Frank Lampard’s time at Chelsea will always be looked at with mixed feelings.
While the club legend was sacked in January of this year with his side in a disappointing ninth place in the table, he did provide his successor Thomas Tuchel with the platform to take them to Champions League glory and beyond.
Of course, Lampard made mistakes during his final half-season at Stamford Bridge and by the time he was sacked by Roman Abramovich, the former Chelsea and England midfielder had completely lost the dressing room.
Frank Lampard fell out with several Chelsea stars in the run-up to his January 2020 sacking
That left Thomas Tuchel with the difficult task of rebuilding those players’ confidence
Come the end of his Chelsea tenure, Lampard had exiled several of the Blues first-team squad due to a variety reasons, seemingly taking a personal dislike to those individuals.
Most notably he fell out with and ostracised Toni Rudiger, a strong character who has been a titan at the back since coming back in from the cold. Jorginho, now a European champion with club and country, was also unhappy after being sidelined under Lampard.
Ultimately, German head coach Tuchel gave everybody a chance after Lampard’s sacking, including Rudiger. He played in every minute of Chelsea’s successful Champions League knockout stage and Tuchel has turned Rudiger into the Premier League’s best defender this year, according to Rio Ferdinand.
With this in mind, Sportsmail analyses all the players that Lampard exiled at Stamford Bridge in his final few months – and how they come back to their best under Tuchel…
Rio Ferdinand says Antonio Rudiger is in the form of his life despite a snub from Lampard
Rudiger was not always disliked by Lampard. The German defender had a long-term groin injury when the Chelsea legend first arrived in the west London dugout but Lampard immediately put Rudiger into the first team when he returned.
The centre-back played a key role in Chelsea’s run-in to finishing fourth in Lampard’s first season as boss, but something changed over the summer to change the manager’s mind.
Rudiger played just twice in the first 17 league matches of the 2020-21 season, a run which forced the German defender to ask his agent about a possible January transfer.
Lampard (second right) started Rudiger (third left) a lot but matters soon turned sour
Lampard changed his mind about Rudiger’s status and included him for his final two Premier League matches in charge, alongside the final two Champions League group-stage matches – but the damage had already been done.
Reports claimed Rudiger went to the Chelsea board to complain about Lampard’s management skills in the run-up to his sacking, and while he whole-heartedly denied those claims, he did confirm he wanted to leave the club when Tuchel’s predecessor was in charge.
‘I’ve never talked with the board about the situation of the coach or on any other topics,’ he said in the beginning of February right after Lampard’s sacking. ‘Frank Lampard trusted in my abilities after Christmas in a very difficult situation and I was thankful for this.
‘It was also the main reason why I told my representatives not to look for a possible winter move anymore.
Lampard dropped Rudiger for 15 out of Chelsea’s first 17 Premier League matches last season
‘Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for our team to turn things around for the coach. We always wanted the best for the manager and for the club.
‘He took over the manager position last season when things were very complicated for all of us. But we managed to qualify for the Champions League together with him.
‘He has given so many young players a chance in the first team and they are still doing an amazing job. I’m pretty sure we will see Frank Lampard back again at another club very soon.’
When Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge, Rudiger’s squad status changed completely.
Rudiger has been virtually ever present for Chelsea since Tuchel arrived in west London
He went on to lift the Champions League trophy under Tuchel months after Lampard’s exit
He played in every minute of the new Chelsea boss’s first eight league games in charge, which was surprising given Tuchel made a record number of changes to his line-up in that period.
‘Since Tuchel has come I think he’s arguably been the best centre-back,’ Lampard’s former West Ham and England team-mate Ferdinand told his podcast last week. ‘I think him and (Ruben) Dias would have been close but the effect he has had on his team has been immense.
‘Under Frank [Lampard], it was evident he wasn’t Frank’s cup of tea. He didn’t really like him. There were rumours they were trying to put him in the market to be sold.
‘In Germany, he’s always been highly thought of. But when the manager doesn’t rate you and you can feel that, I don’t care who you are, your confidence takes a beating and it’s hard to perform at that level.’
Another player Lampard lost faith in was goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who is still getting his fair share of chances to be Chelsea’s No 1 under Tuchel following injuries to Edouard Mendy.
Kepa was the No 1 shot stopper in Lampard’s first season in charge but mistakes either side of Chelsea’s summer break in 2020 forced the club to go out and buy Mendy from Rennes.
Like Rudiger, Lampard put faith in Kepa Arrizabalaga (left) before taking that faith away
But reports claimed towards the end of Lampard’s reign that Kepa’s mistakes stemmed from the Chelsea legend failing to give him clear tactical instructions, which made him more nervous in matches.
The Spanish goalkeeper revealed that he did not have a personal problem with Lampard during his reign, but did claim he is ‘no longer afraid’ now Tuchel is at the Chelsea helm.
‘Three months ago things were difficult,’ Kepa said in Feburary. ‘It has been a complicated year for a number of reasons. But I have never thought about leaving Chelsea.
‘I did not have any problems with Lampard. It’s true that I did not give the best version of myself or play as I would have wanted. But we never had any issue.
Too many mistakes from the Chelsea goalkeeper meant the Blues signed Edouard Mendy
‘I hope to turn things around and I rely on my family, on trustworthy people, more than anything. I feel good after my period of inactivity. I hope to play more. I am no longer afraid and want to play an important part for Chelsea.’
Since arriving in west London, Tuchel has shown a great deal of faith in Kepa and brought him on the pitch for the UEFA Super Cup penalty shootout win over Villarreal.
After helping Chelsea beat Tottenham 3-0 earlier this month following an injury to Mendy, Kepa showed more penalty-taking prowess against Aston Villa and even though Mendy has come back into the side after his injury, the Spaniard is still happy in west London.
Speaking about Kepa, Tuchel said last week: ‘He seems happy to me, he may not be happy with the situation but he is happy with where he is at and the part he plays in the team.
Tuchel has shown great faith in Kepa and gave him a big role in the Super Cup shootout
Kepa is now confident again ahead of a solid run in the side due to an injury to Mendy
‘I feel an open guy, a humble guy, a super nice guy, a top, top professional sports guy who is a big part of this squad. I feel him happy. Maybe he could be even happier with more minutes but I don’t feel him concerned at the moment because he is pushing and fighting for his chances.
‘We have two super strong goalkeepers. Do we need them both? We have proof last weekend. He was a key factor to have a clean sheet in the weekend. It is as easy as that.
‘Whether the money (the £72m Chelsea paid for Kepa in 2018) is too high or low, these measurements don’t matter to us. This pressure is off his shoulders and he deserves it to be off his shoulders so it is not his fault.’
Those words of support for Kepa summarise how much happier the Spaniard is at Stamford Bridge, compared to this time last year.
Between May and July of this year, Jorginho helped Chelsea and Italy win the Champions League and Euro 2020 titles respectively on his way to winning UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.
But earlier in the 2020-21 season, the midfielder was a spare part in the Chelsea line-up. After starting that campaign as a key man under Lampard, Jorginho was dropped, starting just nine out of the former coach’s last 13 league games in charge.
Lampard dropped midfielder Jorginho (left) for many games before he was sacked
When Tuchel arrived at Chelsea, Jorginho started 20 league matches under the German, who never took the Italian off the pitch during their triumphant Champions League run.
The snub from Lampard earlier in the season sparked some vicious comments from Jorginho by the time the Chelsea legend was sacked, with the 29-year-old claiming that his former boss was way out of his depth at Stamford Bridge.
‘Look, I’ll be really sincere here on Lampard,’ Jorginho told ESPN Brasil at the time. ‘I believe, given he was a legend at the club, he skipped some steps necessary for learning before moving to a big club.
‘He came to a club where he is a legend, without having experience at other clubs. I think he came too soon, skipped a few steps ahead and wasn’t ready for a job at this level, to be honest.’
Jorginho responded by saying Lampard was out of his depth as Chelsea boss
Jorginho has won the UEFA Player of the Year since Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge
Lampard brushed those comments aside, saying he had no issues with Jorginho’s claims about his management credentials.
He told the Telegraph: ‘It’s always going to be a fact as a manager when you leave a club, there will be some players who did not play so much and they might have a feeling or a judgement on how you work and they can make statements.
‘For me, I have to expect that as much as I expect the good statements from players who are really positive about how you work. I’ve got no big issue with that.’
Like Rudiger and Kepa, Marcos Alonso was another defensive player Lampard trusted during his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.
The Spaniard played nearly 30 times for the Blues in the 2019-20 campaign, even though his season was hit with several long-term injuries and absences.
Marcos Alonso (left) is another player Lampard started but then eventually dropped
Alonso was handed some minutes at the start of the next season, even though Chelsea had splashed out £50m on Ben Chilwell. But Alonso’s Blues career threatened to spin off the rails after an incident at West Brom in September 2020.
Lampard’s Chelsea went 3-0 down to the Baggies and he opted to take Alonso off at half-time. That sparked a row between the left-back and the Chelsea coach, with the former reportedly heading off to watch the second half in the team bus, leaving Lampard livid. Alonso never played again under the former Blues boss.
Lampard refused to disclose any information as to what was said between the pair after the match, but did call for unity in the squad, despite the Blues coming back to claim a 3-3 draw at the Hawthorns that evening.
Alonso fell out with Lampard away at West Brom last season and never played under him again
‘I’m not going to disclose what goes on in the dressing room,’ Lampard said. ‘I think that would be wrong, so that was it. It was a game where we were disappointed to be 3-0 down at half-time, I had to make changes.
‘And all I ask from all the players is that, for good or for bad, the players stick together in every moment. Because that’s the only thing that brings a successful group.
‘So that’s as much as I’ve got to say on it and it doesn’t affect anything ongoing. I cannot have grudges or feelings in games that carry on. We work, we’re honest with each other, and we carry on working to get better and better. And things happen during the course of the season, they happen a lot.’
Alonso is now a key player for Chelsea and has played in every single match under Tuchel this season, even with Chilwell available and fit.
Alonso is now Chelsea’s first-choice left back under Tuchel ahead of Ben Chilwell
When Lampard was sacked, Alonso admitted that he was advised to quit Chelsea but remained professional even though he was not favoured by Tuchel’s predecessor.
‘A manager that doesn’t like you is absolutely normal,’ Alonso said earlier this year. ‘It’s about the way you take it. My dad (former Spain and Barcelona winger Marcos Alonso Pena) told me if it were him in his times, his father — my grandfather (former Spain and Real Madrid defender Marcos Alonso Imaz) — would say: “Tell the manager where to go, I will go to the owner and say I’m leaving!”
‘My dad always tells me he wasn’t that lucky in terms of the advice from my grandfather! He took the good things. He has always taught me to work hard and be ready in tough times. I am a professional and I have to be ready and focused.’
Cesar Azpilicueta enjoyed a good relationship with Frank Lampard before last season. The Spaniard was one of two players who had played with the English midfielder when he arrived as Blues boss in 2019, but things turned sour.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta (right) had a good relationship with Lampard before last term
Lampard’s trust in Reece James meant the Chelsea captain started just three out of the first 13 Premier League matches of the 2020-21 season.
The leader in the club’s dressing room was left out of derby matches with Tottenham, Arsenal and Leeds, while he was not trusted by Lampard in his final league match in charge away at Leicester.
Now Azpilicueta is back as one of the first names on the Chelsea team sheet, after Tuchel started him in all but two of the remaining league matches after taking over in February, while the Spaniard also played in all of the club’s Champions League knockout games that season.
This term, Azpilicueta’s performances are so good that the 32-year-old is keeping young talents such as James and Trevoh Chalobah out of the team.
Azpilicueta has returned to Tuchel’s first-team plans after Lampard dropped him
After Lampard’s sacking, Azpilicueta made a slight dig at the former Chelsea boss over his management style, saying that everything had improved under Tuchel.
‘Six weeks ago we weren’t at our best. Now with Tuchel everything has improved. The team has better feelings.
‘The solidity has recovered, fewer opportunities are granted and that speaks of the work of the group, from the first attacker to the last defender.
Azpilicueta revealed he was ‘hurt’ after being dropped by Lampard and results were not good
‘The results just weren’t good. I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with (Lampard) and after he trained me, but Abramovich and his executive were the ones who decided to change course.
‘It becomes more complicated when one is used to playing. But I respected the coach and tried to help from the outside. I stayed calm and prepared to enter when necessary.
‘You always want to play and it hurts to be a substitute, but as captain I put the collective interest first because I don’t consider myself a selfish footballer.’