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05/28/2023
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Chelsea fans turn on Boehly as mess continues under Lampard

Frank Lampard has won only one of his past 17 games as a manager, losing 14 and drawing two. A poor run at Everton saw him sacked in January. Since returning to Stamford Bridge earlier this month to be caretaker at Chelsea after the departure of Graham Potter, he has lost three from three in all competitions.

Chelsea and the Todd Boehly-led Clearlake Capital consortium, who became owners of the club in May of last year, will hope that club legend Lampard can overcome a 2-0 deficit against Real Madrid to clinch a place in the Champions League semifinals. But that is all they have left to cling on to following a disastrous 11 months at the club. Unless the team can produce a sporting miracle, Chelsea’s season will be over as they have no chance of finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

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Boehly had predicted a 3-0 first-leg win for Chelsea against the reigning European champions at the Santiago Bernabeu; the reality turned out to be a defeat. Then again, Boehly has grown accustomed to getting things wrong since buying the club for £4.25 billion from Roman Abramovich last May; an overly optimistic score prediction is some way down his list of errors.

Boehly’s mistakes are well documented: from firing Champions League-winning coach Thomas Tuchel just seven games into the season and replacing him with ill-suited Brighton boss Potter, to spending over £600 million on signing new players and then sacking Potter earlier this month when he couldn’t get the best out of them. The latest: hiring Lampard to steady the ship until the end of the season.

Lampard was dismissed by Everton less than a year after arriving at Goodison Park, following a run of nine defeats in 12 Premier League games that had plunged the team into relegation trouble. His only qualifications for the Chelsea role were his status as a legendary player at Stamford Bridge and the fact he had already been in charge at the club — an 18-month spell that ended in January 2021 after a run of three wins in 10 games.

Boehly and his board had hoped that Lampard would restore some calm, stability and give them time to appoint the right manager. But if results continue to go as badly as they have done so far, Boehly might have to replace the caretaker with a firefighter. Such is the mess that Chelsea find themselves in, they are closer to the relegation zone than the top four, both in terms of points and position.

None of this is Lampard’s fault. The 44-year-old was never going to turn down a second shot at his dream job, despite his obvious shortcomings, but the truth is that his appointment once again points to the naivety of the Chelsea ownership regime.

Supporter frustration boiled over during Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat against Brighton, with fans angrily rebuking Boehly as he sat in his executive box at Stamford Bridge. During Abramovich’s 19-year reign as owner, Chelsea developed a reputation for hiring and firing managers — 13 in total — but they got it right more often than they got it wrong.

Yet after making rash decisions on Tuchel, Potter and Lampard, can Boehly and co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley be trusted to make the right appointment this summer? The early signs are not promising if you consider the array of coaches under consideration. Sources told ESPN earlier this month that as many as seven names are on Chelsea’s list, including ex-Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann, former Spain coach Luis Enrique, ex-Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino, Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti and Sporting CP’s Ruben Amorim.

If Chelsea have a strategy, it’s hard to see what it is. Nagelsmann has a different tactical outlook and personality to Luis Enrique, just as Pochettino plays a different way to Ancelotti. Amorim has built an exciting team in Portugal but lacks the big-club experience of others on the list.

Chelsea’s erratic approach has already seen them make basic errors in their recruitment process. It is a widely adopted policy by the leading clubs to keep the hiring process under the radar by sending executives to meet candidates at their home, often in a different country, in order to allow interviews to take place without the distraction of a running commentary on their progress. But by allowing themselves to meet Luis Enrique in London earlier this month — on the same day that Lampard was announced as caretaker manager — Chelsea showed their hand to the outside world and the other candidates.

Regardless of Chelsea’s problems this season and the likely absence of European football next season, the managerial job at Stamford Bridge remains a prestigious position for many of the world’s leading coaches. That is the major advantage in Chelsea’s favour when they decide who to prioritise as their No. 1 choice. But having lurched from one bad decision to another, the danger is that Boehly & Co. fail to learn from their mistakes and set the club back even further this summer.

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