Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is under serious pressure right now.
After reports claimed that the Blues could sack their all-time record goalscorer if they lost to Leicester City on Tuesday night, their subsequent defeat to the Foxes means that Lampard’s head might roll.
Goals from Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison ensured that Chelsea came up short at the King Power Stadium in a 2-0 defeat, compounding their terrible form over the winter period.
Leicester 2-0 Chelsea
In fact, barring anomalous victories over Leeds United and Fulham, the west London club are without a Premier League win since November 21, which, for context, is more than 50 days ago.
But arguably the biggest factor behind the pressure on Lampard’s shoulders right now is the added expectations on the back of a summer where Roman Abramovich spent more than £200 million.
While similar form might have been forgiven under the transfer ban last season, no such allowances are being made with Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz populating the first-team squad.
Chelsea managers’ spending
So, taking the theme of Abramovich’s love for both spending and sacking managers, we wanted to hone in on the 14 separate managerial reigns and their spending since the 2003 takeover.
Now, of course, it’s important to bear in mind that the transfer targets aren’t always the choice of the managers themselves, but they can often define their respective eras nonetheless.
That point aside, we’ve listed all of the first-team purchases that were made while each manager was in the technical area and then ranked the cohort of signings as a whole from worst to best.
In other words, we’ve ranked Abramovich’s Chelsea bosses based on their transfer business alone, so check out where Lampard shapes up against his predecessors down below:
14. Guus Hiddink #1
Yup, moving swiftly on because Hiddink inherited the reins on a temporary basis in February of the 2008/09 campaign, meaning he was unable to make any of his own additions to the Blues squad.
13. Guus Hiddink #2
Signings: Matt Miazga
And yup, here we go again, interim bosses are obviously going to rank pretty poorly because they’re given so few opportunities to make signings. Miazga only ever played for Chelsea twice.
12. Rafael Benitez
Signings: Wallace Oliveira and Demba Ba
Same again, slim pickings for Benitez with Oliveira never actually making a single Premier League appearance and for all of Ba’s important goals, he never really set the world alight in west London.
11. Antonio Conte
Signings: Eduardo, Michy Batshuayi, N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata, Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud
Right, now we’re getting into juicy territory because aside from Kante and Giroud, you could probably argue that all of his signings, despite winning the Premier League title, were misfires.
But it’s the summer of 2017 that really took the cake with Bakayoko, Morata and Drinkwater proving inarguable flops, while the likes of Rudiger and Emerson still flatter to deceive.
10. Luiz Felipe Scolari
Signings: Jose Bosingwa, Deco, Fábio Paím, Mineiro, Gökhan Töre and Ricardo Quaresma
There’s not much to say here other than Scolari’s buys were more inoffensive than those of Conte but still, Bosingwa is the only real success story here, winning the Champions League in 2012.
9. Carlo Ancelotti
Signings: Ross Turnbull, Daniel Sturridge, Yuri Zhirkov, Nemanja Matic, Yossi Benayoun, Ramires, Tomas Kalas, Matej Delač, David Luiz and Fernando Torres
Considering the success that Ancelotti enjoyed at Stamford Bridge, his signings were surprisingly bland, while the underrated arrival of Ramires is undermined by the £50 million Torres mistake.
8. Maurizio Sarri
Signings: Jorginho, Rob Green, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain
Meh. Jorgino has been sound enough, Green never actually played, Kovacic has blown hot and cold, Higuain never looked cut out for the Premier League and Pulisic has bags of potential.
But there’s no defending Kepa above all of Sarri’s signings because spending a world-record fee on a goalkeeper with one of the worst save percentages in Premier League history is inexcusable.
7. Claudio Ranieri
Signings: Jürgen Macho, Marco Ambrosio, Glen Johnson, Geremi, Wayne Bridge, Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu, Alexey Smertin, Hernan Crespo, Neil Sullivan, Claude Makelele and Scott Parker
Yup, Abramovich really went wild in his first summer transfer window and there is no shortage of flops in amongst the crazy spending, but at least Cole, Makelele, Bridge and Duff bucked the trend.
6. Frank Lampard
Signings: Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva, Kai Havertz and Édouard Mendy
Have we lost our minds!? Simmer down because lest we forget that Silva and Chilwell are looking to be top signings and there’s just far too much quality amongst these buys to flop in the long run.
I’m willing to give Lampard’s batch of signings the benefit of the doubt because Werner and Havertz, particularly, are undoubtedly world-class players who will come good in the Premier League.
5. Avram Grant
Signings: Nicolas Anelka, Branislav Ivanovic and Franco Di Santo
For an interim boss who only had one transfer window, signing the next season’s Premier League Golden Boot winner and one of the competition’s greatest ever right-backs is pretty good going.
4. Roberto Di Matteo
Signings: Charly Musonda, Andreas Christensen, Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Oscar, Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses
Have we bumped De Matteo up significantly because of Hazard and Hazard alone? Yes, yes we have, but Moses and Azpilicueta also proved to be shrewd signings for the Blues in the long run.
3. Andre Villas-Boas
Signings: Thibaut Courtois, Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, Ulises Dávila, Raul Meireles, Kenneth Omeruo, Gary Cahill, Lucas Piazon, Patrick Bamford and Kevin De Bruyne
Insane. Sure, some of these players never actually did the business for Chelsea, but just look at the bonkers amount of world-class stars that arguably the club’s worst post-2003 manager secured.
It doesn’t bear thinking about what Chelsea could have achieved if they kept the faith with Lukaku and De Bruyne, while Mata, Courtois and Cahill all hoovered up silverware in west London.
2. Jose Mourinho #2
Signings: André Schürrle, Josimar Quintero, Marco van Ginkel, Mark Schwarzer, Willian, Samuel Eto’o, Bertrand Traore, Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah, Kurt Zouma, Mario Pašalić, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis, Didier Drogba, Loic Remy, Juan Cuadrado, Nathan, Asmir Begovic, Baba Rahman, Pedro, Kenedy, Papy Djilobodji, Michael Hector and Marco Amelia
If it wasn’t for the disastrous summer of 2015 ending Mourinho’s sophomore spending on a sour note, this could easily have taken first place because there are some inspired purchases here.
Bagging Fabregas and Costa essentially secured the 2014/15 Premier League title alone, the arrivals of Willian, Matic and Zouma were all spot on and Salah was another missed opportunity.
1. Jose Mourinho #1
Signings: Paulo Ferreira, Petr Cech, Arjen Robben, Mateja Kežman, Didier Drogba, Tiago, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Morais, Jiří Jarošík, Asier del Horno, Lassana Diarra, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Essien, Maniche, Michael Ballack, Salomon Kalou, Andriy Shevchenko, John Obi Mikel, Khalid Boulahrouz, Ashley Cole, Claudio Pizarro, Tal Ben Haim, Steve Sidwell, Florent Malouda, Fabio Borini, Alex and Juliano Belletti
At the end of the day, Mourinho bought most of the Chelsea spine that made the club such a consistently powerful force in the 2000s, deserving gold for securing Cech and Drogba alone.
However, there’s also the likes of Essien, Carvalho, Cole and Mikel that would go on to become stalwarts at Stamford Bridge, ironing out the bumps along the way such as Sidwell and Ben Haim.
Every manager has their clangers
Maybe we’ve been too gentle on Lampard, I don’t know, but the moral of the story here is that Chelsea’s transfer business hasn’t always been the most consistent under Abramovich.
While it just happens that Mourinho had the best record in the market of anybody at the Bridge, though he did have the benefit of added time, even the ‘Special One’ dropped plenty of clangers.
It goes to show that having the loose purse strings of a Russian billionaire doesn’t always guarantee you success because Lampard is drowning in the dollar bills right now – and not in a good way.