Paul Merson on Frank Lampard's sacking as Chelsea boss: "You have to give him a chance. He pulled up trees last season to get them in the Champions League. I'm disappointed. How are we going to get these managers any experience at all?"
Monday 25 January 2021 18:06, UK
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson provides his reaction to the news that Chelsea have sacked head coach Frank Lampard after a run of five defeats from eight Premier League games...
As a Chelsea fan, I find it a bit disappointing decision.
You have to give Frank Lampard a chance. He pulled up trees last season to get them in the Champions League, and they are still in the competition this season.
They have had a bad run. They've brought in a lot of players and Lampard is working with the best group of players he's worked with, but most of them play in the same position.
For me, they had to give him a chance.
Did Chelsea think they were going to buy a 21-year-old kid from Germany in Kai Havertz, another forward from Germany in Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and a 36-year-old defender in Thiago Silva and just win the league?
Did they really think they were going to finish above the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd just like that?
In this league at the moment, especially with no fans, it's difficult. When the fans are at Stamford Bridge, they are fully behind Frank because he is a legend at the club. It's a different kettle of fish.
At the moment, it's easy street for the players. If the fans are there, they are cheering Frank's name. They are backing him come what may and the players would see that and know he's there for the long haul. They'd see what a legend he is to the club.
However, the players, the likes of Havertz and Werner, they won't know what Lampard means to Chelsea.
I'm disappointed. How are we going to get these managers - the likes of Lampard - any experience at all?
No one wanted that job last year when Frank took it. He performed miracles last season to get that team into the top four last season.
The problems he's had are the money that was spent and the players that were bought in virtually play in the same position.
Nobody knows what his best team is. If we sat down ahead of Liverpool's or Man Utd's biggest game of the season, half of us could name their starting line-ups and the others would probably be one player out. If we did it for Chelsea, I'd be surprised if any of us would get the line-up, and that was the worry.
He's got Christian Pulisic, he's got Ziyech, he's got Havertz and he's got Werner. He's got four players there who virtually all play in the same position. He stuck with 4-3-3 but it was crying out for Chelsea to play three at the back. Sticking with the 4-3-3 was probably his undoing in the end.
"This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him.
“He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.
“On behalf of everyone at the club, the Board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as head coach and wish him every success in the future. He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.”
It's another ruthless decision from Chelsea.
To be fair, the plan has worked over the years. They had Carlo Ancelotti come in and do what he did but he was gone. He's one of the top managers of all time let alone now. When Ancelotti can go, anyone can go.
But you need a plan. You can't keep going bang, wallop and crash. I feel for Frank Lampard. You start looking at it now and think, were they his players? Look at Havertz, Lampard never really played him like he was his player. If players come in and you want them as a manager, you just play them. You want them to do well.
Looking back now, it looks like Lampard was a bit of a stop-gap. I worry now. Where is Lampard going to go now? You can't forget what he did last season. I do still think you need that bit of experience around you, but I think it's wrong.
I don't like when these owners get rid of managers when the next two games are winnable. Let's be honest, I can go into Chelsea this week and have a chance of getting a result against Wolves and Burnley.
That's what I don't like. Someone now comes in, wins the two games and everyone says that's why Frank's not there anymore.
Nobody expected Chelsea to get into the Champions League last season. Nobody.
They'd just finished nowhere, Eden Hazard - who was their best player by a million miles - had just left, they couldn't bring anyone in, and someone was expected to come in and take that team into the top four. It was an impossible job on paper and Lampard shouldn't have been far off in getting manager of the year.
People will say he had the players but he didn't have Hazard, who at the time was one of the best players in the world.
So, Thomas Tuchel is coming in. You've got to remember that he could not control the players at Paris Saint-Germain. The likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe did what they wanted. They just played.
You can't say that this guy is going to come in and just sort the players out at Chelsea. Can he get Havertz playing? Can he get Werner and Ziyech playing? He didn't do it with the players at PSG. It's not like he's coming in and you think, 'he's going to scare these players'.
I watched PSG a few times under him. They didn't track back, and I didn't see much of a plan.
Tuchel has got a nice two games coming up. They've just beat Luton and Tammy Abraham has a bit of confidence behind him after scoring a hat-trick. They've got Wolves and Burnley coming up and if you beat them, all of a sudden you move up the table and it is a different game.
It's three wins on the trot in all competitions and the confidence starts flowing again. Who knows then? Chelsea could be back to where they were just before they went to Everton.
It's all about confidence. Tuchel has got to get the team he wants at Chelsea, and I think he'll get that because he's got time.
He's not coming to Stamford Bridge for five games. Within two weeks he'll have his best XI and he'll stick with it for four or five games. He won't start chopping and changing. Coming in, he'll know his best XI and that's the difference.
He's got time now and he'll know he needs to get a settled team as quickly as possible because if he doesn't, it'll be the same old story.
Chelsea are where Manchester United were six weeks ago. They went out of the Champions League and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was gone. They were going to Everton and it seemed like he was gone if he didn't get a result at Goodison Park.
They got a result and now look where they are. They are top of the league thanks to some consistency. That's all it is. Tottenham were up at the top heading to Liverpool.
They were going to win at Anfield to make a massive statement, but they lost and know they are out of the top four. Man City had a bad run and now they are on a roll. Everyone has had it.
Lampard had a nice two games coming up to get back on track. I find it really disappointing he's not getting that chance.
I do not know where Lampard goes from here. Will he manage again?
He's just been managing one of the biggest teams in the Premier League and one of the biggest clubs in Europe in terms of the players they have and the amount of money they have to spend. The owner is one of the richest about, so you are managing an unbelievable football club with unbelievable football, players.
I really don't know what happens now for him. Will he want to go back to the Championship? I don't think so.
People can talk about the money that has been spent and how it should be better, but Frank did enough last season to earn the right, with another half of the season to go, to try and turn this around.
Who's to say he couldn't have won 13 of the last 19 games? This season in the premier league it has been proved that you can do it. You just have to find consistency. Look at United, they were where Chelsea were.
People would tell me Chelsea are out of it but if you string together five or six wins, you can get back up there.
This decision was made after the Leicester defeat.
It was a poor display, but again, Lampard went with 4-3-3. After this game, this is where you develop experience and learn. He probably now thinks he should have been a bit more flexible and stopped going with the 4-3-3 formation.
After covering the Leicester defeat for Sky, I wrote down 'a lorry load of ball players, no ball winners'. You can't have that against this Leicester team. They are a very good team.
The team he picked that night was a team to play Sheffield United at home - a lot of attacking players and no holding midfielder. A team to take the game to an opponent because you are a better team, but that's not the case with Leicester. You have to go there and start from a base, but it was really poor.
Chelsea have really missed N'Golo Kante, for sure, but I keep coming back to three at the back. This manager coming in now could switch to three at the back and they could go on a run.
You've got Edouard Mendy in goal, you play Reece James and Ben Chilwell, who are two of the best in the business as wings-backs, you play Cesar Azpilicueta on one side, Kurt Zouma or Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva in the middle.
Then you play Kante and Mason Mount in the midfield two with Havertz behind the front two, who may be Abraham and Werner.
Chelsea have the players to play three at the back. People will say what about Pulisic and Ziyech, but they've got a lorry load of players. Someone has got to miss out.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp:
Of course, I'm very surprised like everyone. Once the results start to go against you at a club like Chelsea the pressure then does come on. Rightly or wrongly, the club have had a lot of success hiring and firing managers. They're not afraid to do that.
I feel with someone like Frank, who understands that club better than anybody, he knew when he took the job it was the price on the ticket. He knew there would come a time when he would be under pressure due to poor results. Before December, they were on a 17-game unbeaten run, but he knew there would be times when he would come under pressure and that's when he needed the support.
Or they would take the view to change the manager, and they've taken that route which is to me a surprise as I felt they'd see Frank differently. I thought he could be the first manager under Roman Abramovich to really be given time to build a team. He's the first manager to ever bring through young players at that team.
He's brought through Mason Mount, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Billy Gilmour, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham which in the long term will save the club an absolute fortune.
Frank is a proud man and he'll feel bitterly disappointed and a little bit upset but he's a realist who understands football. He knows that if the results and the performances aren't there, at a club like Chelsea this is the outcome.
He's an experienced man who will bounce back from this. He'll learn from this experience, and think about how he would do things differently if he wants to go back into management.
I think Frank will look back and think 'it's harder than ever now, management'. We've seen it this week with Jurgen Klopp. We all thought he had the keys to the safe to go out and buy whoever he wanted at Liverpool, but even he alluded to the fact it's not so easy to go out and buy players.
Frank was in a similar situation in the summer where a lot of the players who came into the club. I'm sure he thinks they're all very good players, but some of them might not have been his signings. That's modern day football and that's how difficult it is.
Chelsea have got a good squad. Whoever takes over, and it looks like being Thomas Tuchel, he'll look at this squad and feel he's got a really big opportunity to build something here. He'll reap the benefits of what Frank has brought in because he's got a nice blend of youth and experience, but it takes time.
When you bring in so many players, it takes time to blood and give them the experience. Timo Werner hasn't worked out yet but I think he will be a really good player in time. Kai Havertz is going to be a really good player, Christian Pulisic is going to be looking at it hoping that his previous manager is going to be working with him. They've got a lovely blend of young players. I'm sure that Frank would've got it right given time, a little bit like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has at Manchester United.
I was one of those people a year ago thinking, 'Solskjaer won't last... no way', but now look at him. His side are top of the table and that's how crazy football is. Sometimes, what you need is a bit of belief and a board that trusts you, but Chelsea don't do it that way. And because of their success, sometimes it's hard to argue with but I'm sure the fans will be feeling a little bit raw after this one because we're not talking about an everyday player.
We're talking about their greatest ever player and someone who is more than just a footballer for that club. He'll feel hurt but Frank will get over it and come back stronger. There's no doubt Chelsea will react to this and they'll pick up results too. I wouldn't be surprised if they do finish in the top four.
Analysis from Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
It was supposed to be different this time.
When Chelsea appointed Frank Lampard in the summer of 2019, the indication was they had moved to break their ruthless hire and fire cycle.
Chelsea legend Lampard seemed a fitting figurehead for the project. While he was still green in terms of his own managerial career, he had that intangible quality of knowing the club and knew what these young players would have to go through to become winners at the highest level.
Frank Lampard's points-per-game average of 1.67 is the fourth lowest of any permanent Chelsea manager in the Premier League.
Considering it was nine years into his own playing career before he lifted a trophy, he knew the importance of time and patience, too.
It was an intriguing journey Lampard and his players were embarking on. An experiment to see whether things could be done differently in west London.
But Chelsea have pulled the plug on the process and Lampard has been sacked 18 months after his appointment.
If Thomas Tuchel is in place by Wednesday, as Chelsea hope, then he will have back-to-back home matches to start - against Wolves and Burnley.
Then comes a huge test for the new boss as the Blues go to Jose Mourinho's Tottenham, before a trip to bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United and a FA Cup fifth-round tie at Barnsley.
Wed Jan 27 - Wolves (H) PL 6pm
Sun Jan 31 - Burnley (H) PL 12pm
Thur Feb 4 - Tottenham (A) PL 8pm
Sat Feb 6 - Sheff Utd (A) PL 3pm
Wed Feb 10 - Barnsley (A) FA Cup 7.45pm