Opinion: Perspective is key when judging Frank Lampard's Chelsea
Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea looks on ahead of the Premier League match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on December 28, 2020 in London, England

December, a month of joy, reflection and celebration centred around its 25th day. But for Chelsea, the holiday period of 2020 will be one they will be glad to see the back of.

Following their industrious 3-1 victory over old rivals Leeds, to go 17 games unbeaten in all competitions, the west-Londoners have endured a serve drop in form. 

Coinciding with Hakim Ziyech's absence through injury and Timo Werner misfiring, Chelsea have lost three - including a harrowing 3-1 defeat at the hands of a below-average Arsenal outfit  - drawn one and won one since they sealed top spot in their Champions League group. 

To top the year off, a bitterly cold Monday evening at Stamford Bridge staged a bitty 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. 

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It beared resemblance to the bitter taste residing in Frank Lampard's mouth, as a point and a plethora of missed opportunities has made it just four from a possible 15 over 17 days either side of Christmas. 

Moreover, Lampard's total of 26 points after 16 matches is the second-worst of the Roman Abramovich era, with only Jose Mourinho’s dramatic plummet in the 2015-16 ranking lower.

Even with the lack of pre-season, a global pandemic and a squad in its infancy, patience is still in short supply.

Though Lampard knows from his 13 years as a Chelsea player, that from the moment he was revealed as the Blues boss in 2018 he was stepping into one of the harshest and most demanding environments in world football. 

Will the grass be greener (or shall I say, bluer) on the other side if Frank was to go? Or is the call for #LampardOut just simply ridiculous? 

Assessing expectations

Let's get something straight, despite spending upwards of £200m in the summer transfer window, no one should have expected Chelsea to be winning to the title this season. The board did not,  Abramovich did not, so why should supporters?  

Just as Lampard has voiced time after time during his tenure as Chelsea's head coach, the club fully understands its current standing and accepts that there will be some bumps along the way as they embark on their three-year plan to win the title. 

Now one third into Lampard's second season at the helm, the goal of this campaign was always to see improvements and for the club to go one or two better and finish either second or third. 

Even if the west Londoners did beat Dean Smith's hed-hot Villians yesterday, Chelsea would have climbed back into the top-four and sat just five points off league leaders Liverpool

Not only does this show how tight the top of the table will be this year, due to a lack of consistency from every team, but it also illustrates how Chelsea remain firmly in reach of meeting their targets with 22 games left to play. 

Improvements and vulnerabilities

Chelsea have clearly shown improvements since last season.  The Blues are now statistically one of the best-organised teams in the defensive phase from open play, having kept the third highest number of clean sheets (6) and have conceded only 18 goals (1.13 per game).

Fortunes have dramatically changed in the set-piece department too, with the additions of Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva, having only conceded four from free-kicks and corner balls. 

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Moreover, Chelsea's set-piece susceptibility has now been flipped on its head to whoever they are facing. Going from one of the worst teams in the division for attacking set-pieces, to one of the best in Europe, having scored a league-high of seven so far. Opponents are now very wary of allowing the likes of Kurt Zouma (who has headed four in himself) into their 12-yard box. 

Yet a big weakness that lingers for Chelsea is their inability to break down teams with low blocks - take Tottenham, Wolves and Everton for example.

So what does it take to break down organised defence?

Firstly, a sprinkle of individual brilliance, a trait Eden Hazard had in abundance.  Secondly, players that know each other inside out.

Chelsea's most dangerous weapons in dismantling low-blocks are undoubtedly Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz. The problem being, however, all three attackers have been riddled with injury issues since their arrivals. 

Pulisic has started only 7 games this season, Ziyech the same and Havertz, at 21 years old, is settling into a new league and country whilst still suffering from the after-effects of his contraction of COVID-19 last month - which has set him back if not weeks, months, in terms of his match fitness. 

Like many clubs, Chelsea didn't have a pre-season and have very little time to prepare for the next matches during such a congested schedule, let alone work on player relations. 

Chelsea have played 16 league games this season and their most important creative players have barely stringed two games together.

Team cohesion and chemistry can only be improved over time and Liverpool fans can vouch for that. It took Jurgen Klopp five years to build the machine that is the red side of Merseyside that we know of today. So why is Lampard not being afforded the same amount of patience and understanding?

Context, context, context

The main point fans argue for Lampard's dismissal is that the standard of performance does not correlate to the money splashed in the summer. But expressing such a view is unrealistic, its too simplistic and does not represent how football works in the real world. 

Not one single "top team" is as good as they were last season. Even Liverpool, a team considered one of the best this generation has ever seen, are worse off then they were this time last season - possessing 15 points less than they had this time last year. 

Manchester United, a team who Chelsea are relentlessly compared against because they both have to former players as managers, were knocked out of the Champions League group stages and are expecting a 73 point finish.

Spurs have not won in five games and sit tied on points with their London counterparts despite having an "experienced" manager in Mourinho who also brought in several new players. 

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are a shadow of their former selves and Arsenal currently sit in a relegation battle.

Even further afield, the likes of Paints Saint Germain are third, neither Juventus nor Atalanta are in the top five of the Serie A table. Bayern Munich only have two points that separate them and third in the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund are not even in the top four. 

Not to mention giants Real Madrid, who only recently broke into the top four of La Liga, and faced a very real threat of crashing out at the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history. As for Barcelona, they look even worse off in fifth place; eight points off first, with a game in hand - not to mention the turmoil at board level and Lionel Messi wanting to leave.

It's not just Chelsea who are struggling to get their expected results, it is everyone. 

Furthermore, not one of those teams have had to attempt to embed as many new first-team members as Chelsea have. This has certainly been a disadvantage, especially in the early stages of the season.

Fair criticism

After back-to-back defeats to Everton and Wolves, then the loss against The Gunners, Lampard cited his team for a lack of personality and his players not working hard enough as the reason for the recent slump in form. Though Lampard must take a chunk of responsibility given the accumulation of poor decision's has come at the detriment of his squads attacking rhythms. 

The inconsistent chopping and changing of Oliver Giroud and Tammy Abraham up-front, continuing to start Werner and Havertz out of their natural position on top of them blatantly needing rest, and playing  Jorginho, even though he clearly does not fit the system. 

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But one thing Blue's fans should have come to realise now, after a series of different managers in the space of 15 years, is that not all of the decisions they make you will agree with.

Mourinho decided that Kevin de Bruyne was not good enough during his second stint, he sold Chelsea's Player of the Season, Juan Mata, to United and he had a clear bias towards Oscar and Willian.

Antonio Conte refused to drop Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill and Victor Moses, when they clearly were not performing to suit his system and went against the board, making Diego Costa surplus to requirements over text. 

Maurizio Sarri then mistreated club legend Cahill by neglecting him before binning the defender off to Crystal Palace. He also left both Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi out of the team while he could not bear the thought of having Jorginho out of his first eleven.

With Lampard, his main issue with fans is his persistence to play Mason Mount in every single game.

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A fair point, as he has hardly missed a minute this season, but every manager has had to make unpopular and tough decisions in order to back the players they believe will get the club the best results.

A common denominator, with the list of managers, is that they have all won major silverware at Chelsea despite making mistakes. 

So, the need to cry Lampard out at every minor inconvenience because he is not perfect is absurd. If clubs sacked every manager for their mistakes out of context, there would be no one employed.

At the same time, it would be biased to blindly defend him and claim that fans should not feel disappointed.

On top of that, Lampard's future hanging on Havertz and Werner becoming successes is not ideal as it is not entirely his fault they have underperformed. But that comes with spending big on two of the most exciting, attacking talents in the game. They must deliver and Lampard must figure how he makes them do so. 

No one is arguing that Lampard is the real deal; he himself is not the finished article nor is the team. 

This Chelsea is still a work in progress. Perspective is key. 

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