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Frank Lampard must prove himself very quickly or face the axe


Frank Lampard, pictured, has hailed new recruit Thiago Silva’s leadership qualities (Glyn Kirk/PA)

Frank Lampard, pictured, has hailed new recruit Thiago Silva’s leadership qualities (Glyn Kirk/PA)


Frank Lampard, pictured, has hailed new recruit Thiago Silva’s leadership qualities (Glyn Kirk/PA)

Unlike his besieged tutor, Jose Mourinho, the jury is not yet ogling Frank Lampard as if he was no more than some creaking, condemned building awaiting the wrecking ball’s knock-out punch.

Yet, as Chelsea’s child of fortune prepares to be measured against the Premier League gold standard this afternoon, there is a brutal truth that Lampard cannot outrun.

It is the one declaring that Mourinho apart – and the fallen Special One is increasingly viewed as a fossil of some time-expired football civilization – no coach in the English game finds himself under such intense scrutiny.

Today’s visit of Liverpool offers a probing interrogation of Lampard’s credentials to lead a top-four team.

And not merely because of the spiky barbs the Englishman and Jurgen Klopp have exchanged in late summer.


Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva (PA)

Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva (PA)

Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva (PA)

The dramatic reappearance of Roman Abramovich’s chequebook and all those shimmering stars lured to Stamford Bridge at huge cost, have stolen Lampard’s alibis.

Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva offer Chelsea thrilling hope, but they radically transform their coach’s terms and conditions of employment.

His status as Chelsea’s beloved all-time leading goalscorer can no longer offer insulation against underachievement. Finishing 31 points off the pace, as they did last year, will no longer be remotely acceptable.

Handed the raw materials to construct something unforgettable, the manager must deliver or perish.

Abramovich, as cold as any Roman Caesar, has not hesitated to throw those who have brought him domestic and even Champions League glory to the Coliseum jungle cats.

The fates of Roberto Di Matteo, axed months after delivering European glory, Antonio Conte and (twice) Mourinho are a grisly reminder of how blood is quickly spilled on west London tiles at the whim of an oligarch contemptuous of the notions of charity or patience.

Remember Lampard’s Chelsea finished a place lower than the lampooned Maurizio Sarri’s version a season earlier, the Italian also delivering the Europa League.

If he is truly a son of destiny, the manager to restate Chelsea’s old aura, Lampard must urgently recreate some sense of a pre-eminent past which has already yielded five Premier League titles in the Abramovich era.

In the unthinkable scenario where the London club concede five goals today, as they did in July’s anarchic meeting with Liverpool, their all-powerful owner might ask if the rush to appoint an unproven coach was an act of sentimental folly.

Lampard was not the first of Klopp’s peers to be given some rudimentary football lessons by the German, who has spectacularly re-infused Anfield with the long-lost spirit of Shankly.

It is the pattern of dishevelment that is the greater concern for Mourinho’s old midfield capo.

Chelsea were a study in defensive chaos in Lampard’s first Premier League season.

Bad enough that they conceded 20 scores more than Liverpool or either Manchester club, but their 54 goals leaked were worse than Crystal Palace or Sheffield United, and the same as relegation-haunted Brighton.

No team in the Premier League conceded more fast-break goals than Lampard’s Chelsea.

And, if the obvious need for an upgrade on their error-prone keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga offers some mitigation, the reality is that Derby under Lampard were also bottom of the Championship class for goals conceded on the counter.

Brighton caused Chelsea far more palpitations than last week’s 3-1 scoreline in the bigger club’s favour suggested.

Mo Salah, fresh from an opening day hat-trick which made him the second most rapid player in Premier League history to reach 50 home goals, will sense another opportunity here.

The issue with Lampard may be one of divorcing myth from reality.

A playing portfolio bulging with impressive achievement, an affinity with the terraces, may buy a new manager time, but history has proven it does not guarantee success.

If it did, Lampard’s old foe Roy Keane would not have had to swap the dugout for his new role as Sky’s stand-up comic, one delivering a barrage of salty one-liners from his studio seat.

Even one game into the season, there have been stories linking Mauricio Pochettino with Stamford Bridge.

Mad, of course, but this is the way of the restless and impetuous Premier League soap opera, a stage where what was achieved yesterday is forgotten before the sun rises on the next dawn.

Klopp himself understands this, as the manner in which Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds unsettled the champions last week had tongues wagging just weeks after Liverpool’s coronation.

At times the kings of the English game defended with no more composure than a quickly assembled public park rabble, even the great Virgil van Dijk looking strangely mortal, or, perhaps, just a little too cocky.

The Dutchman’s mistakes have now led to two goals in his last four Premier League games, more than in his first 154 appearances in England’s top division. Yet, Klopp’s status as Liverpool’s saviour is armour-plated and imperishable.

This week’s deal for Thiago Alcantara – potentially the signing of the transfer window – has silenced concerns of old Anfield giants Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher about failing to reseed a title-winning team.

Alcantara, a Champions League winner just a month ago, can ask biting questions of any opposition with his range of passing and offers Liverpool the one aesthetic element the athletic but, ultimately, functional title-winning team was lacking.

That is, a creative midfield force to ease the burden on full-backs Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson to deliver assists on demand.

Remarkably, Klopp has secured a 29-year-old playmaker in Xavi’s likeness, one who was critical to Munich’s eight-goal Champions League dismantling of Barca, for £2m less than Aston Villa paid for Ollie Watkins.

Lampard has spent seven times more than Liverpool have invested in Alcantara – and Abramovich expects.

That is a more benevolent way of saying the Russian’s twitchy trigger finger is again growing excitable.

Mourinho, listing in the White Hart Lane wind, could remind his title-winning midfielder that few, no matter how well connected or glittering their CV, survive once that particular game of Russian roulette commences.