(REUTERS) - Chelsea have sacked manager Frank Lampard after a run of five defeats in eight league games left the London side ninth in the standings, the English Premier League club said on Monday (Jan 25).
"This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him," Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said in a statement.
"He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers."
The 42-year-old former Blues stalwart is the club's record scorer. He was hired in 2019 following a stint with Championship club Derby County and was given the chop less than a day after Chelsea's 3-1 win over Luton Town in the FA Cup fourth round.
Former Paris St-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel is the favourite to replace Lampard, British reports earlier said.
Lampard, who led Chelsea to a top-four finish and the FA Cup final in his debut 2019-20 campaign in charge, has not got the best out of his squad this season despite the club spending more than £220 million (S$399.4 million) on new recruits.
The former England international is the 12th manager to be fired since Russian billionaire Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
"Reports that Frank Lampard will be sacked by Chelsea today," former England international Gary Lineker said on Twitter shortly before the announcement. "Utterly ludicrous after his first bad run.
"It was always going to need time given so many new signings feeling their way into a new club. Patience being a virtue is seldom recognised in this sport. They never learn."
Lampard, a former midfielder who won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Blues, won praise last season after inheriting a squad that could not be strengthened due to a Fifa-enforced transfer ban which was eventually lifted.
While most clubs restricted their spending due to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chelsea spent more than any other English club to sign players such as Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy.
A 17-match unbeaten run in all competitions appeared to reinforce Lampard's credentials as they qualified for the Champions League knockout stages as group winners, while sitting third in the league.
But their form began to implode midway through December and they have plummeted down the standings after only two wins in their last eight league games, underlined by Tuesday's 2-0 defeat by Leicester.
Lampard has also struggled to get the best out of German forward Werner, while £71 million midfielder Havertz has also struggled to settle in England, especially after a brush with Covid-19.
Chelsea, who have 29 points from 19 games, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United, host Wolves on Wednesday.