‘I knew straight away’ – Lampard on Chelsea exit

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December 4, 2021
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    Frank Lampard during his final game in charge against Luton in the FA Cup fourth round.Frank Lampard managed Chelsea for 84 games in total, winning 44 and losing 23.

    Frank Lampard said he "knew straight away" he had been sacked as Chelsea manager when he woke up to a text message from the chairman.

    The club's former captain lasted 18 months before being replaced in January 2021 by Thomas Tuchel.

    "That first message as well – you kind of wake up and think, 'let's flick through Instagram'," recalled Lampard.

    He opened up to Gary Neville about his dismissal and time as head coach on the 'The Overlap' podcast.

    Lampard, who is also Chelsea's leading goalscorer, led the Blues to an FA Cup final and secured a Champions League spot in his initial season.

    However, his side won just once in his last five league games and the club were ninth in the table when he departed.

    Lampard, 43, said: "I got a message from Bruce Buck, the chairman, saying 'can you move training and come and meet us in the boardroom?'

    "Once the decision has been made, there is no nice way to do it.

    "It was very cordial. I knew what was coming then as well. Not at the time, but you're thankful for the period, you understand what it was."

    Lampard took charge in July 2019 on a three-year-contract, replacing Italian Maurizio Sarri as head coach, having taken Derby County to the Championship play-off final.

    He added: "I was concerned about the level of expectation compared to the squad and the job that I had on my hands. It felt like at least a transition, at most a rebuild.

    "At Chelsea it probably will come unless you go and win back-to-back titles and that was never going to happen."

    Chelsea were under a transfer ban when Lampard arrived, allowing him to give opportunities to academy graduates such as Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori.

    However, the Blues spent more than £200m on transfer fees over the following summer – signing Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and keeper Edouard Mendy.

    "We had a big squad and were leaving out players. We needed the squad to be less at that point," said Lampard.

    "Don't get me wrong. They went on to win the Champions League last season so it sounds a bit naff.

    "It's tough because we had three left-backs, and you can only play one generally, and five centre-backs.

    "As time goes on, and the new manager is there now, you can make changes and trim, but that's just how I felt at the time."

    Lampard also spoke on his decision to drop struggling Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for Willy Caballero, but said his "communication with upstairs was always good".

    "When you're aware of a £70m goalkeeper that you take out of the team, you know it's not a simple decision," said Lampard.

    "Kepa was having a tough time, there's no bones about it, in the first season and I think he'd say that himself.

    "There was no feeling of pressure from above is what I'm trying to say, but it becomes very high profile when you do it and there's that price tag on a player."

    The signing of Senegalese keeper Mendy sent Kepa further down the pecking order.

    "Mendy was the result of that and he's obviously been fantastic since he's been at the club," added Lampard.

    Since leaving Chelsea, the 106-capped former England international said he had talked to "a couple of clubs" as he looked to return to management.

    He was heavily linked with Norwich City after Daniel Farke was sacked in November, but the Canaries eventually appointed former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith.

    "Some didn't feel right for me," said Lampard, who added he didn't want to be "overly selective either" about opportunities.

    "If you want to be selective in football and look at any job at face value, there'll be good and bad about it.

    "I'm fortunate enough to be in a place where I want to work, but I'm not desperate to work and I want to try and get the right place."

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