Pulisic can help cool Lampard’s seat at Chelsea
It’s been such a strange, upside-down Premier League season and Frank Lampard is an icon at Chelsea that it was easy to sense that even the embarrassing 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday wouldn’t be enough to keep Lampard up to beat status as a blues manager in grave danger.
After all, Lampard led Chelsea into the knockout phase of the Champions League earlier this season and won the group. He had surpassed final tenure, his first on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge, finishing fourth (and just a hair up from third) with a young and mostly inexperienced squad. Just a few weeks ago, before the Blues lost four out of six league games, Lampard’s team was in the middle of the conversation as real title contenders.
No more. And no matter how revered Lampard is in southwest London, it’s Chelsea, a club whose owner Roman Abramovich is known to be impatient with his coaches, who burned 14 different managers in 16 years before hiring Lampard in 2019 and it really shouldn’t have any It would be a surprise that within seconds of the final whistle on Sunday, The Athletic reported that Chelsea’s brass section had already begun evaluating possible successors.
“I’ve played here, I understand what everyone looks like and I ask questions when you lose a few games,” said Lampard, who led Chelsea to their only European title in 2012. “I have to be a realist.”
The reality is this: if Lampard wants to save himself, his team has to change things in a short amount of time. And Christian Pulisic could be the key.
Pulisic was one of the blues few bright spots during the current slump. Despite only scoring one league goal, the 21-year-old American was an automatic starter for Lampard in a 3-1 win against Leeds in early December that temporarily put Chelsea at the top of the table. After experiencing Achilles tendon problems at the beginning of the 2020/21 season and missing seven of Chelsea’s first 17 league games, Pulisic managed to hit the full 90 minutes in three consecutive competitions.
That is a long way from the beginning of last season when Lampard put Pulisic on the bench after playing a few games without a goal or support. He established himself as a worthy replacement for Eden Hazard with 10 goals in his first 32 prem games. (Hazard, now in his second season at Real Madrid, had nine in his first 34.) This year Lampard Pulisic has kept Pulisic on the field anyway – a possible indicator of his job security.
Even without the end product that made Pulisic one of the top players of the prem during the English top-class summer restart after a three-month hiatus from the coronavirus, it is clear that Lampard knows that Pulisic will consistently be his most dangerous player this season is possible gives him the best chance of winning. Nobody loses the sense of urgency.
“We have to start turning it around,” Pulisic said on the club’s website on Sunday. “We need to get results quickly.”
And they have time to take a breath and regroup. After six games in 23 days during the crowded “festive season” of the Prem, Chelsea’s next league game won’t take place until January 15th. The defense needs to be tightened significantly – City have shown how vulnerable Lampard’s side are to counterattacks – but the backline has always been Chelsea’s weak point and only a fraction of the transfer effort has been put into support.
The bigger concern is Lampard’s sputtering attack which was expected to score goals in droves. But since his arrival from the Bundesliga in their home country Germany, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have had problems adapting to the faster and more physical Premier League. Another valued recruit, winger Hakim Ziyech, has been restricted due to an injury.
Pulisic initially had similar problems before finishing last season with aplomb. In the first half of this film, he quietly emerged as a respected veteran. Now his teammates are looking for answers. And you have the feeling that Havertz, Werner and the rest will follow if Pulisic really gets going and starts creating and ending opportunities.
Lampard certainly seems to be betting that this is the case. His future as Chelsea boss may depend on it.
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