Yesterday’s defeat to Manchester United was another blow not only to Chelsea’s title hopes, but also to the confidence many fans have in Frank Lampard.
Certain decisions the manager is having – from his selection of centre-backs to the constant burial of Olivier Giroud deep on the bench – are being questioned more and more openly.
The swathe of muscle injuries the players are picking up despite a fortnight’s break are being attributed by some to his training methods.
His tactical decisions and his substitutions in games are also under scrutiny.
That goes for fans as well as pundits.
There are certainly questions to be asked, and Lampard himself would be the first to admit there have been serious problems with his team. In some games they’ve failed to create enough chances; in others they’ve created plenty and missed too many. Their defending, both from open and play set pieces, has not been good enough.
But despite the frustration fans are increasingly feeling with some of these flaws, the decisions the manager is making are still far less of a factor at this stage than the situation he’s working with.
The manager is lacking quality first team starters in goal, in central defence, central midfield, on the wings and up front. There are certainly things he could have done to get more out of what he has, but not much more.
Injuries have stripped away Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham from the team he would have liked to put out against Manchester United. That team is one of the worst the club has put out in a league fixture for some time in terms of individual quality. A front three of Michy Batshuayi, Pedro and Willian, in the year 2020, will not get you very far.
Even despite that, Chelsea made chances, and saw their positive efforts brutally undermined by game-changing refereeing decisions consistently going against them.
The coach will be rightly criticised for some things he is getting wrong, and just as likely wrongly criticised for things that are out of his power. But until he’s given a squad better than the teams around him, he can’t be expected to perform above that level.