Frank Lampard said his legendary status would “not last five minutes” if things began to unravel at Chelsea.
Sadly, it feels we might be far from that point already with Chelsea fans rapidly losing faith in one of their all-time great players.
It was not helped by Manchester City putting on an exquisite performance full of movement, pace and passing which was a throwback to Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering back-to-back title winning seasons.
The gap between the two sides only says three points in Premier League table terms (albeit City have two games in hand) but this looked worlds apart on the pitch. Suddenly Lampard looked like the rookie manager struggling up against a resurgent Guardiola.
When City’s first goal went in, Lampard threw his hands up in the air in a mixture of frustration and anger which would hardly help a group of Chelsea players so obviously struggling for confidence.
But there was Guardiola, looking on ominously from the touchline as Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan sliced through Chelsea with embarrassing ease.
So much for City being in crisis, not able to put out a full bench – naming only eight substitutes rather than nine and missing big players like Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus and Ederson – because of a Covid outbreak at the club.
City are now four points off the top, have a game in hand on Liverpool and Manchester United but are well and truly in this title race.
Chelsea, meanwhile, look a club drifting after four defeats in their last six games which is the sort of form which has got previous managers sacked at Stamford Bridge.
But Roman Abramovich must have known what he was doing when he brought in Lampard, an emotional appointment who would have to learn on the job and improve.
Lampard has tried to play down expectations even after his £200m summer spending spree but the reality is that this is Chelsea, last season finishing in the top four after a transfer ban was a big achievement but that was certainly not a free pass for this season.
Chelsea’s first half performance was so bad, a defensive shambles and lack of cohesion and organisation, that a full Stamford Bridge would surely have booed the team off at the break.
City’s first goal was only a matter of time and came after 18 minutes. Oleksandr Zinchenko started the move, Foden’s clever lay off found Ilkay Gundogan who turned on the edge of the box before burying a low shot into the bottom corner.
Just 2 minutes and 27 seconds later, it was two. Zinchenko and De Bruyne combined down the left, Foden was tackled by Thiago Silva but the ball broke to De Bruyne on the left.
De Bruyne then put over a delicious low cross, Foden showed he was on the same genius wavelength as his clever finish was out of the top drawer, steering the ball home with a lovely flick.
City’s third goal was as much down to their brilliance as Chelsea’s naive defending as it came from their own free kick. De Bruyne headed Hakim Ziyech’s free kick clear, Sterling raced away from his own half with only N’Golo Kante giving chase.
Sterling was held up by Mendy, checked back inside and his shot then hit the inside of the post before rebounding back to De Bruyne who drilled in the third.
You felt this could end up with an embarrassing scoreline. But at least Chelsea showed some heart and fight in the second half. That should not be forgotten.
City eased off and eventually Chelsea got some pride back in the 92nd minute as Callum Hudson-Odoi got a late consolation as he scored from Kai Havertz’s cross. But in truth it was small mercies for Lampard.