Frank Lampard opens up on his Chelsea downfall to Gary Neville

‘I woke up to a text from Bruce Buck… I knew straight away’: Frank Lampard tells Gary Neville about his Chelsea downfall – from how their squad size caused problems and the £72m Kepa issue to a BRUTAL boardroom finish

  • Frank Lampard has opened up on how his brief spell as Chelsea boss unravelled
  • Lampard is the latest guest on Gary Neville’s The Overlap YouTube channel
  • The 42-year-old legend lasted just 18 months in the dugout at Stamford Bridge
  • He opens up on how he was sacked by Bruce Buck and Marina Granovskaia
  • Lampard also recalls the issues he had with £72m goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga
  • He also feels his squad was too big after the £230m outlay in his second summer 

Frank Lampard has opened up on how his brief spell as Chelsea manager unravelled just under a year ago, while also discussing the issues he has with £72million Kepa Arrizabalaga and the size of his squad after last summer’s huge outlay.

The 42-year-old club legend, who made 648 appearances for Chelsea and won the Champions League and three Premier League titles, lasted just 18 months in the dugout at Stamford Bridge.

After a promising first season that saw Lampard promote a batch of youngsters to the first team as a result of the club’s FIFA-imposted transfer band, his spell came to a quick end in January.

Frank Lampard opened up on how his spell as Chelsea manager unravelled with Gary Neville

The 42-year-old lasted just 18 months in the dugout at Stamford Bridge before being sacked

He left with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League, having won once in their past five league matches. But he did manage to secure fourth place and reached the FA Cup final in his first season in charge, losing to Arsenal at Wembley.

Thomas Tuchel replaced Lampard at Stamford Bridge almost immediately back in January and led the Blues to Champions League glory against Manchester City in Porto earlier this year. 

Speaking on Gary Neville’s The Overlap YouTube channel, Lampard lifted the lid on how his final stages as Chelsea manager played out, including the moment he received a text from chairman Bruce Buck that spelt the beginning of the end.

The former England midfielder said: ‘Well, we’d beaten Luton in the FA Cup fourth round or whatever it was.

‘Then the next morning I got a message from Bruce Buck, the chairman, saying “can you move training and come and meet us in the boardroom?”

‘That first message as well, you kind of wake up and think “let’s have a flick through Instagram”.

‘I’m joking but once the club makes that decision to be fair there’s no nice way to do it.’

Neville asked what the message from Buck said, to which Lampard replied: ‘Can you come and meet us in the boardroom at Stamford Bridge? I knew straight away. 

Lampard recalls how Bruce Buck (left) and Marina Granovskaia (right) called him into the boardroom at Stamford Bridge to dismiss him

Lampard was speaking at a London pub in the latest episode of Gary Neville’s The Overlap

‘As I say there is no nice way to do that and there may be different ways of etiquette to do it but at the end of the day the result is the same.

‘When I met Bruce and Marina (Granovskaia) it was very cordial. I knew what was coming then as well. Not at the time but you’re thankful for the period. 

‘It is what it is. They are going to move on and there’s nothing you can do there. I’ve never been in that position before so it was a bit surreal at the time but when you take the job you understand that that call could come. 

‘At Chelsea it probably will come unless you go and win back to back titles and that was never going to happen.’ 

One of the major themes of Lampard’s second season in charge was the bloated nature of Chelsea’s squad following a £230million splurge in the transfer market after the ban on new signings was lifted.

The Blues wanted to push on from their impressive first season under Lampard and spent big on the likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner for £90m and £53m, and also snapped up Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech (£38m), English defender Ben Chilwell (£50m) and Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy (£22m). 

Lampard spent £230m on new players at the end of his first season on the likes of Kai Havertz (left) and Timo Werner (right)

England left back Ben Chilwell (left) also arrived from Leicester in a huge deal worth £50m

Meanwhile, veteran Brazilian defender Thiago Silva came in on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.

Their arrivals left Chelsea’s first-team squad bursting at the seams and also stunted the development of some of the younger players who had been given opportunities in the previous campaign. 

Lampard added: ‘We had a big squad and were leaving out players. We needed the squad to be, for me, less at that point.

‘Don’t get me wrong. They went on to win the Champions League last season so it sounds a bit naff.

‘It’s tough because we had three left backs, and you can only play one generally, and five centre backs.

‘Fikayo (Tomori), who had been brilliant for me at Derby and very, very good for us in the first year at Chelsea, I could see and feel he was going to be a very good centre back for Chelsea for years to come. 

‘But he was in that development age where you will come out of a Chelsea team at 21 when there’s that sort of competition for places. But when you’ve got five it’s Fikayo or (Antonio) Rudiger, or (Andreas) Christensen, two of those are at home for a game.

‘It’s not nice and you can’t bull**** players, saying “okay I’m leaving you at home but don’t worry you’ll be back next week” if that’s not the case. I wouldn’t have wanted that as a player and it’s really hard.

In his first season in charge, Lampard made the decision to drop £72m Kepa Arrizabalaga

He was replaced in the summer of 2020 by Edouard Mendy, now a Champions League winner

‘The squad was big and it’s tough. As time goes on, and the new manager is there now, you can make changes and trim but that’s just how I felt at the time.’  

One of the contentious issues Lampard faced during his first season in charge was dropping £72million goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and playing Willy Caballero instead when the Spaniard struggled for form.

Lampard went one step further in the summer of 2020, bringing in Mendy from Rennes as his new No 1 and ensuring Kepa remained back-up at Stamford Bridge.

Mendy has proven to be an inspired signing, helping the club win the Champions League last season and preserving his status as the club’s No 1 under Tuchel.

Asked if the decision to drop Kepa brought pressure from the club’s owners after they spent a huge amount to land him, Lampard said: ‘No it didn’t. My communication with upstairs was always good.

‘When you’re aware of a £70million goalkeeper that you take out of the team you know it’s not a simple decision.

‘Kepa was having a tough time, there’s no bones about it, in the first season and I think he’d say that himself. 

Lampard has been linked with Premier League jobs recently but still finds himself out of work

‘From the conversations we had he was very open that it was a tough time for him and that position is different to every other position on the pitch because you’re getting it all the time and a lack of confidence is going to hit you harder than anything in that position.

‘I tried to have open conversations with him and it got to the point where it felt like I just had to make a change. 

‘There was no feeling of pressure from above is what I’m trying to say but it becomes very high profile when you do it and there’s that price tag on a player.

‘But he was having a tough time and for that reason, I’m not saying he had to come out of the team because that sounds a bit dramatic, but I had to make a decision.

‘There were supportive of that (Lampard wanting to sign Mendy). I don’t think I’m being harsh on Kepa here because he is a talented goalkeeper but he had a tough year when I was there for whatever reason but I felt it was a position we could improve.

‘Mendy was the result of that and he’s obviously been fantastic since he’s been at the club.’ 

The Overlap is a YouTube channel from Gary Neville in partnership with Sky Bet. 

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