Even facing a Manchester City side depleted by the coronavirus, Frank Lampard couldn’t prevent Chelsea slumping to a fourth loss in its past six games.
And Lampard is aware the 3-1 defeat will only increase the pressure on him.
Chelsea slipped to eighth place after lkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne scored in a 16-minute first-half spell at a chilly Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The London club is seven points behind leader Liverpool and three points back of City, which has played two fewer games and now sits in fifth place.
Even Leicester is mounting a title challenge in third place after beating Newcastle 2-1 in Sunday’s other game.
How fickle football can be. Only a month ago, Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer was basking in a 17-match unbeaten that raised talk of a new contract halfway through his second season as manager.
“Whether it puts pressure on me or not, it doesn’t matter,” Lampard said. “A month ago everyone was asking me whether I was going to sign a new contract, and now they will be saying different things.
“But over a busy period we’ve lost four games of football, so the pressure remains constant and you know it’s there.”
Especially when working for Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, who has gone through a dozen managers since transforming the club with his 2003 takeover.
After being unable to spend anything in his first season in charge due to a transfer embargo, Lampard benefited from around $250 million in squad reinforcements in the summer transfer window. Despite Timo Werner already enjoying Champions League experience at Leipzig, the $60 million striker is among the players Lampard claims still needs time to settle.
“Any build or rebuild takes pain; pain behind the scenes and pain on the pitch occasionally,” Lampard said. “This is a difficult period and I understand the reasons why. Today the first half showed me the reasons why and we have to keep fighting and I’m the first one who has to keep fighting.
“I’ll always feel heat: I felt heat when we were on our good run, because I know that round the corner can be a negative.”
Gundogan netted the opener on the turn in the 18th minute after being set up by Foden, who was on target with a flick finish for the second inside three minutes. De Bruyne started the move inside his own half that ended with him scoring, meeting the rebound after Raheem Sterling had hit the goal frame. Chelsea’s consolation came with almost the last kick of the game from Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Guardiola rebukes Mendy but claims many break virus rules
While Pep Guardiola accepted that Mendy was wrong to host the gathering at his house, the City manager still defended his player’s actions on Sunday.
“He broke the rules,” Guardiola. “Of course it was not correct what he has done, but don’t judge him much because if you look … New Year’s Eve many, many people have maybe done the same.”
Mendy’s rule-breaking took place after City’s game at Everton on Monday was called off. Six players are isolating with the coronavirus, with defender Eric Garcia’s positive test announced Sunday.
Despite the risk of being infected at the gathering, Mendy was an unused substitute for Sunday’s game at Chelsea where City was one player short on the bench.
“Benjamin had already COVID so he had it in the past,” Guardiola said. “He has been tested every day like all the guys … and is negative.”
Contracting the coronavirus is not considered to provide any certainty against future infections.
The Premier League has not condemned any players from City, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham and Crystal Palace who have been seen over the Christmas period appearing to flout COVID-19 restrictions that have been tightened in response to a new variant, which scientists have said is up to 70% more contagious.
Mendy allowed a chef and two friends of his partner to come to his home, a representative for the player was cited as telling “The Sun“ newspaper. People from different households are banned from mixing indoors in the northern English area where Mendy lives.
“The club is aware of a New Year’s Eve COVID-19 breach involving Benjamin Mendy and the subsequent media reporting of it,” City said.
“While it is understood that elements of this incident have been misinterpreted in the reports, and that the player has publicly apologised for his error, the club is disappointed to learn of the transgression and will be conducting an internal investigation.”
The Frenchman has expressed regret.
“Ben accepts that this is a breach of COVID-19 protocols and is sorry for his actions in this matter,“ his representative said in a statement to “The Sun” newspaper. “Ben has had a COVID test and is liaising with Manchester City about this.”
Mendy has tweeted urging people “to take care of you and yours” as midnight approached on Thursday night.
Britain is in the midst of an acute outbreak, recording more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days.
On Saturday, a social media image was published of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso attending a house party in London over Christmas period.
The players are facing disciplinary action at Tottenham as Manuel Lanzini is at West Ham after also attending the party.
Fulham, whose match at Burnley on Sunday was postponed due to rising infections at the London club, is investigating pictures showing Aleksandar Mitrovic and his fellow Serb Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace, along with their two families on New Year’s Eve.
A fifth successive Premier League victory has propelled Leicester to within a point of leader Liverpool. James Maddison and Youri Tielemans clinched the win for the Foxes at St. James’ Park before Andy Carroll scored late for Newcastle.
“My ambition is to get into Europe again and for us to progress,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “It’s always going to be a process for us. We don’t have the finances to go and get that 70 million pound, 80 million pound, 90 million pound player.
“So for us, we have to develop that player, bring in a young player or a senior player like a Jonny Evans, who is a top player, and manage his career through so he can help our younger players.”