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Lampard demands loyalty from his players but may not get it from Abramovich


Before a ball was kicked three summers ago, ­Chelsea’s then manager Antonio Conte was reading the runes.

“I want to try to avoid a ‘Mourinho season’,” said the boss of the Premier League champions, alluding to the Blues’ descent two years ­previously from title-winners to also-rans, which resulted in The Special One being sacked.

Sure enough, despite ­winning the FA Cup, Conte was dismissed by Roman ­Abramovich for not retaining the title or winning the ­Champions League.

As was Carlo Ancelotti, who won a league and FA Cup double in his debut season, but was given the boot for failing to ­deliver the following year.

The good news for Frank Lampard as he goes into his second season as Chelsea manager is he can’t suffer the same fate as Ancelotti or Conte because he didn’t win the title. Or anything.

Frank Lampard’s status as a Chelsea legend won’t save him from the axe if Roman Abramovich isn’t happy

But with £200million, and counting, spent in this window, ­Abramovich will want to see instant returns on his investment.

Because he doesn’t let any ­manager live on credit. There’s no such thing as a Roman holiday. The fact Lampard is only 42, and into his third ­season in management, won’t save him.

Andre-Villas Boas was also in his third season of coaching, and only 34, when the Roman emperor plunged his thumb downwards.

Neither will being a club ­legend help if things go wrong. Roberto di Matteo managed Chelsea to their only ­Champions League title but was sacked months later, while Ray Wilkins was relieved of his assistant manager duties ­without being given a reason.

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Like Trump in an American war veterans’ graveyard, the Russian oligarch doesn’t ­empathise with people he ­perceives to be losers, even if they’re one of his own.

If Lampard fails to mount a title challenge this season he will find his boss as supportive as a training bra on Dolly ­Parton.

Because after a couple of years of apparent disinterest in football, Abramovich appears to be greedy for glory again.

Hence the huge investment in Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr and possibly ­goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

The Russian has never ­sanctioned that level of ­spending since Mourinho’s ­arrival when he splashed £240m (in today’s money) on the likes of Didier Drogba, ­Ricardo ­Carvalho, Arjen ­Robben, Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira and Tiago, in a bold bid to break the ­Manchester United/Arsenal duopoly.

This time it looks like he’s sensed an opportunity with coronavirus uncertainty to break the Manchester City/Liverpool dominance.

Lampard must ensure big-money signings such as Kai Havertz are properly assimilated into his team

But there is a big difference between 2004 and today ­Mourinho was a Champions League-winning coach and Chelsea finished the previous season runners-up, 11 points off the top.

Lampard, the ­manager, has won nothing, and last season finished 33 points off the ­summit in fourth place.

Pat Nevin says Chelsea “aren’t just building a team, they’re building a dynasty” under Lampard. Which, if true, would be a first, as ­Abramovich has never ­attempted to build a ­dynasty under anyone but himself.

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Talk of Chelsea now having the league’s best squad is wide of the mark. They have bought some hugely-promising players but they have yet to be assimilated into a winning unit. Heartbreak hasn’t ­happened, noses haven’t been put out of joint.

What will represent success for Chelsea this season? Have your say in the comments below

Bringing through young players like Mason Mount has been Lampard’s greatest achievement so far

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Lampard’s biggest ­achievement thus far is ­bringing through top-class youngsters such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Billy ­Gilmour, whose game time will now inevitably take a hit.

He knows this could be a big problem, which is why he told his squad he demands ­unquestioning loyalty.

“If you’re out of the team and you don’t support the group, that’s it,” he said this week.

I just hope if, by the end of the season, Chelsea are still way outside the top two, Lampard doesn’t expect any loyalty from above.





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