Ralf Rangnick 2.0: Chelsea's Players Aren't Taking Frank Lampard Seriously

Interim manager Lampard isn't having the desired impact at Stamford Bridge
16:00, 19 Apr 2023

You are the owner of a traditional member of the Premier League’s arrogantly codified “big six”, the season hasn’t started well. Not well at all. With trophy hopes fading and results stagnating, your long-term plan to persevere with your almost-too-nice head coach is binned off. You react. You sack. In place of your holistic and kindly manager comes an interim appointment. A safe pair of hands that knows what he’s walking into. Someone to steer you to the end of the season without breaking anything. But then he does start breaking things, your shiny new interim manager. You already know what I’m talking about. This is the story of Ralf Rangnick and Manchester United.

Except it isn’t, but it could be. Instead this is the tale of Frank Lampard and Chelsea. Of the club legend brought in as an interim boss to replace the emotionally intelligent but out of his depth Graham Potter. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a similar regard for players and how they tick. He too was burdened with a club floundering under the weight of its own reputation. He too was cut loose when that weight became too much to bear.


United employed Rangnick to mop up Solskjaer’s spillage. Instead, he smeared it over the walls and then blamed the people who handed him the mop in the first place. Lampard was always going to be more compliant, grateful for a chance to right the wrong of his initial spell as Chelsea manager. An icon at Stamford Bridge as a player, the end of his tenure in the dugout has never sat right with him. While Rangnick quickly went about the job of dismantling his surroundings, Lampard is running around with a tube of super glue trying to keep the crumbling walls intact.

The walls are still crumbling though, faster than ever. In many ways, Lampard is the only type of manager that would have taken the job on an interim basis at this point. The problems at Chelsea are well-documented. Too many players, so many that some reportedly change in the corridors. Expensively acquired by owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital with little thought to how they would mesh tactically. Egos and the faded approaches of two previous managers linger at the Cobham training ground.

A manager at the peak of his powers would not take on this job, knowing that the club were unlikely to achieve anything this season. The barren nature of this campaign has now been confirmed by Chelsea’s 4-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid. For an incoming coach, it is far better to wait until the summer and start with a clean slate. Let the dismal end to the Thomas Tuchel/Graham Potter season end in ignominy before riding in as the conquering hero next term.


Boehly’s challenge was the same as the Glazer’s when they dispensed with Solskjaer but decided against a permanent replacement. He had to find a grateful candidate, someone for whom taking over a sleeping giant would be seen as an opportunity not a curse. Rangnick went to Old Trafford because United were bigger than every club he had on his CV. Had he performed better, he could have dined out on it forever. The Austrian may have even got the permanent job himself. 

It was on these terms that Lampard took the Chelsea job. The media knew it too, putting it to Frank that he may be here beyond the end of the season. He said all the right things, dismissing it to a point without ever ruling it out. Rangnick had done similar the year before. But for someone as synonymous with Chelsea as Lampard, the thought must have got his blue blood pumping. 

Chelsea fans’ blood hasn’t exactly been pumping watching their team slump to four defeats out of four under Lampard. The goodwill that the owners were hoping a club legend would instil has been in short supply. As beloved as Lampard is in west London for what he did as a player, there must surely have been scepticism over his ability to handle this plight. The club were still in the Champions League and conceivably had a European place for next season to play for when Potter was sacked. Why then would you hire a manager who got sacked from Everton as they battled relegation and who wasn’t that good at Chelsea the first time? 

Like Rangnick’s unwilling United troops, this collection of Chelsea-affiliated individuals see no reason to overexert themselves. Impressing Lampard serves no purpose for them long-term. Chelsea have gone down the interim route before of course, winning trophies under Guus Hiddink, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez. But that was when the squad boasted clear leaders. Men like John Terry, Didier Drogba and indeed Lampard himself. Aside from veteran defender Thiago Silva, who has publicly demanded collective responsibility from his teammates, there are no such leaders in the current set-up.

Ultimately, Chelsea are running their finger down the blade of a double-edged sword. What they offered was a temporary job that no manager in their right mind would want to take, unless it was out of loyalty. But in appointing a temporary manager, they have undermined the rest of the season. If a permanent appointment couldn’t have been made at this juncture, why not just let Potter see it out? If he does well, then perhaps he earns the sort of stay of execution that Mikel Arteta has put to good use at Arsenal. If he fails, well you end up exactly where you are now. A floundering side limping to the end of a season to forget.

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