2019 to 2021
Having enjoyed a glittering playing career at Stamford Bridge, which included three Premier League titles and winning our first Champions League trophy, Frank Lampard returned as Chelsea head coach in July 2019.
Although he knew Chelsea and the Premier League inside and out, he arrived with relatively little managerial experience. His one previous job in the role had been in the Championship with Derby County, but brought positive results, as he led a side featuring Blues loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori to the play-off final.
Lampard returned at a difficult time for Chelsea, with star man Eden Hazard having departed and a transfer ban meaning our only new signing for 2019/20 was Christian Pulisic, thanks to that deal being agreed earlier in the year, along with Mateo Kovacic making his loan from Real Madrid permanent.
The season started with a heavy, albeit undeserved, defeat at Manchester United, and then a penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, but they were followed by seven consecutive wins as the young team started to find its feet.
Lampard was close to securing a perfect record in October, but it was spoiled by a Carabao Cup exit to Man Utd, and our form waivered after that set-back.
A comprehensive 4-0 win over Everton in March 2020 combined with an FA Cup victory against run-away league leaders Liverpool seemed to represent a return to form, but turned out to be our last game until 21 June as the Covid-19 pandemic brought football to a halt.
We continued to show the same improvement when sport returned, earning maximum points from all our remaining home matches to secure a top-four finish and Champions League qualification by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers on the last day of the 2019/20 league season.
There were still cup ties to look forward to in that delayed end to the campaign, but we could not secure silverware in August as we suffered a narrow defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup final and were then beaten by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16.
With the transfer ban now over, a number of high-profile signings joined Lampard’s squad for the delayed start of 2020/21.
By mid-December, we had lost just one league match, to holders Liverpool in our first home fixture, with a nine-game unbeaten run propelling us briefly to the top of the table, in addition to making it through the Champions League group stage without losing.
That was to be the high-point, though, as we lost five of our next eight Premier League fixtures, dropping into mid-table, and a loss at Leicester would be Lampard’s last league game as Chelsea manager before he left the club in late January, to be replaced by Thomas Tuchel.