Lampard’s teams performed compared to the men he replaced: Antonio Conte and Sarri?
We have the benefit in comparison of all three men not arriving mid-season, though Lampard was hamstrung by the 2019 summer transfer ban.
Tuesday’s loss to Chelsea is the midpoint of their Premier League season. Let’s take a look at where they stand compared to recent bosses and even Lampard’s first season.
Points-per-game and table position
2016-17 (Conte): 2.44, 1st
2017-18 (Conte): 1.84, 5th
2018-19 (Sarri): 1.89, 3rd
2019-20 (Lampard): 1.73, 4th
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 1.52, 8th
Obviously the results haven’t been there and while it’s fair to talk about players like Timo Werner and Kai Havertz adjusting to a new league, to have them being this far off the pace production-wise is a major issue. Werner can argue confidence and luck, but Havertz looks lost. The manager matters there, though Lampard didn’t have to do much adjusting as a player at a young age having played in London until he was deep into his 30s aside from a loan to Swansea City in Wales.
Goals-per-game and goals conceded-per-game
2016-17 (Conte): 2.24 – 0.86
2017-18 (Conte): 1.63 – 1.00
2018-19 (Sarri): 1.65 – 1.02
2019-20 (Lampard): 1.81 – 1.42
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 1.73 – 1.21
The defending is getting better at a slight expense of goals, though it should be noted that these numbers have taken a beating recently. Chelsea’s allowed nine of their 23 goals in the last five league games, scoring four.
Open play goal and shot differential
2016-17 (Conte): 61-24 goals, 421-224 shots
2017-18 (Conte): 48-30 goals, 454-289 shots
2018-19 (Sarri): 47-24 goals, 481-245 shots
2019-20 (Lampard): 51-37 goals, 459-209 shots
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 21-15 goals; 184-136 shots
This is one of two statistics that really worry me. Double the 2020-21 figures and you’ve got the worst goal and shot production from open play in the half-decade (and perhaps beyond).
Possession % and league rank
2016-17 (Conte): 54%, 6th
2017-18 (Conte): 54.4%, 4th
2018-19 (Sarri): 59.9%, 2nd
2019-20 (Lampard): 57.9%, 3rd
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 57.5%, 4th
Nothing wrong with any of this.
Passing % and league rank
2016-17 (Conte): 83.9%, 3rd
2017-18 (Conte): 83.9%, 3rd
2018-19 (Sarri): 87.6%, 2nd
2019-20 (Lampard): 85.2%, 2nd
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 86.3%, 2nd
Record versus traditional “Big Six”
2016-17 (Conte): 5W-1D-4L
2017-18 (Conte): 3W-3D-4L
2018-19 (Sarri): 3W-3D-4L
2019-20 (Lampard): 4W-1D-5L
2020-21 (Lampard, 19 matches): 0W-2D-3L
Here’s the other one that bothers me. Want to see where Chelsea will finish? See how many points they can take off Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, and Manchester United. So far this season it’s been pitiful. Turning one of those losses into a win and Chelsea sits sixth. Add a draw going to a win or a loss going to a draw and you’re right in the top four picture.
Wanna toss in the Blues’ record against non-traditional powers who currently sit above Chelsea on the table? The Blues waxed West Ham, but lost to Everton and Leicester City. They also drew Southampton 3-3 and are above Saints on goal differential but below on points-per-game.
So, yeah, the Blues are making their money against the current bottom half of the table, boasting a 7-1-1 record versus teams 10th and lower. And the draw is against a Villa side three points behind them with four matches-in-hand.
And we guess that’s reason enough to give Lampard the rest of the season, depending on who is willing to take the gig. But Chelsea’s poor work in open play and against big name clubs should sound a lot of alarms.