Frank Lampard insists he is not feeling the pressure at Chelsea after his side's fourth defeat in six league games. A 3-1 home loss to Manchester City sent the Blues sliding to eighth in the Premier League table and left Lampard with the worst points per game record in the top flight since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. The legendary former midfielder has close ties with the owner from his 13 years at Stamford Bridge but history shows that the Russian billionaire is not one to allow his club's form to slide for long without taking action.
Indeed a report from The Athletic in the aftermath of the defeat claimed that Chelsea were already mulling replacements for Lampard. Whether former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel is among those options remains to be seen but the German is available having departed the Parc des Princes and would be keen on a job in England.
For Lampard, whose side topped the Premier League on Dec. 5 after a win against Leeds United, such questions are, he insists, a natural part of his job and not one that will distract him from his attempts to turn Chelsea's form around: "I am not concerned about that point [of being afraid]," he said in his post-match press conference.
"I expected periods of difficulty this year. I said it when we beat Leeds. I know it doesn't come easy... A month ago, people were saying when was I going to get a new contract. The pressure remains constant in this job. You know in tough moments that will be there. My job is to keep working and lift the players.
"I always feel heat, I even did when we were on our good run. We are not a team that has been churning out results as the likes of [Manchester] City and Liverpool [have]. I am not going to speak for people above me because I can never do that."
Having guided a youthful Chelsea side to third in his first season at the club, one where a transfer ban limited his ability to add to the squad, much was expected of Lampard after around $300 million was spent on the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
The latter has struggled with injuries and was off color on his return to the side whilst the difficulties of the other two have been more pronounced. Lampard opted to field Werner, now without a goal in 12 games, through the middle against Manchester City ahead of the in-form Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham but his side struggled to unlock the pace of the Germany international on the counter. Meanwhile Havertz, who has struggled with a bout of COVID-19, was left on the bench but did provide an assist for Callum Hudson-Odoi to net a late consolation for the Blues.
The defeat at the hands of City leaves Chelsea seven points off the top of the Premier League table having played a game more than leaders Liverpool but Lampard insists he can use the disappointment of recent results to spur a revival in his squad. "I've sat there and had these days and then lifted a trophy at the end of the year. We bounced back then because we had a spirit in the dressing room and any player in football will have periods like that," he said.
"Some other defeats for other teams have been painful. We have to take it on the chin, this is football. We have character -- we have 16 games unbeaten. A month ago people are asking where is this going to go, when are you signing a new contract and now they're saying the opposite. I'll be the first to look at myself today but I know where we're at and I know what it takes to churn out the level that City were at today. It's normal that we take knocks but now is a test."
Meanwhile Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic called on his teammates to show character as they battle to address their slump.
The US international was one of the few bright stars in Chelsea's defeat, effectively wrapped up by halftime as Kevin De Bruyne inspired City to a statement win. Pulisic said: "We are in a tough period right now. It is going to happen to everyone at times.
"We've been in this situation before and we have another situation next week where we need to turn it around, because we do need to start getting results quickly... It is not going to be easy but we need to show character now."