It’s fair to say that pressure — if only external, for the time being — is beginning to mount on Frank Lampard as his Chelsea side continue to falter into the New Year.
The Blues have endured a rough set of results throughout December and early January, having won just once in their last seven outings — a dreary run that culminated in Sunday’s 3-1 home defeat against Man City.
Lampard has the club’s worst points-per-game record in the Premier League under club owner Roman Abramovich and the Russian billionaire is not inclined toward mercy when it comes to underperforming managers, having hired and fired 14 different coaches since his arrival in 2003.
Not counting interim appointments Ray Wilkins or Steve Holland, here’s a list of those who have come and gone in the years before Lampard, their respective records, and what ultimately signalled their managerial demise at Stamford Bridge.
1. Claudio Ranieri (September 2000 – May 2004)
Win ratio: 54%
Ranieri was already in charge at Chelsea when Abramovich bought the club in the summer of 2003. He lasted just one further season, during which the “Tinkerman” secured the club’s highest-ever Premier League finish (second) only to be relieved of his duties a few days later.
Despite being a fairly popular figure in the dugout, the Italian was deemed a remnant of the foregone, pre-Abramovich age and ultimately departed the Bridge having failed to win a single trophy.
2. Jose Mourinho (June 2004 – September 2007)
Games: 185 games
Win ratio: 67%
A brash, energetic, and outspoken coach, former FC Porto manager Mourinho was the perfect embodiment of the new Chelsea ethos: Spend big, win big.
Despite adorning the squad with £100m of expensive new signings, the Blues still finished second behind the Arsenal “Invincibles” during Mourinho (and Abramovich’s) first proper assault on the Premier League title.
It all clicked at the second attempt, with Mourinho powering Chelsea to their first top-flight title in half a century before retaining it the following year (2005-06) and then winning a cup double in 2006-07. However, after the 2007-08 season got off to a mediocre start in which his side slipped to fifth, Mourinho stunned the world by walking out on Chelsea (despite having three years left of his contract) after his sour relationship with Abramovich turned irreversibly toxic.
3. Avram Grant (September 2007 – May 2008)
Win ratio: 67%
It is claimed that one of the major reasons for Mourinho’s displeasure was Abramovich’s decision to bring in Grant as “director of football” in the summer of 2007.
The Israeli — a close personal friend of Abramovich — was hired to work closely with Andriy Shevchenko, a £31m signing made by the chairman against Mourinho’s wishes. Friction over Mourinho’s stubborn reluctance to give Shevchenko any game time ultimately contributed to his resignation, after which Grant stepped into the breach despite not holding the requisite UEFA coaching qualifications.
Grant failed to gel with the players or the fans, with many still singing Mourinho’s name during games. He lasted just one season but departed having guided his side to the 2008 Champions League final, which they lost to Manchester United on penalties out in Moscow.
4. Luis Felipe Scolari (July 2008 – February 2009)
Win ratio: 56%
Needing a big name appointment to appease the fans, Abramovich took the plunge and hired Scolari, then head coach of the Portugal national team, on a lucrative three-year contract said to be one of the biggest ever handed to a manager.
“Big Phil” lasted just seven months before paying the price mid-season for failing to sustain a convincing title challenge, having fallen seven points behind league leaders Manchester United with three months of the campaign remaining. He didn’t even have time to complete his English lessons.
5. Guus Hiddink (February 2009 – May 2009)
Games: 22 games
Win ratio: 73%
With Scolari axed, the ever affable Hiddink was appointed as Chelsea’s new interim manager to see out the season and salvage as much as he could while simultaneously continuing his duties as Russia’s head coach.
After breathing life back into an aging squad, Hiddink lost only once during his tenure while propelling the Blues to the Champions League semifinals (which they lost narrowly to Barcelona) and to FA Cup glory in his final game in charge.
6. Carlo Ancelotti (June 2009 – May 2011)
Win ratio: 61%
After spending the previous eight years at his beloved Milan, Ancelotti became the sixth manager hired by Abramovich in his first six years at Chelsea.
The Russian owner was intent on ushering in a new era of stability and in fairness, Ancelotti’s tenure was fairly serene for the first year, during which he won a league and cup double. However, it came to an abrupt end in the summer of 2011 after the Italian finished his second season without a trophy — the club’s first without silverware for three years — despite Abramovich bankrolling a huge £50m move for Fernando Torres in the January window.
Ancelotti perhaps suffered the most undignified end to his Chelsea tenure of any other manager post-2003, with the popular Italian being informed of his dismissal in a corridor at Goodison Park before even having time to board the team bus after a 1-0 defeat against Everton.
7. Andres Villas-Boas (June 2011 – March 2012)
Win ratio: 48%
Having enjoyed instant success with a young hotshot from FC Porto before, Chelsea hired Villas-Boas on the back of his stunning league/cup/Europa League treble the previous season. Unfortunately, the enthusiastic Portuguese coach was the same age as several of the elder players in his squad and largely failed to assert any kind of seniority over them during his short stint.
Nine months later he was gone, with Abramovich pulling the plug after watching AVB flounder in a 1-0 defeat against West Brom which extended his wretched run to just three wins in 12 league games.
8. Roberto Di Matteo (March 2012 – November 2012)
Win ratio: 57%
Already a cult hero at Chelsea, Di Matteo was warmly greeted when he initially stepped up from assistant coach to assume the role of interim head coach in the wake of Villas-Boas’ departure.
He then somehow managed to win both the Champions League and the FA Cup within his first 21 games in charge before landing a new two-year full-time contract and getting himself sacked for a poor streak of performances, all inside a whirlwind eight-month period.
9. Rafa Benitez (November 2012 – May 2013)
Win ratio: 58%
Yet another interim, former Liverpool boss Benitez was brought in to steady the ship for the remainder of the season after Di Matteo was axed for letting Chelsea slip too far behind league leaders Man City.
He didn’t have long to work his magic, but Benitez still managed to win the Europa League (a feat he first achieved with Valencia in 2003-04) and secure a top-four finish in the Premier League before heading to Napoli.
10. Jose Mourinho (June 2013 – December 2015)
Win ratio: 59%
The “Special One” returned ahead of the 2013-14 season and quickly got the band back together, reuniting with the Chelsea old guard of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech and Michael Essien.
The Blues finished third in the first season of Mourinho’s second stab, but a summer overhaul saw the title return to the Bridge the following year when the league was won with three games to spare. However, 2015-16 proved to be an annus horribilis for Mourinho, with the campaign getting off to a truly rotten start as Chelsea lost nine of their first 16 games.
With the atmosphere around the club well and truly toxic, the Portuguese was once again sacked by Abramovich in mid-December as Chelsea found themselves just one point above the relegation zone.
11. Guus Hiddink (December 2015 – May 2016)
Win ratio: 37%
With history very much repeating itself as far as Mourinho’s demise was concerned, so too did a familiar face return to drag Chelsea out of the mire.
Hiddink agreed to take the reigns for the remainder of the 2015-16 season and promptly went unbeaten in his first 12 games, ultimately delivering a nice, safe mid-table finish — which is much more of an achievement than it sounds given the mess he inherited.
12. Antonio Conte (July 2016 – July 2018)
Win ratio: 65%
Conte switched from the Azzurri to the Blues when he agreed to take over following his foray with Italy at Euro 2016.
After finishing down in 10th the season prior, Conte proved an immediate success at the Bridge, thrusting Chelsea back to the top of the league by winning the 2016-17 title in dominant fashion and setting a new record for most wins in a single season (30 wins from 38 games). He then followed up by winning the FA Cup in the 2017-18 season before it all began falling apart shortly thereafter. Indeed, the Blues finished fifth in the league, thus missing out on vital Champions League qualification.
Conte was sacked and replaced, but not before reportedly costing the club close to £30m in legal fees and compensation as the result of legal wranglings that rumbled on for months after his bitter departure.
13. Maurizio Sarri (July 2018 – June 2019)
Win ratio: 62%
With the Conte fallout continuing in the background, Sarri was selected as the man to replace his fellow countryman having excelled with Napoli in his homeland.
Unfortunately, the chain-smoking Sarri wasn’t able to adapt easily and while results on the pitch were actually quite good, the Italian had issues communicating fluently and quickly became an unpopular figure with fans.
He won the Europa League and finished third in the Premier League in his first season in charge, but that didn’t stop him leaving for Juventus after less than a year in England — 337 days, to be precise.
14. Frank Lampard (July 2019 – Present)
Win ratio: 51.25%
After cutting his managerial teeth with Derby, Lampard was offered the chance to return to his beloved Chelsea in the summer of 2019.
In truth, the Blues were in a bit of bind knowing that not many big-named coaches would be willing to operate, A) without the services of star player Eden Hazard, who had just left for Real Madrid, and B) under the restraints of an impeding FIFA transfer ban.
It fell to a bona fide club legend to pick up the gauntlet, and Lampard did so with gusto, brining youth and academy graduates into the first-team and delivering a fourth-place finish in his first season.
Will he be given the necessary time to right the ship and repeat the feat this season? Only time — and the whims of Abramovich’s notoriously itchy trigger finger — will tell.