Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard is ready to lead from the front after Manchester City condemned his side to a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge to prolong their poor run of form.
The Blues were top of the Premier League at the start of December following a 3-1 victory over Leeds, but now sit eight points off Liverpool following a run of four defeats in their last six games.
Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne all struck in the first half as City shook off a clutch of positive coronavirus cases and Benjamin Mendy's breach of social-distancing protocols to stun the Blues with three first-half goals inside the first 35 minutes in west London. Lampard was asked afterwards if he was beginning to feel the pressure.
The Chelsea boss said: "I had tough periods last year, and maybe I had some mitigating circumstances where people didn't view those home defeats here in the same way. To me they felt tough and rough as I am a perfectionist for this club and the first person to put pressure on myself is me, so I felt the pressure here last year.
"I wanted to push and finish even better than fourth, even though I feel it was a big achievement given the ban and the youth in the squad. We cruised through the Champions League group and went on a 16-game unbeaten run, which was something I always tried to temper as it went on. I played here for a long time so I understand the club, and if you lose four games in a period of time then people will ask questions.
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"The expectations are different this year, as people are talking about how much money we spent. We've spent a lot of money but the reality is the players are young and have not played together.
"It's the first time we've been able to play Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner in the same team... and if we're expecting the relationship between the three players to be the same as Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling today then those expectations aren't real.
"I'm the man who has to be real and I was real after the Leeds win when I felt we weren't title contenders. I'm real now when I say any rebuild takes pain, and I speak for other managers.
"I remember Pep Guardiola went through it in his first year at City, and now we know their story. You only build through fight and character.
"We know the stories of City and Liverpool and I'm not comparing myself to them. I can only talk about us, and the first half showed us why this is a difficult period for Chelsea. We have to keep fighting and I'm the first one who has to keep fighting."
Chelsea have three points fewer after 17 games than they did last season, whilst in the Premier League era, the Blues have never finished higher than sixth when amassing a maximum of 26 points at this stage of a campaign.
The Blues have suffered as many defeats in their last six Premier League games as they did in the 23 matches beforehand, but Lampard says he is not concerned for his position as his side look to bounce back in the west London derby against Fulham a week on Friday.
"I'll always feel the heat," he added. "I felt the heat when we were on our good run as I knew that round the corner could've been the negative. We're striving to get to the level of the teams that won things here during the Roman Abramovich era.
"We're not at that stage yet. If you take N'Golo Kante and Thiago out, there's a lot of youth and new players in the team who are trying to settle and take things on board. I can't speak for those on the board. I can't answer what they're thinking about the difficult run of results like I couldn't answer for them when there was talk about a new contract a month ago.
"There's never going to be an absolute trajectory that was going to be up and up and up. I saw flaws in my team even during the 16-game run. I can't think of what the board are thinking as it would just distract me, so I can't do it."
Pep: We got our tempo back
Since their 2-0 defeat to Spurs in November, Manchester City have won five of their seven Premier League matches, with only rivals Manchester United (20) picking up more points than Pep Guardiola's side (17) since then.
There are signs that City are slowly clicking back into gear, now just four points off Liverpool with a game in hand. Guardiola hailed his players for sticking to the principles that have served them well during his tenure.
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"In the first minutes we suffered a little bit because we didn't concede almost anything except the goal in the last minute but we played really well," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "The result is excellent at Stamford Bridge but the way we played was really great - you can't win titles without playing like that.
"Chelsea are one of strongest teams and they are suffering from last game but you see the quality of their players and the bench. We had a plan we tried to play like we have in the past and it worked.
"The players were excellent in every way, especially with the ball. We cannot play like other teams, we have to play in our rhythm, play 1,000 passes and attack in the right moment. We won titles in that way, more patient. We missed a bit of this tempo and today we had it."
Analysis: De Bruyne returns to his best
Sky Sports' Graeme Souness:
"Kevin De Bruyne is on another level. No one talks about David Silva anymore - they talk about him. He's super-intelligent, seeing a picture that no one else does. Once City got the first goal... Chelsea were good for 10 minutes without threatening. De Bruyne gets cockier, doesn't he?
"We're privileged to have him in our league."
Sky Sports' Roy Keane:
"De Bruyne is world-class. What we saw from him today was football intelligence. He was playing in a different role to what he's been used to, but it was just the way he found space and his decision making. He's not been at his best this season, but he was back to his best today.
"De Bruyne knows the game, he can read the game. He knows what's going on, and can smell that Chelsea aren't up to it. He was picking out pockets. It was easy for him, but he still had to produce. He is aware of what's going on around him. The two Chelsea centre-halves didn't know what to do. They didn't put a tackle on him."
Sky Sports' Micah Richards:
"I've talked about Kevin De Bruyne for so long and he's just incredible to watch. He played in the false nine today, we've seen him pop up on the left and right and he's just the complete footballer. We talk about players who are offensive and defensive but he can do both. He's a gem of a player and one of the best I've seen in the Premier League."
'Difficult for Chelsea signings to adapt'
Stephen Warnock on The Football Show:
"What's disappointing for Chelsea fans was the fact of no striker in the team, putting Timo Werner in through the middle. For me he is not a striker, he is a left-sided player who liked playing there for Leipzig and does it for Germany as well.
"He is not a great link-up player, with his back towards goal, and I think that frustrated Chelsea fans.
"You do get judged on your signings, how quickly they can adapt, and this is a very difficult time to settle in because they can't go out in the streets and get to know their surroundings, they're pretty much stuck in their rooms trying to protect themselves from Covid.
"It must be a difficult and lonely time for them. However, players at different clubs have adapted to the situations and for me they must do more."
Chelsea now host Morecambe in the FA Cup third round on Sunday at 1.30pm, before going to Fulham on January 15 in the Premier League on Friday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 8pm.
Manchester City now go to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Football at 7.45pm, before hosting Birmingham City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday at 1.30pm.