With Chelsea’s season in freefall, Frank Lampard MUST trim his bloated squad amid growing discontent… but will anyone take the world’s most expensive keeper who sits on the BENCH, a host of rejected defenders or his glut of unused midfielders?
- Frank Lampard’s Chelsea job is under mounting pressure after poor recent form
- His squad needs to be trimmed to help ease positional rivalries in the group
- Lampard is keen to move Kepa Arrizabalaga on and Danny Drinkwater could go
- Emerson Palmieri and Antonio Rudiger may also be surplus to requirements
- Sportsmail looks at the issues facing Lampard and where he could make cuts
It is something of an understatement to say that Frank Lampard has a lot on his plate right now.
The 42-year-old did not need telling when he took the Chelsea job just how much he would need to juggle to find the formula for success.
He navigated a transfer ban and impressively got into the Champions League but for the first time in his tenure the pressure is mounting, and with results slipping attention has turned to his bloated first-team squad.
Pressure is building on Frank Lampard and he must work out how to turn Chelsea’s form round
Antonio Rudiger (left) and Danny Drinkwater (right) may need to be moved on in January
In all competitions Chelsea have won just once in their last seven matches – a 3-0 win at home against West Ham.
They have lost four games in that run, away to Everton, Wolves, Arsenal and most recently 3-1 at home to Manchester City.
It has seen Chelsea drop to ninth in the table, just three points above Arsenal, who were widely condemned as being in a relegation battle only a couple of weeks ago.
As the January transfer window has rolled round there has been added scrutiny on Lampard’s squad – he has three senior goalkeepers, five centre backs jockeying for two places, a deluge of left backs and six central midfielders.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (left) has been replaced and is on the bench while Emerson Palmieri (right) is one of four left-back options Lampard is currently having to juggle
There are reported to be tensions among those on the fringes of the team and it is on Lampard to restore harmony in the dressing room if he is going to get their bid for European football back on track after a particularly harsh Christmas.
Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori are said to be frustrated, while winger Callum Hudson-Odoi is of the belief he deserves more minutes from the start of games having spurned interest from Bayern Munich to commit to the west London side.
Sportsmail picks apart the players at Lampard’s disposal and looks at whether they will stay, be sent out on loan or will be moved on.
Most managers are keen to have a reliable No 1 and a dependable No 2 in case of emergency. By and large this is adopted by most bosses.
And yet Lampard has found himself in the situation of having three senior goalkeepers who all believe they should be No 1.
Competition for places is a good thing but two pouting players on the bench does nothing for squad harmony.
Kepa Arrizabalaga remains the world’s most expensive goalkeeper since his £72million move to west London back in 2018. He won’t need reminding of his value nor his talent and yet, while Lampard was determined to replace him, the club were unable to move the Spaniard on.
Edouard Mendy was brought in last summer and has established himself as Chelsea’s No 1
It’s tricky because the club, naturally, don’t want to take a huge loss on a player that is competing to represent Spain at Euro 2020. But the market has seemed reluctant to go all in on a player that has appeared error-strewn since making the move to England.
A loan could be an option but again it would depend on the interested clubs and whether Kepa wants to head out on a temporary switch.
Then there is Willy Caballero who, at 39, is approaching the very end of his career. He is a more moveable asset, perhaps somewhere like Major League Soccer could be a destination given he is out of contract at the end of the season.
It’s tricky as Lampard may well prefer Caballero as a back-up to Edouard Mendy but he simply has to get a handle on the situation before the season is out.
Again, an area where Lampard is well stocked – arguably over-stocked.
The former Chelsea midfielder has used a back four in every game this season except for the 0-0 away at Manchester United where he elected to have Thiago Silva anchor a back three.
And so he is toying with two centre backs every week, and more often it is Silva partnered with Kurt Zouma.
Silva brings a wealth of experience and Zouma has been one of the Blues’ most impressive players this campaign. But their continued selection has left Rudiger, Tomori and Andreas Christensen frustrated.
Thiago Silva provides Lampard with an on pitch leader and he is a regular in the starting XI
Christensen has played just seven times this season, Rudiger has featured six times and Tomori just three.
Christensen is likely to stay and compete with Zouma and Silva, particularly the Brazilian given he cannot play every game at the age of 36.
But one of Rudiger or Tomori could be moved on, Tomori more likely to be allowed to depart on a loan if Lampard decides to keep Rudiger around for his experience.
Rudiger was a first-choice defender last season but has seen his stock depreciate and he has slipped down the pecking order in this campaign, hampering his Euro 2020 prospects for the Germany squad.
That may see Rudiger take the situation into his own hands this month, but Lampard will not need reminding that it is a situation that has to find a resolution this month with tensions said to be mounting over the lack of minutes to share around.
Ben Chilwell’s (left) £50m arrival has seen Marcos Alonso (right) fall down the pecking order
Then there is the stockpiling at left back. Chelsea have long been seen as a hoarder of players among Premier League sides but four options at left back is bordering on the ridiculous.
Ben Chilwell arrived for £50m and has subsequently established himself as first choice, playing 20 games so far. But it is too much to have Marcos Alonso, Emerson Palmieri and Baba Rahman as alternative options.
Alonso has been cast aside, featuring just three times in 2020-21, and appears to be further down the pecking order than Palmieri. The former Bolton wing back is likely to be moved on in January while Chelsea could make another attempt to find a home for Rahman, who has not featured for the first team this season.
Reece James-Silva-Zouma-Chilwell is Lampard’s preferred defensive quartet but his plethora of options is causing more issues than selection headaches.
Whether he elects for a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 or even the 4-2-2-2 he used to start the season, it seems that only three of Lampard’s six central midfielders will be handed starting spots.
There’s plenty of competition and at times this season it appeared that that competition was inspiring greatness in players to ensure they did not waste any opportunity that came their way.
But, as it does when results slide, the midfield has been placed under the microscope and there is a growing belief that there are simply too many in this squad.
Mason Mount (left) has elevated his game but there are still question marks on Jorginho (right)
Lampard has more of a headache man-managing the egos and personalities than a headache with his selection.
N’Golo Kante is Chelsea’s second most-used player this season while Mason Mount is third on that list and so those two have proven dependable picks for Lampard, players he regularly wants to turn to.
Mateo Kovacic, who has featured in 20 games, appears the third go-to for Lampard in the middle of the park and it would be a real surprise to see any of that trio moved on in the winter window.
Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz are not in any danger of the axe, having arrived in the summer for a combined £126m. Havertz has struggled so far while Ziyech, who is also used on the wing, has impressed when able to avoid injury. Both will be given time to find form and fitness.
That leaves Jorginho, Billy Gilmour and Danny Drinkwater as alternate options in the middle of the park.
Drinkwater has no future whatsoever under Lampard at Chelsea, hasn’t made a senior appearance for the Blues since 2018 and was recently captured kicking out at Tottenham’s teenage midfielder Alfie Devine in an Under 23s game.
N’Golo Kante is Mr Dependable for Lampard and seems the safest midfielder in any reshuffle
The difficulty will be finding a suitor for the man who cost £35m from Leicester given his disappointing loans at Burnley and Aston Villa. His exit won’t be through any hesitancy on Chelsea’s end.
His £120,000-a-week deal at Chelsea also complicates any potential exit, particularly mid-season and under the cloud of an ongoing global pandemic.
Jorginho is a trickier one. He is still highly regarded by a number of Serie A clubs and hasn’t been completely cast aside by Lampard – he’s featured in 17 games. His exit could hinge on getting an offer that is too good to turn down.
Gilmour may be allowed to leave on loan but given Lampard has been keen to keep the hugely impressive Scot in house so far in his fledgling career, it would seem odd to now turn the youngster away.
And all of this with Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tiemoue Bakayoyo, Ethan Ampadu and Marko van Ginkel already sent out on loan. The number of central midfielders on Chelsea’s books really is absurd.
Plenty for Lampard to ponder as he continues to search for the perfect blend.
The Olivier Giroud conundrum, that’s what Lampard must try to work out this month.
The World Cup winner has been a bright spark in recent weeks as £53m summer signing Timo Werner continues to cut an exasperated figure. He has not scored for two months now.
Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo is keen on Giroud and he won’t be alone if it is made clear he is available for transfer.
The difficulty for Lampard is that Giroud has scored eight in his last eight while Werner falls flat. Long term the German is expected to light up the top flight but right now it would prove a bold call to cast aside the free-scoring Giroud.
Timo Werner arrived to great expectations but he has struggled to recapture his best form
Werner can be deployed down the left or the right but then so can Christian Pulisic or Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Pulisic, who was a big hit last term, has struggled with injuries this season and that has made it somewhat easier on Lampard but he knows that he has a lot of strikers in need of minutes and he does not have enough to go round.
Against Manchester City it was Werner through the middle with Pulisic down the left and Ziyech down the right. Giroud and Tammy Abraham were unused substitutes.
Against Arsenal it was Abraham through the middle with Werner down the left and Pulisic down the right. Giroud was again an unused substitute.
Charly Musonda is not in the squad and is free to move on but there are tougher decisions to be made as to whether Lampard sticks or twists with Giroud.
Olivier Giroud has proven a real goalscoring asset but continues to be linked with moves away
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